At the recent eLearning Guild conference in Orlando, I was asked to lead an Espresso Cafe roundtable discussion on a topic of interest.

My topic: The Pluses and Minuses of Social Media and User-generated Content.

I promised folks from my three sessions that I'd post all the results. Here they are:

Plusses:

  1. Users engaged.
  2. Relevant to the users.
  3. Not-distracting, real-world.
  4. Enables learning when training experts not available.
  5. Can augment online courses.
  6. Can capture water-cooler talk (that would have happened anyway).
  7. Opportunity to debunk inaccuracies.
  8. Capture institutional knowledge.
  9. Enables the use of internal experts for informal learning.
  10. Because informal, can be more comfortable to use for people of different languages and/or cultures. Or different socio-economic groups as well.
  11. More of an equal exchange. Leveling the playing field. Creating more democratic or egalitarian organizations.
  12. Novel, interesting.
  13. Quick feedback on what doesn't work.
  14. Not corporate-down, so more likely to be attended to without skepticism, jadedness, etc.
  15. Opportunity to connect with customers.
  16. Keep up with younger workers coming in.
  17. Headquarters experts may not be as trusted as those who work on the ground.
  18. Timely, instant updates.
  19. Get details from someone who actually does the job.
  20. Emotional connection.
  21. Convenience.
  22. No geographic boundaries.
  23. RSS feeds enables more targeted info.
  24. Employees may be able to affect policy.
  25. Could make us improve our policies for fear of law suits. (Like this: stuff that's posted can be used in court. Organization then has impetus to make changes quickly).
  26. Questions coming first is a good learning design.
  27. Can give organization more of a sense of what's going on in the field.
  28. Cheap.
  29. Builds community if people are tackling serious issues together.
  30. Feeling engaged.
  31. Employees have instant access to experts.
  32. Another data source.
  33. Develop connections. Know who knows who AND who knows what.
  34. Enables virtual relationships.
  35. More reflective–learners have to reflect to write, to learn deeper.
  36. Wisdom of the crowd.
  37. Opens up links to other things. Sets agenda, letting people know that there are other things.
  38. Generate buzz.
  39. Smile sheets shared. (Rate my teacher. Rate my professor).
  40. Best practices are distributed.
  41. Will make things easier. Info at fingertips.

Minuses:

  1. Might have to get used to it.
  2. How do you make it usable?
  3. Duplicate information.
  4. How to make pertinent information instantly accessible.
  5. Opening up floodgates.
  6. Cultural hurdles and disconnects.
  7. Competes with other channels of information.
  8. Perhaps top-level buy-in is required.
  9. A big distraction. Time user.
  10. Productivity drain.
  11. One more thing to do.
  12. We are still learning how to utilize wisely.
  13. May need support, maintenance, and the resources thereof.
  14. Information may not translate to behavior without directed support.
  15. How to confirm validity of content.
  16. Info can be used in lawsuits.
  17. Is the time beneficial?
  18. Danger of noise. Hard to get to best information.
  19. Time to create.
  20. Hard to measure. Maybe we're fooling ourselves.
  21. Could be incorrect/bad information.
  22. Could be offensive information.
  23. Must bring people up-to-speed on technology.
  24. Can create cliques.
  25. Time suck–filling up on candy.
  26. Dangers of giving censors power.
  27. Do these media self-select different types of people, biasing information gathered?
  28. Time is our most limited resource. The key organizational-productivity leverage point.
  29. Often implemented without planning, no marketing, no preparation, etc.
  30. Sometimes systems have no purpose. So costs/time not parlayed to maximum effect.
  31. Unnatural groups may not work, may have difficulties.
  32. One or a few can take over.
  33. Example: General in military told story of how soldiers posted how to defuse an IED. Info was wrong. 2 died. Enemies can use information too.
  34. Many see this as the be-all end-all, creating big blind spots, overzealous implementation, poor planning, poor focus.
  35. Potential permanence of information and/or systems.
  36. Personal vs. work issues may arise.

Thanks to all the folks who contributed to my discussions. It was kind of hard to hear, but here are the names to thank: Nancy, Leslie, Terra, Pat, Sonya, Betsy, Michael, David, David, Ann, Joyce, Nancy, Chris, Chris, Richard, John, Susan, Paula, John.