As a continuous learner, I often sign up for courses on topics that interest me either from a personal development perspective or professional development perspective. I use all sorts of media to access the learning from face-to-face meetings to webinars to online learning systems. Quite a few course providers seem to have added Facebook groups into the mix when the group audience is from all over the world.
Yesterday, I intended to access the course recording which took place when I was sound asleep the night before and the one place it get’s posted is in the Facebook group. It took me several attempts to actually end up on my intended webinar. Facebook successfully had me distracted to look at tons of other things. In terms of productivity and learning effectiveness, a good 30 minutes got wasted flirting around other “interesting” stuff. I could indeed have been disciplined one could argue and only did what I came for, unfortunately, curiosity was stronger than discipline.
I have to say it did frustrate me and until that moment where I went just look at the video recording and ignore the rest, I was caught in the social media circle of viewing what else is out there. From a learning perspective, I actually didn’t feel I gained anything in those 30 minutes and should have just gone to the recording. If the webinar recording had been hosted on a tool free from invites to distract me, I would have been into learning mode a lot quicker. Social media is probably one of the most gamified tools on the market today, so it isn’t surprising to me that is also working to distract me away to things it knows because of my past behaviour and interest that I might want to see.
With attention spans already stretched thanks to social invites to feed your innate curiosity and social belonging drives, using the very tools that distract us as part of learning in my view are not effective. I subscribe to a school of thought where having learning modules in a dedicated place works well for me. One of my mentors James Schramko of the SuperfastBusiness community describes the concept as “own the racecourse”, where it is in your business’ best interest to have ownership of where your content and narrative lives. I agree with this and it also allows you to shape it into an environment that you can influence and control.
I know some people prefer the open source route and some even thrive on the social aspect of social media. For me, when I want to learn, I want freedom away from distractions and noise. When you are designing training programs, be mindful of the people you are targeting and their preferences. I might be a minority in this training group, I want to use Facebook primarily to stay in touch with friends and family, even if over time lots of people are using it as a business tool. Over time I have had to accept some connections on Facebook, which I see strictly business related, and I have stopped posting a lot of more personal things because it is none of these people’s business. If I could have contained all of those to LinkedIn and Facebook for friends and family only then I would have been happiest. Anyway, the pervasiveness of social media will likely not go away, so it is best to work out a way that works for me. For most channels that means no notifications and check when I feel like it.
In terms of learning groups, the technology available today allows even the smallest budgets to have access to online course systems that allow for posting your learning and linking in groups and keeping it contained in one place. If you care about your learners actually spending time on your materials allow them the distraction-free zone they require to do just that…