Social Learning May Soon Come to Your Agency

OPM successfully piloted an online training project that incorporates social tools.

Online training that incorporates social learning tools may soon be coming to your agency, thanks to a successful pilot project by the Office of Personnel Management and GovLoop.

Earlier this year, OPM approached GovLoop to convert a two-day classroom-based course for federal human resources professionals into an online platform that included social learning tools like social networks and online discussion forums, said Andrew Krzmarzick, director of community engagement at GovLoop, on Monday.

Krzmarzick and the GovLoop team converted the two-day course into six sessions that were presented on a private group on GovLoop over a period of six weeks. This included a weekly one-hour webinar, a weekly live online discussion and links to GovLoop blog posts and discussion boards. The course also included a self-paced assignment where each participant was paired with another from a different agency and asked to share three lessons learned from the previous week.

“I took the content and broke it out into six sessions, so the idea was we would have the same length of time in terms of hours in the classroom,” Krzmarzick said. “What we did was used the more static content of an in-person course and added the more dynamic elements of a social media course.”

While the original goal was to host 30 participants in the pilot course, more than 97 participants signed up from more than 25 agencies, Krzmarzick said.

In addition, post-course survey results revealed that 86 percent of participants believed that course learning objectives were met, while 79 percent said they were pleased with the level of interaction in the course and 75 percent said the content was useful for their jobs.

In addition, 96 percent of participants agreed or strongly agreed that they had improved their knowledge or skills as a result of the course, the post-course survey revealed.

Krzmarzick said his interest in this type of online, social learning started roughly seven years ago when he was still working for the Agriculture Department’s Graduate School. Back then, the timing perhaps was not right for government to embrace the social learning platform, he said. “I’ve been waiting seven years to have this shift and implement this idea that social networking allows a place where learning never ends,” he said.

Since the conclusion of the first social learning course, several other agencies also have reached out to GovLoop in hopes of converting training in areas like leadership development to an online social platform, Krzmarzick said. “OPM is really happy to see us replicate those lessons learned and really create better efficiencies in learning in government,” he said.

And with agencies faced with budget cuts, sequestration and increased scrutiny on training and conference spending, the time may well be ripe for agencies to consider these online learning platforms. Krzmarzick hopes agencies will consider GovLoop’s expertise and content, including podcasts, blog posts, videos and social networks, to help build those social learning pilot programs out.

“Agencies want to start out these pilot programs, and we’d like to add that social component to it,” he said. “We’ve been trying to get out in front of this and get proof of concept, so we feel like we’re really well positioned to help agencies do this.”