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Getting Social with Education

What do you think of when you hear the word education these days? Classrooms, teachers and books are among the first few things that used to come into my head – nowadays I find myself with a whole new scramble of words that may seem a little strange to some. When I hear education I automatically think of: Twitter, Google, online communities, blogs, e-Learning, iPhone, iPad, Webcasts, the list goes on. What am I talking about? I’m talking about how I educate myself. It happened without me realising and I was slightly surprised when this thought struck me: I can’t remember the last time I bought a book purely for educational purposes and have only attended one classroom training all year. That doesn’t mean I haven’t learned a bunch of things. Why? Because I am checking or posting on Twitter several times a day, I’m Googling, I’m reading blogs and I’m registering for webcasts and virtual trainings. It may sound crazy claiming I learn from Twitter for example, but education is no longer a classroom game it’s a mash up of social, virtual and classroom – and the best part… it’s so much more fun and convenient!

Let’s discuss a little about how I see education in it’s basic form: finding answers to the daily questions my day job brings. The first place I go to is SAP’s internal community platform (built with Jive SBS). Why? Because the information there is current, swift and direct from experts – I’m figuratively tapping into the collective brain of the entire SAP employee population – how cool is that? Knowledge is growing, changing and flowing rapidly every day, so the way we capture, consume and share it must be flexible, fast and straightforward. I don’t want to get into the ‘best tools’ conversation because that’s not the point, social media isn’t about tools – it’s about people, people connecting, communicating, collaborating, sharing and learning. It all comes down to communication and generally all communication is educational. Using social media and collaborative tools you can communicate with, and learn from, a whole world of people – when you want and as fast as you want.

Let’s go back to Twitter as an example. I treat Twitter like my personal learning network. It has over 100 million users and gains 300,000 new users every month. Inside Twitter I have a global, diverse potential network of 100 million who I can ‘follow’ – it’s like having access to a piñata of experts. Granted, there are a lot of ‘What time is it?’ and ‘I’m eating a sandwich’ users on Twitter and according to a recent study, about 40% of tweets are ‘pointless babble’ but that still leaves about 60% (60000000) of a learning gold mine. Have you ever attended training, or read a book and thought the trainer/author was so good you wished you could keep an open connection to continue learning from them? With Twitter, you potentially can (provided they have an account :))! I use Twitter to stay current and to learn what’s going on in the world, but mostly, I use it to keep track of experts in my field, in areas of interest to me and to share what I learn and find interesting. I’m not in the minority with my usage of Twitter either – among the top reasons people use Twitter: a real-time news source, and to share information with your peers. With Twitter I’m learning more than just the news, I’m learning the news I want to hear about, I can learn new and exciting things in my field – in any field, I can converse with experts, track trends and… I’m literally open to a whole world of ideas.

Social media increases your exposure and increased exposure leads to abundant opportunities to learn something new. I believe social media is changing education with Twitter and online communities as just two of the many things facilitating this. While I don’t think we will all trade real books in for iPads and our physical classrooms for virtual ones overnight, I think some of the advantages of how social media is transforming education (cheaper, more scalable, flexible, on-demand, diverse, mobile and many to many learning to name but a few) mean it’s going to be a big player in education’s future.

So what is SAP Education doing to stay atop in the game of online and social learning? Taking advantage of one of the best things about online education – no travel costs – you can enrol in one of our Virtual Live Classrooms and get the same content, trainers and access to SAP systems as you would in a traditional SAP classroom training, from the comfort of your own office/home. Learn a little more about VLC in SAP Education Virtual Live Classroom (VLC), adding another magic ingredient to the mix. E-Learnings are another very cost effective way to keep up to speed on what you need and aside from a huge selection of e-learnings that SAP Education provides perhaps you can also avail of one of the new FREE New Rich Media E-Learning Format from SAP. Or register for one of our eAcademies and get 3/5 months of access to a self-paced learning environment to gain expertise in an SAP solution area or prepare for a certification exam. You can even take advantage of a mixed bundle of these offerings in our Accelerated Learning Packages. With options like these SAP Education is transforming from the yardstick classroom/trainer model and while I think Education has a long way to go I’m excited to see more social/collaborative online technology and concepts being adopted. Drop a note on this post if you think there’s something social you’d like to see SAP Education take a stab at.

As SCN will soon move to Jive SBS, a social business platform, SAP Education hopes to take another big step on the social staircase by re-launching the SAP Education community in parallel to up their social game and engage with learners. The plan is to open up that many to many learning experience for customers/partners/end-users, better understand their needs and requirements and facilitate a communication channel between learners and education experts to ensure they get the most out of SAP Education.

With this in mind, visiting SCN and reading this blog post, you’re probably already aware of the value of social media but how valuable do you think it is with regards to education and is there anything you would like to see as part of the new SAP Education Community? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Getting in the social game is not just about having online products, it’s about engaging and making education a two way street: Follow us on Twitter, Like us on Facebook, watch us on YouTube or join us on LinkedIn – then, most importantly: let us know what you need from SAP Education and join the conversation!

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  • Well, I still think of Classrooms, Teachers and books when I think of Education (and especially the formal one) even of emerging e-learning tools / mediums. Its true that social media has given us wider access to different types of information, but learning something in structured environment is more solid, in my opinion. And as you said of 40% of tweets as “pointless babble”, one would waste some of his time reading these tweets. However, in a formal education, since start of the class we’re very clear of the overall goals of the course/subject.  Nonetheless, virtual learning has its own benefits and you counted quite a few of them.

    So if I’ve to vote, I’d definitely vote for your idea of “Socializing SAP Education” 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment Faisal! I do agree, there isn’t much that can beat a classroom training for getting something really moving in your brain and I hope my post didn’t come across with the opinion that this is an old out of date way of education. I think classroom training will always have a place in education but I believe that social media and elearning tools, as you mention, can really extend this experience, enhancing it beyond the traditional teacher/student(s) relationship.
  • Agreed with you both, all learning objects are important, so a combination of all is essential, as I believe diffent learning methods fit to differnt learning phase. For example, fot getting started learners, classroom would be best for systematically and overivew learning, and social learning fit very well on solving problem in quick way, absorbing latest news, technology trend etc
  • Agree with you both. All are important learning objects. But I do believe differnt learning methods will fit in differnt learning phase, e.g. classroom is best for getting started learners for systematica learning while social learning is very effiicent for solving problems, getting to knnow latest technology trends etc.
    • Very good point Jenny. There are so many ways to learn and many different phases – for example elearnings are great to keep you up to date on something you learned in depth at a classroom training!