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eLearning Solutions Inspired by Social Media

This was originally posted on on September 21, 2016.

It’s no secret that the ever-increasing popularity of social media has had a tremendous impact on nearly every aspect of daily life, from business and politics to education and culture. As of 2015, social media is being used by 65% of all adults and 90% of young adults (age 18-29) in America.

Harnessing the power and popularity of social media to enhance your training initiatives doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Rather than investing in new technologies, you can leverage the tools your learners are already using. Twitter has held the #1 spot on the annual list of Top 100 Tools for Learning for 7 years running, with YouTube running close behind. (Editor’s Notes: Since the original publication of this post YouTube and Google Search have overtaken Twitter.)

Appropriating Social Media Strategies for eLearning

While eLearning has established many successful strategies to help educate learners, online courses often lack the socialization and cooperative learning that exists with in-person, facilitator-led training sessions. According to Howard Gardner’s concept of multiple intelligences, many learners need social interaction in order to learn something new. As important as this is, it’s often overlooked when developing an online training course. Of course developers want to actively engage more of their audience, implementing a social component within a course is extremely valuable—but how do we make this happen?

With the rise of social media applications like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, we already have several viable templates for online socialization, so incorporating a social element into your eLearning course is easier than you might think. Not only will adding socialization to your employee onboarding program make your content more engaging, but it will appeal to a broader range of potential learners.

Ready to get started? Explore some ideas for leveraging social media strategies to boost learner engagement throughout each stage of your training process.

Before the course begins:

Change management. Create buzz, enthusiasm and buy-in for your course. Use social media platforms to deliver a course marketing message targeted to your learners and their leaders. This creates the opportunity for your new course to “go viral” among your potential learners, which will help them to get involved with the content before they even start the course.

Personalized learning. Similar to the way popular services such as Amazon and Netflix make recommendations to consumers based on their interests, you can tailor your course offerings to individual learner needs or preferences.

Pre-work. Assign introductory materials or direct learners to view a YouTube video before beginning the course. Distribute documents using file-sharing tools such as Slack, Google Docs, or Dropbox.

During the course:

Establish cohorts. Increase learner collaboration and accountability by forming learning communities. Leverage the tools your learners are already using, such as Twitter and Facebook by introducing them to Yammer and Trello. Companies use Yammer as an employee-focused social network, where users can be put into online learning groups based on the training that they are involved with. Since Yammer can be accessed just as easily as Facebook, employees can use these groups to communicate about a particular training session or a new idea.

Foster participation. Incorporate social gamification elements such as badges and leaderboards into your eLearning courses to encourage friendly competition and increase learner engagement. Take a cue from online learning sites such as Udemy and moderate online Q & A or discussion panels. Encourage participants to tweet, blog, or post about what they are learning.

Supplement content. Direct learners to external activities and materials that support your learning objectives. Pull in examples from relevant websites, or incorporate YouTube videos that complement your course content. Slack, a team-based communication program, is an excellent way to supplement a course. Since everything posted and uploaded into Slack is easily searchable, channel members can access any supplementary materials that you’d like to include. The social aspect also allows members to comment, add their own resources, and react to posts from others.

After the course is complete:

Feedback. Ask learners to rate, review, and recommend courses. Collect polling and survey data using tools like SurveyMonkey or Quizlet, and share the results with participants. Pushing these out to your team via Slack or Yammer is a quick, consistent way to collect relevant feedback.

Follow up. Assign post-course activities, provide performance support, and encourage ongoing self-development. Use social platforms to check in with learners and ask how they are implementing the knowledge learned in the course.

Ongoing collaboration. Promote communities of engagement to ensure social learning continues after the course ends. Encourage participants to continue exchanging ideas, resources, and best practices with each other. Skype, Twitter, instant messaging, wikis, and blogs are some useful tools for fostering ongoing learner exchanges.


The majority of modern learners are already turning to social channels when they need to find answers and solutions.

Many social media platforms are free or available at minimal cost. And since learners are already familiar with these tools, the barriers to entry are extremely low.

Creatively leveraging social media strategies can greatly increase learner engagement and collaboration with minimal investment of resources.