Here’s Why You Should be Creating User-Generated Learning Content

delivering user generated content to camera

Are you intrigued by the possibilities of leveraging user-generated content, or looking to manage the process more effectively? The good news is that it’s never been easier to help your employees build their knowledge collaboratively and take control of their learning.

User-generated content is arguably most commonly deployed in marketing, where brands invite and curate consumer contributions as a way of increasing reach and fostering a sense of authenticity. However, this approach is also proving popular in L&D. Many learning tools are making it easier than ever for companies to facilitate and encourage content created by learners as an invaluable part of training programs.

More than 80% of organizations are now thought to be leveraging user-generated content as part of their learning strategy, while enterprise social media tools are accelerating organizational transformation and innovation. This is partly driven by the familiarity of voluntarily-shared content on ubiquitous social media sites.

In addition, YouTube has seen an increase in the time spent on its site tenfold in the last decade, rising to become the second-largest search engine in the US. Formal learning and more informal tutorials make up a significant part of the 400 hours of content uploaded to YouTube every minute.

So how can you capitalize on the immense popularity of user-generated content creation and tap into the vast knowledge within your organization at the same time?

Why Does Creating User-Generated Content Work?

When used properly, social learning is worth getting excited about. McKinsey suggests that some industries could increase productivity by nearly 25% if they fully implement social technologies. But why is that?

Well, the more people can learn from each other, experience a free flow of ideas and information and receive expert feedback, the more likely they are to quickly build the knowledge they need to perform better.

We can see some of the reasons why creating user-generated content is a natural step towards effective program creation by thinking about a few tried-and-tested learning methods. In the workplace, some of the ways people learn include:

Making space for user-generated content supports all of these approaches and more—and, with the right learning tools, the process is easy, quick and cost-effective.

A good example of this is a Subject Matter Expert (SME) recording a quick piece of guidance or how-to video on their computer or mobile device. Uploading this to a central video library allows anyone at the organization—or a select group of learners, such as the expert’s peers and juniors—to see, access, search for and comment on that video.

If we think of how much time and effort it would take to arrange time with an SME every time an employee needed guidance, we can see how incredibly useful and efficient this kind of user-generated content is.

Creating User-Generated Content Means Letting Go (a Little)

While user-generated content on mainstream social media sites can be a stage for anyone to do anything, learning technologies in the workplace provide a much more reliable stream of high-quality knowledge-sharing. They offer learning teams the opportunity to quality check content before publishing and can set roles and permissions by user, by content asset, and by collection.

Offering learners a powerful role in the learning process inevitably involves some uncertainty and risk, but it also gives the new “consumer learners” what they want. People increasingly expect to take control of their own learning—not least Millennial learners, who will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025.

It’s impossible to predict exactly how much quality content learners will produce and what engagement levels this approach will result in, but the signs are certainly full of promise. Companies such as Google, which was a major early adopter of user-generated content, have made this style of employee-to-employee learning a mainstay of their training programs.

Creating User-Generated Content Encourages Mastery

We mentioned the ability to search for user-generated content earlier in this post, which leads to an important point around skill and knowledge development. Mastery usually relies on being able to repeatedly review or practice something new.

Picture how people watch a YouTube video several times in order to understand a learning point, or re-read part of an ebook or listen to a segment of a podcast. A library of user-generated content is another resource a learner can turn to at any time, revisiting the learning points whenever they want to.

When people leave a company, their legacy of user-generated content ensures their knowledge of the organization and industry does not depart with them. According to the Economist in 2017, around half of US employees were hoping to leave their job, with the proportion of Americans leaving their jobs voluntarily at a 17-year high. Sharing and capturing employee knowledge is an obvious wise move for any successful company, but modern workforce turnover makes it critical.

Organically Reinforcing a Culture of Continuous Learning

In a corporate world where managers rightly prize a culture of learning, creating user-generated content is an excellent way of meeting learners where they are and encouraging active skills and knowledge sharing. Despite this, there’s still a long way to go, with 85% of employees in a recent LinkedIn study describing themselves as unengaged or actively disengaged at work.

Whether you’re about to launch a concerted social learning strategy or are looking to increase your level of quality user-generated content, this is one learning approach that paves the way to L&D success.

A version of this blog post originally appeared in Training Industry Magazine.

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