The lessons e-learning can take from how we use social media

The lessons e-learning can take from how we use social media

Posted on Dec 30, 2015

How social media usage can inform e-learning



What’s the one thing we all now do – rather instinctively – when we have an odd couple of minutes here and there to spare? We get our phones out and frantically scroll through twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Flipboard, Tumblr, Flickr, super, Pinterest, Vine, YouTube, Snapchat, LinkedIn… you get the picture, social media sites have become the ‘go-to’ place to kill time, and catch up on all the amazing (and more frequently less amazing) things all the people you’re connected with are doing, going, wearing, loving, hating and even eating (let’s face it, who begins a meal without taking a quick picture of it for their Instagram account anymore?)


Think we’re kidding? We overheard a conversation the other day where someone was so upset they’d eaten what they proclaimed to be “one of the best meals in their life” – and forgot to Instagram it first. Inexcusable.



If the ‘have to do’ training is structured in the same way as the ‘want to do’ status updates or ‘want to watch’ YouTube tutorials, it would be a logical assumption that we’d be as happy to complete an online course as we would pinning to our beloved Pinterest boards.


Given that all these sites tap into our lives and as people, we’ve been wondering if the answer to the issue surrounding e-learning and driving engagement could be found in the way we use these sites. But what can we learn from them, and what habits are they teaching us – good and bad? We decided to break it down, and detail what we like about each one for both personal and business usage.


On Demand

The internet: no closing time, no sick days, no holiday requests. It’s live and active 24/7, all 365 days a year. You can tweet, post a status update, add an Instagram picture and access a whole wealth of knowledge anywhere, anytime. Just like e-learning.

e-learning is quite literally learning without barriers. You choose what to learn and when – no travelling, no days out of the classroom or office – and with the flick app, no internet connection is even needed to complete your training).



If it ain’t easy to find, I ain’t reading it. OK, maybe a bit harsh but with a whole heap of search methods – hashtags, subreddits, and tags to name a few, it’s so easy to find exactly what you want on each social media platform to ensure you only see or find what is relevant to you. This should be the same when it comes to learning online. Finding what you want to learn should be as easy as finding the #tbt posts on Instagram.


Micro Learning

Think learning, but little. Reddit is a great example of this With 169 million unique visitors per month and well over 800,000 subreddits, there’s lots to read about – ever been on the ‘TIL’ subreddit? You can learn a whole wealth of great ( albeit sometimes a little pointless ) facts – click here to check it out. YouTube is also a great way of learning something new quickly - 60 hours of video are uploaded every minute, and over 4 billion videos are viewed a day*. Our searches range from DIY projects, craft projects, pet care, exercise routines, to cooking tips.

Apply this same logic to e-learning. Reading topics should be small and snappy – so we learn what we need to know and don’t get bombarded with information


Customisable… and relevant

Let’s use Instagram as our example this time; users are able to tailor their experience to their interests by managing who they follow. By subscribing to the topics they’re most interested in, they limit the information that filters to their feed. This ensures that each user gets the see the posts most relevant to them and allows them to skip over the stuff they don’t want (also apply this logic to Reddit, Facebook groups, Tumblr posts and YouTube channels).

Now consider this in e-learning – completing the need-to-do training as-and-when required and only complete the bits that are relevant to you and your job role. Let’s be honest, no-one wants to learn about fire safety specific to fire wardens unless they’re a fire warden. And what you’re learning should be in line with correct and current law and legislation – there’s no point learning something that was produced and last updated in 1853… ok so that’s a little dramatic, but you get the point.



Let’s thank Facebook for this example – it’s basically a free dropbox – which means unlimited storage, uploads and shares. You can add photos, videos, audio… pretty much anything to the site and share it amongst your friends – and rest safe in the knowledge that all this data is being stored somewhere else – not taking up memory on your device or PC.

e-learning is much the same, there’s no downloading and storing software, everything’s accessed online so you don’t need any spare memory on your computer or device to access it.


Security and… stalking

With all social media, you can keep your settings private and your account on lock-down if you want. Only your friends, approved followers or first connections will be able to see what you’re doing, saying and even what you look like. Keeping your private life, well, private. The flip side of this is when your profiles are open and public. People will be able to see all your social activity when partaking in a little Facebook stalking (be warned).

Much like e-learning, the only person able to see your progress or course completions will be your group administrator (if you are the administrator – happy tracking and enjoy those status reports).

If you like to keep thigs social, however, and don’t mind being found – things like top achievers rankings will be right up your alley.



Pinterest boards, YouTube channels, blogs and even groups on Facebook – we only join the ones we’re interested in (why would I follow a trout fishing group on Facebook if I have ichthyophobia?). Social media offers us a range of ways to stay current with our interests and hobbies - Pinterest is the best example for this, many a time have I been lost for hours pinning new ideas and projects to my various boards in the hope that one day I’ll make that DIY outdoor fire pit (?) – no, seriously.


Click here to see 31 Pinterest fails on Buzzfeed.


e-learning works the same – you can learn anything, and I do mean anything, you want online. With hundreds of different topics to choose from and lots of suppliers out there, we challenge you not to find what you’re looking for.


And lastly, self-destructing

Who wants a course or certificate that self-destructs… well, no-one. But let's consider linking this to the play element of learning. As consumers, we don't have to take ourselves too seriously, allow some play and people will choose to engage - enter Snapchat – great for sharing hilarious photos and videos that are basically ‘James Bond’ destroyed after one or two views – so your viewers or followers can’t keep them. Who doesn’t love feeling like an exclusive spy? Genius.


Mirroring social media in e-learning will undoubtedly encourage usage. Keeping a system in line with apps, websites and forums we use every day out of choice can only create a positive effect in the way we choose to learn. Most social media is made with mobile in mind. It's built around people using it on their phones and that's where the majority of people use it. Let's take Instagram as an example - you can't even post from the web, only the app. It knows where people are and takes their app to them. - In 2000, just half of UK adults said that they had a mobile phone – that figure now stands at 93%*.


The demand for new features is always around - lets face it people anticipate frequent updates... all of us using iOS were overly excited back in October at the new update that welcomed us to nearly 150 new emoji's (personal favourites included the cheese block, unicorn and Spock hand - I don't know how we messaged each other without these until now?). This simple update and rewards we gained just goes to prove there always needs to be something new in the pipeline.


Playing from habits, we can shift our focus from not only spending those spare few minutes we have finding out what Barny, Chris and Suzee had for dinner – but also choosing to complete a quick topic on data protection, health and safety, equality and diversity, or anything in fact. Here’s to keeping learning social.


What are your thoughts? We’d love to hear from you – comment below and share your favourite elements of social media - and how you feel these features could enhance learning.





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