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How to Measure Social Learning
Social learning has yet to become a standard in many organizations. But for those where it has, measuring it has become a challenge. Here’s what some firms have figured out.
For many learning leaders, social learning is the new toy on the shelf. Many are still tinkering with how its nuances fit with the learning needs of the organization.Part of determining social learning’s place in corporate America is figuring out how to best derive measurable value from it. How does Facebook — or a site built under a similar model, like many firms have — create measurable return? Can YouTube, or a site like it, really boost the amount of knowledge gained by workers?Industry insiders who have spent countless working hours studying these questions say the answer is yes. However, there still isn’t much of a consensus or standard as to how social learning can be measured.At first blush, social learning is easily measured through transactions, according to Kelly Meeker, a community manager with OpenSesame, a provider of online training courses.
By simply keeping track of how many users are actively participating in a social learning community, she said, organizations can begin to draw baseline conclusions about its value.How many users are posting comments? What topic is getting the most buzz? How many monthly visits is each social learning platform receiving? These are questions Meeker said learning leaders could easily keep track of to gain insight into social learning’s usage.Others say measuring transactions isn’t enough.Dan Pontefract, the head of learning and collaboration at Canadian telecommunications firm Telus Corp., said firms should move beyond measuring transactions with learning.“It is part of the problem, which is there are some people just looking at transactions of hits and so on,” Pontefract said. “And right away, I suggest to people that although anecdotally you can surface the data, you really want to tie social learning to part of the employee’s overall learning and business metrics.”Telus does keep detailed track of its social learning participation — in 2011, for instance, 16,600 of its employees joined its Buzz micro-blogging tool.But Pontefract said the company also has created an aggregate model of all its transactional learning data and created a return on learning metric. Social learning is a big part of that measurement, Pontefract said.
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