Since Social Media for Trainers was published, we’ve seen skyrocketing popular use of tools and ever-more organizational acceptance of them. The advent of users generating and sharing images has exploded, spurred on by easy-use tools like Instagram and Pinterest and Google Hangouts and Vine and Periscope and Meerkat. My last column that dealt explicitly with this was “Social Media for Learning” back in 2011, so if the topic is new to you I encourage you to check that out first. Let’s take a look now at a few newer ways you might extend your own practice through the use of social tools.


Social tools offer excellent means of staying connected with learners and getting into the spaces before, between, and after formal instruction or other events, or as a way for L&D to provide support throughout a worker’s life with the organization. Tools make it easier to broadcast.

One of the easiest wins for instructors and facilitators is the course alumni group. People meet and bond in class and want to stay in touch. A post-course community encourages reflection, can give a good post-training nudge, and offers a space for graduates to share experiences and get additional support and encouragement as they work to implement their new learning. Mike Rohde, for example, offers classroom workshops based on his popular Sketchnote Handbook. Upon completion, he invites attendees to join a closed Facebook group where they can engage with others with similar interests, some of whom they met in their own workshop. They can show their development, ask questions, and get additional support from Mike if need be. Figure 1 shows past attendee Chip Kavenaugh’s before-and-after sketchnotes of a recent trip. He’s also experimenting with adding some color: See the note from Sketchnote Handbook author and instructor Mike Rohde. Reflect, apply, revisit.

Figure 1:
Sketchnote Workshop alumnus Chip Kavanaugh shows notes from his travels
(used with permission)

Backchanneling: Including others

I was lucky enough to attend the pilot of Mike’s workshop. As our day started I tweeted some photos but quickly saw it would make more sense to set up a Pinterest board. That would allow me to create a narrative of the day rather than blast out a lot of disconnected tweets, and make easier going for those interested in following along. People not attending the workshop could join in and comment or ask questions (Figure 2). Going public with my learning that day also proved useful for marketing the event: one person following me that day contacted Mike about bringing the workshop to her organization.

Figure 2:
Pinterest board offered real-time overview of my day in a workshop
(image used with permission)

See to see the complete board I created that day.

The use of the backchannel—a secondary network conversation that takes place concurrently with a conference, course, or other event—helps to include others who for whatever reason can’t attend and gives a space for attendees to share comments with one another (without disrupting the event), share their own relevant resources, or pose questions they might not want to ask aloud. It also, as with the example in Figure 2, provides a recap of the event for review later.

Branding and performance support

New photo-based tools make building a virtual tour or a visually interesting useful narrative easy to do. Figure 3 shows the solution the week before we were expecting the arrival of a number of new staff. The building is rather labyrinthine so to minimize confusion and put the newcomers at ease I created this Pinterest board called “Your First Day.” It took maybe 10 minutes start to finish, including taking the photos with my phone. Side note: this is the most popular single item I have ever created using a social tool. Schools have created similar boards and sent links to substitute teachers before they report for their first assignment. It has been adapted by several hospitals and to help patients and visitors.

Figure 3:
“Your First Day”—Pinterest board for onboarding


It’s hard nowadays to find someone who will say they’ve never learned anything from YouTube. Now there are a number of channels for easy live or recorded video broadcasting. Will Constantine offers real-time Indian cooking classes via streaming video through Periscope, a tool recently acquired by Twitter. And it’s not just broadcast-only. Periscope is a two-way live stream, so viewers can chat with Will while he cooks: they send text chat, he can answer by video in real time. Will posts information about upcoming lessons via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook (Figure 4).

Figure 4:
Will Constantine offers real-time video cooking lessons via Periscope
(used with permission)

In this example we have an “instructor” offering instruction, but the idea could extend to anyone with expertise offering a bit of real-time help. Or flip it around: think of the service technician broadcasting live video back to headquarters for real-time coaching while enacting a repair.


L&D is great at creating and delivering content. But emerging and evolving tools give us the opportunity to engage with our learners in new ways, to help move us toward making workplace learning more a process and less an event. Consider where you have needs to extend the reach of a course, or stay in touch with alumni or people in particular work areas or job categories. Look for staff whose schedules, locations, and job titles keep them from live experiences, and see if you can identify ways to include them. Chances are there are easy ways of solving a problem, enriching conversations, and making L&D’s work more visible and valuable.

Stay tuned for Part 2

Next month’s column offers “Social Media for Learning, Part 2”: we’ll look at choosing tools and consider the value of making conversations as public as possible.

Speaking of social tools: The DevLearn bloggers

Blogging is a powerful, if underutilized, tool for learning. It encourages attention and reflection, and is another excellent backchannel avenue for including those who can’t attend an event. At DevLearn this month I’ll be participating in “The DevLearn Bloggers” program that provides different examples of how you can use blogs to enhance learning. I hope you’ll follow along.

Meet Jane at DevLearn 2015!

If you’re a fan of Jane (and who isn’t?), she will be presenting two sessions at DevLearn 2015 in Las Vegas: