Four Ways User-Generated Content (UGC) Can Make its Way into Formal Learning

January 1, 2010 Dawn Poulos

HandshakeThis past week, I’ve been reading and referring to Jane Hart’s article The State of Social Learning Today and some Thoughts for the Future of L&D in 2010 quite a bit. As always, Jane combines a wealth of information with some remarkable insights on where organizational learning is (or should be) headed.

One thing that has always been of great interest to me is what I’ll refer to as the integration of social and formal learning content. So when I got to the part of Jane’s article that said it’s time to re-think the design and delivery of formal learning initiatives, I felt we were on to something. Jane nails it when she says:

“It is also not just about churning out content (however well instructionally designed) but also about the social aspects of learning. Individuals need to have the opportunity to discuss, collaborate and share their experiences – and thereby add to the body of knowledge around a topic. UGC (user generated content) should therefore be seen as a valuable aspect for formal learning context – as much as expert generated content. ”

The industry accepted statistic that social learning evangelists often refer to is that that formal structured learning (FSL) accounts for only 20% of an individual’s learning. This is true. However, it doesn’t mean that the development of formal expert generated content is going to go away. Rather, it’s the delivery of this formal content that will change – in the form of less courseware and more guided delivery at the point-of-performance, with social media platforms providing a critical publishing channel.

Moreover, it’s crucial that we focus on ways for UGC to make its way into formal content development processes and leverage this rich source of information to create better learning products, drive new instructional design models, and most importantly, increase the richness and instructional value of learning content.

How User Generated Content Can Make its Way into Formal Learning:

  1. Integrate UGC into formal learning content management: Feedback from forums and content from blogs and/or wikis are examples of valuable information that can be pulled or linked into learning content repositories to provide a unified view of organizational and social content. This pool of connected assets gives authors and instructional designers a more powerful arsenal of resources for creating compelling learning (formal or not).
  2. Create Subject Matter Networks (SMNs): Socialize formal content by creating communities around its subject matter to foster rich dialogue around topics and to leverage connections between content authors and their networks. In this way, formal content is now supported and supplemented by an ecosystem of experts and related information. For example, at Xyleme the “Frequently Asked Questions” section of our user guide comes primarily from our product SMN.
  3. Make social media part of formal workflows: Allow social collaboration to be another step in the review process by publishing formal content to internal (or external) communities for peer review prior to its wide release. Capture this valuable user-generated feedback and route it into the formal review workflows.
  4. Republish UGC with (as part of) formal learning products: Monitor your social learning networks and capture the relevant UGC identified to be of potential value to the organization’s learning products. Send this UGC through the formal editorial workflow to check for appropriateness and quality standards, and then re-publish this content – in the appropriate context – to formal training publications to supplement and enrich these products. For example, supplement your product training materials with instructional demos created by your users and posted on YouTube.

(Note on this post: “Subject matter network” is a term I picked up from Harold Jarche when I commented on his Social learning in the enterprise post; also, the points I make regarding SMN are based on quotes from leading Social Business Software vendor, Jive Software. )

About the Author

Dawn Poulos

Dawn is the main contributor to the Dawn of Learning blog and her writing is behind its success, driving readers back time and again. She is a proud vegan and health enthusiast and lives in San Francisco with her husband and daughter. She is an accomplished speaker and writer, having written numerous white papers and trade articles and speaking yearly at numerous tradeshows on the popular subjects of personalized learning experiences, cloud learning, content strategy, single source and XML.

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