Accelerate Social Learning with Next Generation Unified Communications

The rapid pace of change in business today requires learning agility, and formal learning programs cannot keep pace.  Today’s advances in Unified Communications enrich and enable social learning, transforming how people collaborate, communicate, learn and share knowledge.

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In today’s networked economy, connecting people to the information they need, and doing this when, where and how it’s needed, is a critical requirement for business agility. Email may still be the primary form of communication in corporate business today, but more and more individuals are communicating and collaborating through next generation technologies such as instant messaging, posting updates to walls and activity feeds, creating and posting videos, tweeting, conversing and sharing content in social forums, and any number of other means of sharing and accessing knowledge.

These informal methods of collaboration and engagement, coupled with the more formal learning concepts of training courses, certifications and learning content, have been converging into what the market now recognizes as Social Learning.

What is Social Learning?

At its most basic concept, Social Learning is simply the process of engaging with others to learn and share knowledge. It’s been estimated that 70-80 percent of learning is informal: accidental, ad hoc or unplanned learning that happens outside the traditionally structured learning environments. The rapid pace of change in business today requires learning agility, and  formal learning programs cannot keep pace in this area. Technologies have emerged to enable “social learning”, facilitating the creation and sharing of knowledge across a networked community and bringing real-time community feedback, collaboration and context to the learning experience. When these social learning environments are combined with the advanced capabilities of next generation unified communications suites, everyone wins.

How UC Capabilities Extend the Social Learning Value Proposition

  • Effectively engage a multi-generational workforce. Social Learning combines formal and informal approaches to learning, to meet the learning styles and needs of all individuals. At its heart are social networking technologies, which include such capabilities as maintaining a social profile; updating activity streams; rating, tagging, bookmarking and sharing content. More and more UC platforms are incorporating social networking, bringing the richness of voice, video and online collaboration together with social collaboration and engagement to meet the diverse needs of today’s multi-generational workforce. Enabling social learning environments with the latest capabilities of next generation unified communications will drive increased employee engagement, accelerate the flow of information and return higher value to the business.
  • Achieve highly interactive virtual learning, on the go. With the advances in Unified Communications, virtual learning environments can now be augmented by integrated voice, data, video and collaboration to bring the richness of a classroom experience to the desktop or laptop of the learner in ways never before possible. No longer must a learner log into a web conference tool with one device, access the audio with another, and sign into yet another technology tool for real-time collaboration; the latest in Unified Communications capabilities are increasingly integrated with social learning environments to streamline all of these activities to support the most effective virtual learning environments possible. Whether conducting an informal meeting to share knowledge or training hundreds or more users on formal processes, the virtual learning experience can be highly interactive and engaging, and increasingly, can be achieved on the go with mobile devices. The availability of high-fidelity video and telepresence further enriches the experience to provide an immersive, face-to-face environment beyond traditional video conferencing.
  • Quickly identify and engage with experts at the point of need. Imagine an experience where an employee is reviewing a slide deck shared in the enterprise collaboration site, and questions arise about the content. Advances in messaging and presence detection enable the employee to see whether or not the author is online and available, and further allows him to reach out though chat, voice and/or video to engage with the author directly. Not only has this process fostered rapid information exchange and ad hoc learning, but it has connected two individuals who are now more likely to share and engage in future collaboration scenarios. After collaborating with the author, the employee adds his own comments to the content, rates and tags it, thus accelerating the value and effectiveness of this content for other enterprise learners who may be seeking this subject matter in the future.
  • Reduce content creation costs and burden, through crowdsourcing. The ease with which videos, knowledge documents, audio recordings and other learning objects can be created in a UC-enabled social learning environment enables organizations to create a new channel for content development: crowdsourcing.  Any employee in the enterprise with access to a video-enabled phone or web conferencing tool can quickly create content that is readily shared and leveraged in both formal and informal learning initiatives, greatly easing the corporate learning organization’s burden of content creation.
  • Improve corporate learning outcomes with  Video. Video is likely to become the preferred mode of learning within the enterprise by 2013. In May 2011, YouTube reported approximately 48 hours worth of video was uploaded very minute. The ease of content creation and sharing experienced in the YouTube environment has increased expectations for similar capabilities within corporate social learning environments, and the advances in UC will help bridge that gap. Why bother? Because studies show that video learning can improve outcomes by 30% or more, in addition to improving employee performance, increasing engagement, and fostering company brand and culture.  Video is highly important to learning initiatives, and integrating HD Video with collaboration tools will further advance the success of social learning initiatives.

In business today, there are many ways to get the job done, and we no longer work in a one-size-fits-all environment. Next generation unified communications accelerate the capabilities of Social Learning platforms, transforming how people collaborate, communicate, learn and share knowledge.

The benefits I’ve described above are but a few of the many ways in which social learning initiatives are enriched by collaboration and communication advances in a unified communications platform. If you would like to speak with me or another member of Constellation Research about developing your social learning or unified communications strategies, we’re happy to help. Contact me at and I’ll ensure you’re engaged with the right members of the team.

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