Self-expression is an adult learner requirement.
Learning scientists believe we do not learn something new unless we have the opportunity to articulate during the learning process – talking about our ideas as they are forming – refining our ideas with others. The key here is not just statically relaying our ideas, but developing ideas together. Learning geeks call it “social construction” in learning. And we have to offer more than passive online forums to accomplish it.
Social learning can take many forms. Because we aren’t seated in chairs looking each other in the eyeballs during an eLearning course, digital learning tends to get downgraded for being sterile, isolating, and impersonal. The only reason it’s that way is because it’s designed that way. Consider these opportunities to build community with your content.
Many organizations start and stop here. By offering online conversation space, our work is done. Peer communities have the potential to be powerful social learning environments, but the reality is a large number of them are digital ghost towns. Attract interaction by setting the expectation that a new topic will be introduced at a certain time each week. Connect your communities with your blog and podcast content – and generate conversation around it. Invite community members to facilitate video call conversations for their peers around ripped-from-the-headlines industry issues, a virtual book club, or debriefing takeaways from a recent live event. Seed the community and watch the interaction blossom.
Interacting with peers is great. We stand to learn a lot. But when we bring industry experts into the discussion, we attract a new level of interest. Whether hosted in your peer community, a Facebook Live chat, or other mediated forum – schedule time for your learners to interact with masters. Formats can range from open Q&A, to “here’s how I did it” tips allowing follow up questions, to exclusive coaching chats. Keep the content delivery to the bare minimum to allow space for conversation. Tee up a Master Interaction with a peer community discussion and then follow it with a next-step learning opportunity. Or incorporate Master Interactions as learning touch points in between synchronous online learning course modules. So many options!
Raise the stakes by creating a culture where members of the learning community contribute content. Commonly organizations will have repositories for slide decks or handouts contributed by speakers. That’s a start, but passive. Ask for contributions to a brain trust you are building together. Develop a peer reviewed wiki for your industry. Present a challenge and ask for community members to respond with samples. Articulate eLearning Heroes Community (https://community.articulate.com/) is a best-in-kind example. Not only have they created a responsive peer community with master interaction, the responses to their design challenges result in a collection of high-quality eLearning interaction templates other pros can modify and use. Consider asking community members to form chat panels for discussions around key issues. Or, form a short-term structured mentoring opportunity between certified community members and those preparing to become certified – like the CAE mentor chats. The year after earning my CAE I participated as a chat mentor. My commitment was a block of hours one day to pop into a community forum and answer questions alongside other CAE mentors. I didn’t know the answer to every question posed, and that was ok. Together we created a safe, encouraging insightful space.
Yes, your learners come to you as the content authority. But, offering opportunities for co-creation is a magnificent way to build community around content. What if learners submitted case studies and the community co-created solutions resulting in a white paper? What if your organization posed a challenging question and your learners submitted 2-minute videos with their solution or a tip or how they would approach such an issue and these answers were curated into response options? What if after a 2-day leadership program you filmed 3-minute insight bytes and posted these takeaways for community inspiration? Leverage the expertise in your target audience not only to draw out pain points for future course development, but to crowd-source insights that can be used right now.
How can you become the nexus of where people come to learn together? Move beyond peer communities and stretch toward content co-creation to reposition your online learning site as a hub for discovery and social construction around nuanced subjects your target audience cares about – and contributes to.
To learn more about how Blue Sky can help you create a community around your content, click here.
Tracy King, MA, CAE
As Chief Learning Strategist & Founder of InspirEd, Tracy leverages her more than 17 years in the education industry for associations interested in increasing their relevance and revenue with meaningful live, online, and mobile learning programs. Tracy specializes in the intersection of learning science and technology. She’s a thought leader in education strategy and learning experience design. In addition, Tracy offers training to instructional design teams, content experts, and at conferences to promote leading edge practices developing learning experiences that make a measurable difference. For more information, please visit www.inspired-ed.com or www.tracy-king.com