Social Learning: Stop Blocking, Curate!

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Blocked from Social Learning Opportunities? 

I recently needed to show a customer how to perform a multi-step task in our Learning Management System.  So I quickly threw together a YouTube video and sent a link to the customer.  Moments later I got a call, “We are blocked from YouTube”.  “Really?”, I asked.  “Yes, management doesn’t want employees goofing off watching videos”.  Hmm…

YouTube as a Training & Learning Channel

How many of you have NOT been to YouTube to learn something.  For example, last month I wanted to fix a door knob that was sticking.  I didn’t want to buy a whole new lock set because I’d have to re-key it to match my existing keys.  I just wanted to replace the part inside that was sticking.  Voila!  YouTube to the rescue.  Twenty minutes and one trip to the hardware store later, the door was fixed.

YouTube could possibly be the largest library of free training videos online.  And more importantly, you can create your own “channel” of videos for your students.  But most companies are blocking YouTube… because they don’t want their employees wasting time watching videos at work.

OK, I get that.  But I am reminded of my dog Bella.

Social learning can take place anywhere

Bella is the best dog I’ve ever had; she catches frisbees, fetches anything you throw, loves people and (mostly) does what we ask her.  But this was not always the case.  When Bella was a puppy, she was the worst chewer ever.  She chewed everything she could get in her mouth.  I told people her “official name” was “Bella What The Hell is in Your Mouth.” She had a favorite “chewing room.”  She would roam the house, find something to destroy, and take it to the chewing room.

So I thought I could end this behavior by blocking her… I just closed the door to her chosen chewing room.   Well, you can guess what happened, she just found another chewing room.  After reading a couple of books on dog training, I realized I needed to redirect Bella’s chewing behavior. I began  to “curate” what Bella could chew.  When she was chewing my socks, I’d replace the socks with a toy. Eventually she began to pick toys for chewing rather than my socks. She still chews, but rarely on anything but one of her toys.

The New Water Cooler

Let’s face it, some employees are going to get distracted at work and their unproductive ways need to be re-directed.  The “water cooler” has probably been around since the time of cave men, and YouTube is just the latest version.  I believe your goal should not be to stop employees watching videos, but instead curate the best content and make it available.  The Learner resource feature is a great way to do just that.  You may not be able to stop the behavior, but you can at least re-direct it to productive learning.


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Art Werkenthin
Art Werkenthin is president of RISC, Inc. and has over 30 years' experience working with LMS systems in the Oil & Gas, Retail, Finance and other industries. Mr. Werkenthin holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and an M.B.A. in Information Systems Management from the University of Texas. Mr. Werkenthin is a member of the ADL cmi5 committee and frequently presents on cmi5 and xAPI. Follow him on Twitter @AWerkenthin for xAPI and cmi5 updates, as well as blog post announcements.