I’ve been planning an experiment (technically “project-based qualitative research,” I’m told) using social media (SoMe) for learning, based on a communication class I lead. The design has been socialized in many circles, including ASTD’s Learning and Development Community (Yammer), Training Magazine’s LinkedIn community, and anyone who would listen at the Training 2012 conference. The story here is as much about the process of designing this class by socializing it in the larger instructional design community as it is the design itself.

In many ways, the class is a perfect match to SoMe because it is social/collaborative to begin with. After a brief conversation about communication fundamentals, students are shown several techniques to use in different abbreviated communication scenarios and given opportunities to practice: in front of the room, in pairs with other students, and in small groups. The second day the students make a short presentation while being videotaped, and much of the time is spent reviewing and critiquing the presentations and learning from one another. The process takes enough time that class sizes have been limited to twelve students. For most students, this is the first time they’ve seen themselves presenting before an audience on videotape, and the experience is often mentioned as the highlight of the learning experience.

A bit of irony

What’s ironic is the class focuses on the importance of face-to-face communication…and I’m asking students to use social technologies to interact. Adding to the challenge in this case is that employees would not be allowed to have the desired conversations on public networks: this would be a behind-the-firewall experiment. It’s a constraint I can’t get around (this time).

Based on best practices I read, working with several in-house teams to brainstorm ideas, and feedback from my professional networks, the course design now looks something like this.

The new design

Day one remains essentially unchanged, with the exception of a short conversation about how the remainder of the class will work in an online setting. We will also discuss interacting in the virtual environment with students who, as a group, haven’t used Twitter and are largely inexperienced with Facebook.

The second day of the class is entirely replaced by online interaction, with one important exception: the videotaped presentation. Presenting in front of an audience while being videotaped was the one essential component sponsors didn’t want changed. To accomodate this, students will attend one of several 1-hour recording sessions, both to present and serve as an audience. Recordings will be posted to the online environment that evening, and ready for viewing the next day.

After a week to allow for the recording of all students and provide time to review their own videos, they’re asked to review and comment on one another’s performance. They’re encouraged to return several times over the course of the week to review comments on their own video, as well as comments on others, and to freely engage in discussion.

The final week of the formal class is focused on interactive discussions about barriers to communication. The hope is students, by this time, are relatively adept at interacting virtually and a lively discussion will ensue.

And after the formal part of the class is over, students are encouraged to share lessons learned and experiences – not just with one another, but with many other past graduates of the class.

It’s a first step

There’s already a good buzz around the organization looking forward to this first experiment. It retains all the interactive/social aspects of the original class, but moves them online. It offers an opportunity for employees to learn from the workplace and at times that are convenient to them. Executives see workers back on the job in half the time (already planning to reduce that even more), but the core social learning experiences are retained. Better still, two classes with the new design can be run concurrently in the two-day “in-class” time span of the previous design, and class sizes are no longer limited to 12. In fact, for purposes of lively discussion, larger classes are likely better.

This is a relatively small step, but follow-on experiments are planned. In some ways, there are Trojan mice seeded throughout my plans for the year (HT @euan; see previous post).

Thanks for reading! @tomspiglanin


A Social Media Learning Experiment — 1 Comment

  1. Hey Tom!
    Anxious to hear how this carries out. As a former professor of Communication Studies, I have witnessed the transition to an online environment many times. It CAN be done. The biggest concerns are ensuring feedback. Students (regardless of academic or professional) desire enormous amounts of feedback. If people participate, and they know that the facilitator is as well, you should have great success with this model.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: