The first rule of social learning: Learning will occur whether or not you’re tending to learners’ every need.
The second rule of social learning: You can, however, add value by connecting people, organizing information and adding content. (For How Tos, read our series on How to Create a Social Learning Environment.)
Supporting social learning with online community learning spaces requires time and attention.
Surely, someone will ask you the inevitable question about the ROI on this use of your time. When answering this question, it helps to have data - not only to demonstrate your success but also to demonstrate that you, as a learning and development professional, are serious about measuring the outcomes of your work.
In response to a question on Quora and to many peers’ questions about how I measure my community management success, I created a list of my metrics for measuring the success of my social learning community. Some may apply to you, some may not, but use this list to create your own metrics and to target your efforts at community building.
- Community liveliness and size - How many learners are using the site? How many learners have used the site in the last week? Is the “active” rate growing? Are you attracting new participants?
- Quality of content - How many learners are posting content or starting conversations? Are people proactively answering questions and discussing things?
- Diversity of traffic destinations - Are all visitors headed to one area or topic? This is to say - is your membership diversified?
- Negative incidents - What percentage of moderator activity is dealing with complaints or problems as opposed to tidying up, technical problem-solving and conversation facilitation?
- Learner satisfaction - Ask them what they think. Is it useful to connect with peers? Is it saving them time?
- External mentions - How many links back or mentions of the learning community are bouncing around your company, in emails, bulletins, etc? Is that growing? What's the rate of growth? (If your community is external-facing, this could also include assessment of search engine ranking for keywords relevant to your community.)
- Quality of interaction - This is difficult to quantify precisely, but from a qualitative perspective, are there increasing numbers of positive, productive interactions occurring without your active facilitation?
- Volunteers - Are people volunteering for moderation duties for the benefit the community?
To demonstrate the health of your social learning environment, start by taking a baseline assessment of your selected metrics. Reassess monthly (or even weekly, if you like data!) and watch for patterns. Target your interventions against the weakest metrics.
Image credit: on Flickr