Social Learning Conference 2012: Review

This is a guest post by Martin Couzins, Content, Communication and Engagement specialist and owner of itsdevelopmental. Martin was a track leader at #SLCONF 2012.

The moderator of the Social Learning conference 2012, Jon Ingham, summed up the event by saying that there was a great energy and commitment from delegates to making social learning happen. The challenge is now making it happen.

To that end delegates were treated to a mix of case studies from the likes of BP, Accenture and Eversheds which provided great tips and insight into getting social learning approaches off the ground.

There were also a set of unconference sessions where delegates were able to talk about a particular topic rather than hear someone present on it. These sessions enabled broader and deeper discussion, an opportunity to ask questions and to connect with fellow delegates. One session, on mobile, generated 96 ideas for mobile learning apps.

The case studies acted as a reminder of how much social learning is very much a work in progress – a perpetual beta, as Jon Ingham put it.

Nick Shackleton-Jones, head of elearning at BP, talked through his experience of launching a social learning platform at the BBC and how that learning has shaped his approach to creating a social learning hub at BP.

He talked about the importance of having the right amount of content as users tend to look and consumer before they participate. He warned of creating a social learning hub that was akin to what he called an ‘empty warehouse’ – if nothing is in it and nothing is happening there, then people won’t join. Build it and they won’t come, he warned.

As well as great content, Shackleton-Jones said there must be a business imperative to create a social learning experience or else it won’t get traction. There has to be a business reason.

Shackleton-Jones also pointed out that when L&D talks about social learning it is talking about two concepts that are entwined:

1 We are social creatures so the affective context model comes into play
2 Social media enables learning

Often, when we talk about social learning, we are talking about learning using social media tools. Shackleton-Jones also pointed out that L&D must realize there is a difference between liking something in social media and actually learning something. He also urged L&D professionals to think of the 70:20:10 model as a descriptive, rather than prescriptive, model and that it should be applied according to the needs of the organization.

Tim Drewitt, elearning specialist at Eversheds provided a whole range of practical tips (embed slideshare) on using social media before, during and after a training session. Drewitt said that in order to be successful in using social media tools you need to find your voice and earn the right to be followed.

Accenture’s Priya Banati and Clare Norman – also provided some great insights into its social learning activities. The company’s social learning mission is to “enable our people to learn from each other and bring the best of Accenture to our clients”.

Learning from each other is a key element in social learning and delegates discussed how this could work for their organization. The tools now provide the ability for people to talk around the training and for that conversation to be seen by others, enabling them to look and engage themselves.

Accenture’s approach to social learning covered:

  • Content – access to useful expertise and people
  • Connection – Share current updates and stories
  • Collaboration – ask, answer and moderate questions. Build or improve a skill
  • Community – Co-build assets/processes or improve existing assets/process to collectively grow the knowledge in this community

Other key topics of discussion at the conference included trust, culture and mindset. All organization-wide issues that need to be addressed in order for social learning to gain traction.

Delegates also looked at content, curation and mobile. Some delegates also brought up the issue of L&D having to loosen its control over learning. Social will only work if people are trusted to build relationships and share.

That said, Nick Shackleton-Jones said there still needs to be some quality control over content to ensure learners get high-quality, relevant content.

Terry Jones, Head of L&D Delivery and Design at BT Openreach provided his summary of the Social Learning Conference in a short interview, where he highlighted that Technology, Content and Culture should drive Social Learning.

As Jon Ingham said in his round-up, delegates had energy and desire to make social learning happen. Now all that remains is that delegates have a go by starting small, iterating, learning, tweaking. Hopefully they will report back on progress in the soonest future.

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