Social Learning is a self-propagating concept, that is- once a social learning culture is achieved in an organization. Here we try to enlist the top challenges which hinder social learning from becoming a reality in organizations:
1. Garnering support from seniors
The most important one. Some managers simply like instructing and getting things done the way they feel is right. Instructors may feel more comfortable lecturing employees as they feel they are covering the ‘necessary’ course of the training material. Or they may be skeptical whether employees can be trusted enough to pursue learning on their own. The truth is, unless you place faith in your employees, they are never going to feel confident to bring out their ideas into the open.
2. Motivating employees
At times, managers and executives are keen to develop a social learning culture, but all employees may not be very motivated to adopt it, especially the introvert, shy and under-confident ones. Here is where they need support from people and the culture around them to give them enough thrust to bring their ideas into the open and share whatever knowledge they have. Little acts of acknowledgement like paying attention to them or thanking them for bringing up a point can do a lot to boost their confidence and increase their participation.
Social learning is more of an abstract concept. An employee shares his experience with a colleague at the cafeteria during lunch about how he solved a particular technical problem. While actual learning takes place in such situations, it does not get documented or measured. Truth is, the best organizations play lesser emphasis on documenting every form of learning. The focus should be on encouraging communities of practice, discussion groups etc. without necessarily measuring them.
4. Security issues
Issues like firewalls and security may be major concerns when you launch an enterprise-wide social learning project. For example, getting access to blogs, case studies and similar external learning resources from the very beginning is important to avoid any issues in future. Plus, there are legacy system interface challenges, which can be overcome by developing a common authentication methodology to allow single window sign-on.
5. Providing bandwidth
Social learning happening over the internet cannot fully take place unless it gets its share of bandwidth, especially the bandwidth-hungry activities like videos, teleconferencing, etc. A distributed hosting model can be an effective solution to this problem as its helps to balance the load, particularly in case of a large organization.
Discussions and collaboration are self-propagating, but some amount of monitoring of content must be done to ensure that employees do not go too much off track. This may include monitoring the content of online discussions, blogs and resources being shared, etc. And that takes time.
7. Overcoming the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to design
Social learning elements when integrated into an LMS should be based on the audience. Are they young or are they not? What kind of websites they find easy to navigate through. Understanding the audience is both a challenge and a rewarding opportunity.
Ticking off these challenges one by one should be a great start towards adopting social learning. Beginning with creating the right learning culture is a good idea to make your endeavor a success.