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This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.
There's a new dilemma in today's training world: Is it prudent to allow technology devices in the classroom? One school of thought is that there should be absolutely no distraction — technology won't be tolerated and should not be incorporated into a professional training environment.
But a new way of thinking is to encourage smartphones, laptops and tablets. Make them a part of the session, since today's training participants are multi-taskers. Trainees may want to tweet, post pictures and take notes to add a valuable interactive element to their own learning experience. In this new school of thought, trainers are becoming facilitators. It's a great opportunity to introduce trainees on how to properly engage with social media to add a professional benefit to not only their own employment but also to the company at large.
Adding social media is a terrific means to spark conversation before, during and after a training session. Here are five examples of training sessions that provide students with a great grasp on how to wield social media for the good of the company.
1. Facebook Before you Train
Prior to a learning event, a trainer can create a Facebook group for participants. This page can be used to solicit and convey information about the program. In addition, videos can be posted prior to the session to provide background information for participants. You can also post materials using document sharing systems such as Google Docs or SlideShare.
Some of the advantages to using a Facebook group prior to training include: getting participants engaged with the trainer, breaking down any barriers between the group and starting a discussion about the subject prior to meeting. All of these are good ways to engage the group before the formal training session starts.
2. Start Networking on LinkedIn
Objective: Recruiters are online, companies are online, job seekers are online and you should be too. A professional profile is a necessary tool in our social media-focused world, so there's no excuse not to have one.
Activity: Ask participants to set up a LinkedIn account, then give them tasks. For example, ask them to connect with five people they know, update their profile with their current job, make at least one recommendation and join one group.
Discussion: Talk with new users about the experience. What did they learn about the platform? What tasks were easy and difficult? Where can they see the advantages of using this social networking site in the future?
3. A Map of Our Team
Objective: Great for virtual teams to build a stronger sense of team identity and the individuals on the team.
Activity: Assign each team member a unique marker or pushpin. Team members can place the pushpins on the map anywhere to identify landmarks related to them, including details where appropriate.
Examples of relevant locations are where a person currently works, the location of corporate headquarters or regional offices and the locations of key customers or vendors. You could also include the city or campus where a participant went to college, the farthest place you've ever traveled or the location of your first job.
Discussion: Ask the group about how sharing information helps to build teams and how geography plays a role in a person's work style.
Source: The Big Book of Virtual Team Building Games by Mary Scannell, Michael Abrams and Mike Mulvihill. Published by McGraw Hill.
4. Customer Service Role Play
Objective: To practice customer service recovery situations.
Activity: Create a Twitter account that simulates angry customers. Then, assign participants the following roles: customer, sales rep, manager and operations department. Then give the group an assignment. For example, a customer might complain that his equipment isn't working. The team should work together to troubleshoot and offer a solution.
Discussion: Ask the group if they were able to solve the problem and how they accomplished the task. This can also be a great activity to discuss clarity in communications.
5. Tweet Your Training
Another consideration is to create a Twitter hashtag for your training session so participants can read through all of the tweets. After the session, the hashtag can be used to post a summary of key points and articles or blogs of interest. Trainers can host Twitter chats or a guest speaker to keep the conversation going, as a method of increasing learner retention.
Adding social media to training isn't creating a distraction; it's a way to engage people with the tools that most of us are already using in our lives. What better way is there to enhance the learning experience for everyone involved?
Would you incorporate social media into a training session or do you wish your company would train you in social media? Let us know in the comments.
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