How Social Media Has Changed Learning: A Few Answers Via Tweet Chat

Each week, a group of learning professionals gathers for at Tweet chat called #lrnchat to discuss issues and ideas in the workplace learning space. I try to join the sessions as often as I can because it keeps me in tune with what forward-thinking individuals are doing in training, e-learning, and instructional design.

These weekly chats are a major part of how I learn. In fact, there have been many times I started to get into a routine of boring, typical learning technqiues, and old ways of doing things; then I participate in a #lrnchat session and get snapped out of it. I come up with new ideas for how to design a learning program or learn about a new tool to try.

Last week was no exception. The topic was how social media has changed learning, and what follows is some of the discussion questions and responses from #lrnchat participants, many of whom I have met at conferences and other events, and whom I also consider friends.

Below is a list of three discussion questions from the morning session on Thursday, July 7 and some of the responses. You can always find archives of entire past sessions here.

Question: How do you learn differently now, because of social media, than you did before social media?

Mostly the responses to this question related to how easy it is to ask people on social networks, that answers to questions can be found on-demand, and that people are more in-control of what they learn, how they learn, and when they learn something. See some of the responses below:

  • 11:02:12 am scogill: Q2) I always asked google my questions – now I can just as easily ask people I know #lrnchat
  • 11:02:40 am ChristyATucker: Q2) So much easier with social media to find practitioners solving similar problems to learn from #lrnchat
  • 11:03:36 am TriciaRansom: Q2) My network gives me filtered links that are actually useful. Thanks guys! #lrnchat

One cannot underestimate the power of being able to learn something at the point of need.

  • 11:02:35 am DennisCMarsh: Q2) access to “on demand information” at “point of impulse” #lrnchat
  • 11:03:36 am StephanieDaul: Q2) I don’t have to learn everything all at once – learn it when I need it #lrnchat

The beauty of social media is that people are more in control of their learning.

  • 11:02:42 am StephanieDaul: Q2) I feel like I have more control over my learning – I decide what, where and when I learn #lrnchat
  • 11:01:47 am Tracy_Parish: Q2) I’m learning from people that have experienced what I need to learn. Not a prof spewing text from a book #lrnchat

Question: What are some ways you learn through social media that aren’t collaborative, with other people per-se?

Social media is predominantly about collaborating with other people. However, largely underestimated is the power of using social media to learn new things without necessarily engaging or collaborating with other people. Social media has changed the way people learn new skills from watching videos, to finding reference materials to listening in on conversations between other people. For example, @TriciaRanson is teaching herself how to knit watching Youtube videos:

  • 11:16:44 am TriciaRansom: Q3) I’m teaching myself to knit. YouTube is INVALUABLE! A video of a stitch much ezier than a printed book… #lrnchat

Something as simple as reading newspapers, magazines, journal articles, and even full length books is still a powerful way to learn. All of these resources can be discovered by following people on social networks and reading their posts, which contain links to these resources.

  • 11:18:35 am NolanHabegger: Q3) Timely access to news and information within particular spheres of shared interest – common ground without collaboration #lrnchat

It is a socialgraphic fact that 90% of social media users are lurkers. Lurkers do not create new content. They read the content of other people. This is how they participate in social media and this is how they learn. Using social media, one can always go back to look up resources and conversations that you have observed. It is searchable and available and always there. And if you use social bookmarking sites, it is even easier to save resources and conversations for later reference, when you need it.

  • 11:18:39 am AndreaMay1: Q3) The conversation is “recorded” with SoMe. I can go back and explore on my time line rather than anyone else’s #lrnchat

Question: How are social media and social learning different? Is it important to explain the difference to people? #lrnchat

The consensus here is that they are different. Social learning happens with or without social media. In fact, most believe social learning is nothing new. Social media is just one tool (of many) that people can use to engage in learning.

  • 11:31:11 am npmaven: Q3) Social learning CAN happen via social media. But not always. Broader. #lrnchat
  • 11:31:50 am espnguyen: Q4) Social Media = the tools. Social Learning = Leveraging the tools to do the learning. #lrnchat

For a more practical approach, we use the term “social Learning” to suggest learning that occurs between people using social media tools. Plus this can be an easier way for people to understand it, rather than argue that social learning is sitting around the coffee shop talking about a project.

  • 11:34:23 am C4LPT: Q4) “Social learning” is being used as a term meaning social-media-ted learning. I think we need to accept that is the case #lrnchat

Social media is changing the way we learn. Learning professionals who understand this shifting trend, can begin to think about how to change the way they design learning programs. From chats like these, I learn that there needs to be less “instruction” and more learner-led activities. Instruction assumes the teacher has all the knowledge, and it must be pushed on the learner. But adults do not learn this way. Adult leaners must be in charge of their learning for it to be effective. Social media enables this.

Note: #lrnchat sessions are normally held every Thursday twice per day at 8:30am PT and 5:30pm PT. During the summer, the sessions are monthly. The next session is August 4th. You can find the schedule and details here.

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Bill Cushard, Chief Learning Officer at The Knowland Group, is a learning leader with more than 12 years experience in training and performance improvement at companies such as E*TRADE Financial, Accenture, and Time Warner Cable.