One of the greatest barriers to implementing Social Learning in a professional workplace is the concern from management that the quality of content and accuracy of materials will suffer when Learning it is no longer created by L&D professionals. This is further exacerbated by the shifting political landscape wherein ‘post-fact’ journalism thrives; indeed recent events have highlighted the ease with which information that is provably false can spread in a social environment with impunity. For organisations to neglect tackling the darker side of ‘social’ could prove dangerous for organisations, particularly for businesses in a compliance environment.
So how do we, as Learning Professionals who understand that CPD in a corporate environment goes beyond the classroom, moderate the content without stifling the energy, vibrancy and enthusiasm required to sustain a true social learning environment?
Allowing the Population to Self-Manage?
It is important to understand that there are huge differences between the kind of social media people utilise in their personal lives and Social Learning, where people are bound by the need to maintain their professionalism, and are looking to impress their superiors while building their professional networks. Indeed, in a world where Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn thrive with very similar populations, it is naïve to believe that people are unaware of the subtleties of audience when creating content.
This also means that any learnings that are being passed on which are incorrect or problematic can more easily be quashed. This is due to the nature of the professional, where people are accustomed to being corrected by their superiors, where people are more likely to fact-check to ensure that the information they are putting their name to is accurate, and where adherence to policies and procedures is customary.
The ability for a population to self-manage is generally seen as a sign of maturity of both the system itself and the individuals interacting within it. That said, even Facebook requires moderators responding to inappropriate or inaccurate content, and corporate Social Learning is the same. There will always be a need to have someone with the last word, who can provide the insight required to ensure that any content which has a question over it can be responded to in a timely manner, and where the response given is definitive. This means that there needs to be a facility for questions and content to be escalated to a person or people with enough experience and seniority to be trusted by the population to have that definitive answer.
Models of Moderation
There are different ways that moderation of content can take place, from models which range from:
- The review of 100% of uploaded content prior to posting live,
- The review of a percentage of content as representative of the whole (10-20%),
- Those where moderation is limited to trending content (that is content which is most viewed and interacted with), to
- Moderation by exception, where content which is flagged by the population is reviewed.
Whichever way moderation is pursued, there are questions that should be asked by those who manage the social learning environment, including:
- How are ‘the rules of participation’ communicated to the population?
- Who should moderate and how should their role as moderator be presented to the population?
- Should small errors be corrected in the comments of the content to provide a learning experience to all professionals who make similar errors or should any content with errors be removed?
- How is problem content managed? Is it merely removed, or is the original poster of the content contacted to provide a learning moment? Should the moderator request the content to be removed, amended and re-uploaded by the original poster?
It is vital that moderation be effective but also that it not interfere with the vibrancy of the community. If the population feels that they risk punitive responses for mistakes made, they are less likely to participate and provide content, resulting in the organisation as a whole missing out on key learning moments. Remember, those who are quick to create and upload are often those who already provide advice and learning moments to others. This means that if you don’t discover their weaknesses and correct them appropriately, poor practice will be passed along without your organisation ever having the opportunity to correct mistakes.
It is important to remember that Social is not an easy abnegation of responsibility to the crowd, in many ways it is a much more difficult beast than more traditional learning options. There is no one right answer, instead there are multiple voices providing different perspectives and experiences on their professional practice. It is vital for the strength of the Learning arm of the organisation to provide strong moderation delivered gently, in a safe environment, that balances the need to provide accurate content while maintaining the spirit of openness and sharing that will ensure a successful Social Learning space.