Must-Have Social Learning Features for Your LMS
Social learning is learning from others. So, how do we, as eLearning providers, get in the game? We have powerful learning management systems, but can they allow our learners to participate in social learning?
I won't tell you my age, but I will tell you that I pre-date the microchip and, when I was young, there was social learning. Here's how it worked:
- After we were done with our formal learning in the classroom, we would go out to the playground, chase away the woolly mammoths and hang out.
- We would share things that we had learned, for example, where babies came from, how to blow milk out of your nose, the best ways to remove sabretooth cat dung from your shoes or the fact that the inside of a golf ball contained a poison pill.
- If you believed what a person told you, you could make him or her a "friend" and "follow" that friend to learn more.
- You also "shared" what you had learned with other friends.
- If you or your other friends had additional knowledge to add or opinions about what had been said, you "commented" on it. Then, you would cross the glacier and return to your cave to paint what you had learned on the walls.
- The communal knowledge bank grew in this manner, although, just as with Facebook or Twitter, the content of that knowledge bank may not have been accurate or true.
Today, social learning is largely driven by technology and by web-based applications, but the principle remains the same. In this article, I will discuss some must-have LMS social learning features and describe how they facilitate it.
Must-Have LMS Social Learning Features
There are a number of LMS vendor websites that describe features that they see as "must haves" for social learning. Here, in no particular order, are what I found to be the most common must-have LMS social learning features:
- User profile - provides some personal information and allows learners to get to know each other and share their information. Users can post their photos, biographies and status. Your LMS should allow users to create profiles and be able to track user status.
- Email and text notifications - anyone who has a mobile phone feels out of touch when they can't see their texts or email. Your LMS should allow learners to set up their own notifications so that they can stay in touch with work and friends while learning.
- News feed or social stream - should be integrated with other networks. This feature should be able to display your news, news and updates from learners and eLearning announcements.
- Social media compatibility - hey, it's social learning! Learners will want to share what they've learned, and their successes, on the networks to which they belong. Your LMS needs to be able to integrate with popular social media platforms.
- Live chat - allows learners to chat with other learners or online tutors for private conversations as well as allowing learners to search for specific learners, form chat groups and add additional users. Learners can use this feature to get instant help from other learners or to work together to solve learning challenges.
- Groups - similar to the live chat function, it allows you to create groups that are focused on specific learning topics, business needs or work-related interests. The advantage here is that there is potential for "crowd-sourcing" information and feedback on courses to update them and to create new ones.
- Subject matter expert area - learners will have questions and will want answers. So, why not connect them with subject matter experts? SMEs are connected with students through a separate chat function for one-on-one sessions. Learner questions and SME answers can then be posted on an "Expert's Bulletin Board" for the general learning audience to see and discuss.
- Mobile access - if yours is a mobile learning audience, they will need to access their learning where and when they need to. As social learners, they'll want the ability to react to items that appear on their news feeds and communicate with other learners. For this audience, mobile learning is a must-have feature.
- Gamification - allows you to reward learners for their achievements (e.g. achievement badges, points). Posting a Leaderboard helps to keep learners logging in and earning recognition. LMS gamification features let learners compare results and engage in friendly competition - exactly the sort of social learning interaction that they want.
- User-generated content - learners can share what they have learned and their own learning resources with the learning community. As a learning provider, this feature also allows you to ask for input on topics, set up discussion groups and forums, and recognize learners who create content and share what they have learned. Enabling user-generated content is a great way to promote social learning in your learning audience.
- Content rating - lets you find out what learners think of course content. What do they like? What don't they like? What needs improvement? What other topics should be included? Tests and assessment scores only give you part of the picture. They tell you if learners have understood the content; they don't tell you how well the content was received. Allowing comments, using surveys and employing a ratings system about content will help to ensure that you are giving your learners relevant and timely information.
My list of must-have social learning LMS features is just that - my list. I'm sure that some of you have other features that you would like to see on the list, while others may think that's all there is. Top Social Learning LMS Features by John Leh provides an extensive list of basic and advanced social learning LMS features that is certainly worth checking out.
So, that's my best shot at describing what your LMS should provide you with so that your learners can engage in social learning.
Social learning is big and will continue to grow in importance in eLearning. As eLearning providers, we need to embrace it and stay on top of the technology that facilitate social learning if we are to keep our learners engaged. If I can stay on top of it, anyone can. Now, if I can only figure out where I left my flip-phone, I'd really be happy.
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Jill is an Instructional Designer at BaseCorp Learning Systems with more than 10 years of experience researching, writing and designing effective learning materials. She is fascinated by the English language and enjoys the challenge of adapting her work for different audiences. After work, Jill continues to leverage her professional experience as she works toward the development of a training program for her cats. So far, success has not been apparent.