Reaping the Benefits of User-generated Content
In order to build a successful e-learning programme, engaging content is key. But what constitutes engaging? How do you determine this? With user-generated content, it’s up to the learners to decide. Informal and social learning facilitated by peers is an effective learning method. Encouraging learners to curate and share their own learning content can bring this method into the digital world.
So what is user-generated content (UGC)? In the context of e-learning, UGC is any content that was produced and shared by learners themselves, whether students or company employees. The type of content runs the gamut from user-created videos and podcasts to blogs and articles. The success of UGC is rooted in its collaborative nature. Learners sharing content with one another can boost engagement, meaning UGC is often more effective than traditional approaches.
Like social learning (a behavioural theory that posits that new behaviours can be learned by observing and imitating others), learning with UGC is collaborative and means learning is not done alone. People have always sought guidance from their peers (peer learning is the process of students or workers learning with and from each other). UGC goes a step further: the user is not only a consumer of the content but generates their favoured learning content from which others can learn.
In a traditional e-learning situation, users log onto the learning management system (LMS) and engage with content provided by the subject matter expert, learning from that in a formal way. In a UGC setup, the user publishes their own curated content, experiences and ideas which is then accessible to other users.
The concept got its start with informal learning, but it’s quickly gaining traction in formal learning, both in the academic and corporate worlds. In corporate learning scenarios, experience and applicability often matter far more than theory. While compliance training might require off-the-shelf content, something like sales training benefits from UGC that includes actual experience in the field and gives insight into challenges, tactics, etc.
UGC offers many benefits:
Knowledge sharing: Key knowledge often lies with a handful of specialists in an organisation, and if they leave the organisation, the knowledge leaves with them. Therefore, it is wise to share that knowledge so that learners become more skilled and productive.
Enhanced user friendliness: UGC is created by users for users, therefore making the content more familiar and appealing.
Enhanced engagement: With UGC, learners are actively participating in the teaching and learning process, thus engagement is very high, which leads to better motivation and learning outcomes.
Enhances satisfaction: Users get the satisfaction of being heard and recognised for their efforts in learning.
Encourages social learning: With remote working becoming the norm at many organisations, UGC can provide an excellent opportunity for social learning. Peer-to-peer interactions not only boosts engagement, but also cultivates a sense of community within an organisation.
More relevance: When content is developed by fellow users, others find it more relevant and engaging. For example, if workers know that content was built using the experiences of a senior colleague, they will find it more pertinent to their line of work.
Trust among peers: Content generated by peers is more trustworthy, as they share the same real-world experiences and scenarios as each other. Subject matter experts may not have a clear picture of what the situation is on the ground in organisations.
Cost-effective: When learners create and share their own content, money can be saved on sourcing external content. It’s unlikely that UGC alone will be enough to meet learning needs, however, so striking a balance is key.
Enhanced learning culture: UGC transform users from passive recipients to active learners. This cultivates a culture of learning among the users as they take part in learning and knowledge sharing.
With all the advantages of UGC, it’s worthwhile facilitating within an organisation. Here are some ideas to ensure UGC succeeds:
Align to learning goals: Make sure the content being contributed is always in alignment with the intended learning objectives and desired outcomes. Frivolous or irrelevant UGC is going to be more of a distraction rather than a benefit to learners.
Provide examples: Kickstart the trend by providing examples of UGC to learners. If learners can see what type of content they are capable of creating and curating, they will have a clearer idea of what’s expected of them going forward.
Build a home for UGC: Gather the content in one place for users to interact with and share. Programmes such as Microsoft Teams can provide the necessary space for learners to engage with UGC.
Identify top content generators: Some learners will be more active in creating and curating UGC. Identifying the top content generators and giving them encouragement and support will facilitate a continuing cycle of content generation and may prompt other learners to participate.
Incentivise users: Users should be rewarded for generating content through prizes and competitions. This will encourage more users to get involved and ensure the success of UGC programmes.
Use an intuitive LMS: Opt for an easy-to-use learning management system so that learners can put together engaging content and courses quickly. An intuitive LMS will allow learners to upload any type of content, from text to video. It’s also helpful if learners can engage in online discussions through the platform, where they will exchange knowledge in an informal environment.
Written by Rob Ewart