The opportunities that social networks present for learning and the advantages of integrating social networks with online learning are important to recognise.
The role of social media in the context of communication, collaboration and network-building has been well understood. But understanding its potential impact on learning and incorporating it as part of the learning strategy is at a nascent stage. The opportunities that social networks present for learning and the advantages of integrating social networks with online learning are important to recognise while designing the learning plans for individuals and professionals in future.
With a plethora of information available on the internet, searching for the right information or ensuring you are not left behind through timely upgradation of knowledge have become cumbersome tasks. That is where professional learning networks could address these concerns and act as a dynamic feed for continuous learning and upgradation if conceived well. How are these professional learning networks different from the online learning systems set up by companies?
Online learning portals are mostly based on ‘push’ strategy whereas professional learning networks are designed around a ‘pull’ approach and are successful when integrated with social media networks. The starting point is to decide the extent of content curation on the portal. This is because of the humungous amount of content available on the internet and the consequent need for skillfully discerning what content is relevant and how to present it to the learner. Thus, the role of the curator is to artfully filter the information that would suit learners, tastefully present the content, understand the profiles of the learners and their styles of learning.
Once the building blocks of the learning network are defined, the dynamic components of the learning system must be carefully planned. Managing the network for the ongoing feed of content is a crucial success factor for learner adoption and usage of such networks. The types of content that need to be made available in the learning network calls for specialised skills in browsing the web regularly to understand what is ‘in’ and what is ‘out’, listening to peers and industry specialists to identify the best solution for aggregating the content.
The other task that has to be done diligently concerns who to ‘follow’ and who should ideally ‘follow’ the members of the network. Being able to expand the horizons of learning by systematically facilitating engagements with social networks is indeed a great boon for learners, but it comes with some important challenges as well.
Organisations beginning to conceptualise and design customised professional learning networks should also plan to tap into the multitudes of data available for carrying out the required analytics and making the learning process responsive. These are exciting times for training managers, who now have the opportunity to make learning more targeted, customised and real-time.
Originally appeared in Financial Express