World of Learning Conference: Use of social media as a training tool sparks off lively debate


Industry leaders remain in disagreement over the use of social media for staff learning and development.

Speaking yesterday at the World of Learning Conference and Exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham, Nick Shakleton-Jones, manager online and informal learning at the BBC, claimed the use of social media as a tool to train staff was an essential component.

He said: "Social media works for me and Twitter is my number one learning tool. Sometimes it is difficult to persuade employers on the value of Twitter – but it gathers the leading thinkers in an area together providing the latest information. It is free and allows the user control.

"Learning and development is at a crossroads and it can either retreat to formal learning or embrace new technologies.

"There is value in management seeing what staff think of them as employer if they blog about it. Nokia, for example, ‘insourced’ its values proposition. Instead of asking an external consultant to devise the values of the company, it asked its own staff."

But Robin Hoyle, head of learning at Infinity Learning, disagreed. He said: "The cognitive surplus is tiny in a work environment and staff just don’t have time to use social networking to learn. They could easily pick up incorrect information from blogs and there is a serious quality control issue.

"Also I don’t believe, by using social networks, staff are necessarily learning. They are simply looking up information. They are only learning to research."

In defence of social networks for training purposes, Clive Shepherd, consultant and chairman of the e-learning network, added: "Even by sharing ideas in forums, staff are contributing to a social networking tool – others can learn from what they do.

"I think this is an opportunity for employers and the [growth of social media in the workplace] is going to happen anyway – it’s pointless to hold it back by blocking staff. They are going to use Facebook on their own phones anyway, and employers can harness this for good."