A broad range of websites and applications including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, blogging, wikis, collaboration portals, audio/video podcasts, and widgets are considered Social Media. Social media allows users to create and rapidly disseminate information online. These tools can assist in creating a more dynamic and interactive learning community by allowing users quick access to learning opportunities. Social media also facilitates peer collaboration by providing a platform to share and critique ideas. One of the strengths of using social media as a learning tool is the sheer number of individuals that use it in some form. Some estimate that as much as 66% of all adults aged 16+ have a profile on at least one social networking site. This means that many learners will have easy access and familiarity to social media that is used as part of a training program.
Many distance learning models involving MOOCs already make use of social media to great effect as part of their curriculum. Early data from some of the most widely used courses indicate that student participation is greatly increased when social media is used as part of the program, and student drop-out rates are reduced. This may be because of the power that social media has to engage learners outside of the classroom. Many of the existing learning management systems also allow for easy integration of social media, allowing facilitators to push content automatically to twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. This content could come in the form of notes to remind students of important assignments and deadlines, a place to have weekly discussion topics, a forum for students to ask questions and answer each other, a place to share online resources, and more.
While social media can help provide engaging content to learners in a relatively inexpensive way, there are some potential challenges. One challenge is that the use of social media to enhance a training program requires that facilitators be well versed in the use of different social media tools. Essentially, the use of social media as a learning tool is only as effective as the person using it. Another challenge is that using social media can only be effective if learners actively engage with it. It is important to ensure that the use of social media in a training program amounts to more than just a place to dump information. One way to do this is by using social media as a place to encourage discussion and the sharing of interesting content amongst learners.
Social media can be used to pose scenarios and real life problems to learners to solve. This allows the leaners to share suggestions, learn from peers and ultimately learn the optimal solution to a problem. As an example, circumstances of an actual event and how it was handled can be described, and followers of the forum, supervisors, management, etc., can respond to the post with advice on how to improve or prevent the situation from happening again in the future.
The chart below provides examples of types of social media used in the transit and non-transit industry, as well as possible applications for the transit industry.
|Examples from the Transit Industry|
|MV Transportation||MV Transportation uses their YouTube channel MVTransitVids to show both employee testimonials and Realistic Job Preview’s for various positions such as the Transit Operator. In the comment section of some of these videos you can see the beginnings of conversations that could be cultivated into meaningful learning discussions.|
|Chicago Transit Authority||The CTA Transportation Manager Community (Exhibit 9), was launched in 2009 and remained open for about a year. In addition to Transportation Managers using the forum to post questions, share resources and offer viewpoints and advice, the Vice President of Bus Operations to monitored and posted comments as well.|
|Xpan||Xpan views Social media applications as Social Learning platforms. Their applications provide virtual environments where learners can collaborate, cooperate and compete.
Social media applications at Xpan are primarily developed around marketing brand awareness and HR recruiting.
Xpan also supports an extensive YouTube Channel for clients.
|Examples Beyond the Transit Industry|
|Blue Corona||An inbound marketing, analytics, and optimization company that uses several social media tools as part of training. A Facebook page is used to post interesting and informational articles that employees come across. The company also uses YouTube to post videos on several marketing subjects which provide information for new employees. They use social media to train employees on a cross-geographical level. Using social media relies on more indirect, peer-to-peer, and creative methods which makes training more engaging to younger learners while saving time and money.|
|Army Research Lab||Social media is being explored by the Army Research Lab for operator and maintenance training. One use is to pose a question to get advice on how to perform a function to capture insights and tips to share with novice technicians.|
|Colleges||Many colleges and universities use social media as part of their online courses. For example, often times the professor of a course will create a Facebook group where students can go to ask questions, post interesting articles, and engage in active discussion. Live Twitter feeds are also used to hold an open discussion where professors and/or other big names in the field can answer questions posted by learners in real time.|
|Possible Applications for the Transit Industry|
|Transit Technical Skill Training||Social media can be used to allow students the opportunity to ask questions and answer each other. This will keep them engaged outside of the classroom and encourage active learning. It can also be used to reinforce lessons learned in class. For example, if one day is spent covering a certain topic and principal of maintenance, students can be sent links via twitter to a YouTube video that covers that same topic or principal in an interesting way or a little more in-depth.|
|YouTube||Similar to the way MV Transportation uses it, YouTube could be used more prominently in the transit industry. YouTube is a powerful platform for the spread of information and the cultivation of critical discussion. Training programs could post videos to YouTube meant to give learners background on the content prior to the beginning of training. This can help make the training program more efficient due to the learners coming prepared with a baseline level of knowledge. During the course, YouTube can be used to share videos dealing with interesting material meant to expound on what was learned during the core portion of training. The comment sections of these videos can be used to facilitate critical conversation amongst learners.|