Web 2.0 Technology and Training: Are They Compatible?

I’m writing a course on how to use LinkedIn for recruiting and sales, which means I’m spending a lot of time on LinkedIn. One of my most favorite parts of that website is the Answers section where people post questions, and the LinkedIn community answers. And that is what got my juices flowing for this post.

I’m enthralled by the use, or non-use, of web 2.0 and web 3.0 technologies and the training profession. I came across a question by Jaime Stone, a Director of Learning & Performance Solutions at Adayana. Jaime asked,

“What is the future of learning? Will emerging technologies change the face of our practice? Are you leveraging Web 2.0 and virtual technologies to reach your audience? If so, what have you learned?” click here to see the answers.

Are web 2.0 technology and training compatible? Ask 5 people in the field, and you’ll get 5 answers. First, let me begin by saying I don’t think stand-up facilitation is going anywhere. People are always hungry for face-to-face time with others. However, we have to be realistic and factor in the often prohibitive cost factors of instructor-led training (ILT). No longer are all the employees in one building, one city, or even in the same country — so travel (either the instructor or the participants), meeting space, printing, and a myriad of other incidentals add up.

Web 2.0 can help alleviate some of the costs associated with traditional ILT. And, done properly, web 2.0 can also help make training more interactive and more of a community or team project than the traditional web-based training (WBT) model of a person alone with a computer.

So why don’t we use web 2.0 more? I think that often we, as the training profession, are afraid to try out new technologies. Remember how long the acceptance of WBT took? We also have to contend with IT departments as well as security concerns and leadership. Each of these groups may have different agendas and concerns with using social media — overload on bandwith, confidential information being leaked, people playing rather than working. Sounds rather like the concern with email and instant messaging years ago, doesn’t it?

But the larger question, to my mind, is whether or not social media and training are compatible. Of course they are. And yet they’re not. No, I promise I’m not dodging the issue! I think the answer is, “it depends”.

Let me explain: Many people like to learn in a group, learn from others, and share what they are thinking. This is especially true of the millennials. When distance separates people in a class, social media is a wonderful opportunity for bringing people together.  Also, people are becoming more and more used to searching for information themselves. In fact, they have been trained to expect that the information they need is quickly available and accessible to them via computer. Social media is perfect for creating a community of knowledge that lets the information and thoughts and ideas of many to be shared, even real-time in the case of twitter. Finally, as training professionals, we have to admit that we don’t have the time to create, test, edit, schedule, and then push out courses. Changes happen too quickly — often information in courses is obsolete before the training occurs. Social media can allow the courses to be developed and taught as changes are happening, by the people who are actually doing the changing.

In other words, the training profession may have to undergo a fundamental shift in how we look at our role. I see us as no longer being the font of all wisdom and knowledge pushing courses out to the masses. Rather, I see us a managers of a constant stream and flow of information, helping it to stay true to its course, and factual, but not the dispensers of information.

There is a second part to how I see our new role, and it is also the reason why I think web 2.0 and training may not be compatible. We will have to become teachers of web 2.0. Whether or not we like it, understand it, or want the changes, they are happening. And it’s up to us to teach others about those changes. We need to educate our learners and leadership and sponsors on the benefits of web 2.0.

We also need to have a strategy in place for implementing social media training. As I’ve, and so many others, have learned, you can’t just create a blog or wiki and say, “we’re now using web 2.0!”.  We need to push people to use it, use the early adopters as role models, and encourage others to learn new ways of learning. We need to have a plan in place to make sure that wikis are updating with emerging knowledge, that blogs are posted to, that comments are moderated and encouraged.

It’s hard, but without that plan, web 2.0 is doomed to being associated with lackluster training just as WBTs have been for years.

I know this is a long post, but I think it can be summed up by this: all of us – L&D people, learners, leadership, everyone – need to learn a new way of learning, and we need to embrace it. Whether or not it’s web 2.0 or 3.0 or something that doesn’t exist yet, it’s coming. And we need to be open for it, and ready with a plan.

About Tricia Ransom

Patricia Ransom: wife, daughter, friend. Learning, laughing, living. Chicago, Illinois, downstate. Townie, urbanite, traveller. Note: The opinions expressed on this blog belong solely to me and should not be assumed to reflect the opinions of any of my employers past, current, or future.
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