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The challenges of User-Generated Content in the context of learning
Keeping abreast of the latest innovations in the world of EdTech, a practice increasingly used for workplace learning came up: User-Generated Content. UGC for short, is a principle that encourages employees to create their own educational content so that it can be reused as part of the company’s Learning & Development plan.
Surprisingly, User-Generated Content is a term that is mostly present in online advertising, a field that seems quite different from workplace learning. However, another strong trend in the Learning & Development industry is to turn to other areas of business, such as marketing, to seek strategies to manage training on a more operational level. The purpose of this article is to share the most relevant elements in the context of this research, as we dug a little deeper into the subject.
Let’s first go back to the evolution of the L&D function and its place in a company's strategy. This will allow us to understand how to innovate in online training, drawing inspiration from other fields such as marketing.
The evolution of Learning & Development
A strong trend in L&D is about how this sector can no longer be considered an isolated department of the company. Indeed, Learning & Development projects must be aligned with the overall strategy and L&D professionals have a lot to gain by collaborating and exchanging with other poles of the organisation.
In fact, in the LinkedIn report on vocational training of 2022, 74% of L&D professionals surveyed agree their function has become more transversal. When asked about the professional skills to be developed in the future, they identified no less than 39 skills, divided into 7 categories they believe are necessary for the exercise of their function. In the top three, we find data analysis, the use of technology, and communication. One element that struck us is that marketing comes in second place in the business core category.
In this sense, Karson Morris, Skills Strategist at Salesforce, sees an eminently interdisciplinary evolution of the L&D function where it would borrow best practices from other departments, such as marketing, to offer a quality learning experience to the employees.
Thinking of learners as customers and using marketing techniques to attract and engage them is a practice that is increasingly used in training departments. Namely, here, we will deal with the case of User-Generated Content, but there are other use cases.
What is User-Generated Content?
User-Generated Content: the definition
To give you a simple definition of User-Generated Content, it covers all the content designed by visitors of a page, and consumers of a product or service. Including content published on social networks such as Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube.
The idea is to obtain authentic content from dedicated customers who represent the very target of the brand in question.
UGC in online advertising
In online advertising, we see more and more content uploaded by online users about a product or service they have tried and/or adopted.
According to the article Top 5 benefits of UGC, the main advantages of this practice are the following:
- A propelled notoriety: Brands are highlighted by Internet users.
- Reassured consumers: 92% of customers say they trust opinions published by a third party because their speech is not dictated by a brand.
- Constant optimisation of the company: The content created by users allows the company to have relevant feedback and improve the services it offers based on these reviews. In addition, it allows companies to better understand their target and possibly raise specific expectations not previously considered.
- Savings on advertising: Users decide to publish content of their own free will, without remuneration from the brand they are referring to.
- A reinforced SEO strategy: when customers note the name of products, companies, or services, it feeds the natural referencing of the brand, company, or product mentioned.
How to integrate User-Generated Content into training?
According to an article on User-Generated Content, published by Training Industry, this learning method has existed since the dawn of time because it consists of sharing personal knowledge, on a subject, with peers.
From a company’s perspective, user-generated content was traditionally associated with informal learning, but today L&D departments realise that they have every advantage in acknowledging this practice to engage employees and highlight their knowledge. Today, the proliferation of communication technologies has radically transformed both the delivery of user-generated content and the importance of this knowledge to organisations. Companies can leverage employees' and customers' knowledge, experience, and ideas to create engaging and contextualised content.
The advantages of User-Generated Content
Currently, the advantages of learning content created by employees that stand out are the following:
- Cost savings: Budget-conscious L&D departments are turning to UGC to stop relying on formal learning delivered by an external instructor.
- The resonance of content with the corporate strategy: The internal production of learning content makes it possible to capitalize on the knowledge of business experts evolving in the same context where the knowledge will be applied. It also makes it possible to value everyone's expertise while limiting the loss of the rare knowledge of an employee leaving the company.
- Boost employee engagement: By exploiting employees' professional skills, you value their knowledge and promote peer-to-peer exchanges, one of the most effective pillars of corporate training.
Finally, we are only at the beginning of UGC in L&D, but if we study User-Generated Content for marketing in detail, this practice could likely bring benefits such as a better understanding of the expectations and learning needs of the employees.
The disadvantages of the User-Generated Content
Two major disadvantages arise regarding User-Generated Content in learning. Both are primarily related to the fact that employees, or business experts, are rarely Learning & Development professionals.
Therefore, it is essential to guide the employees with the content creation, so it does not become an additional constraint. On another hand it is crucial to check the content before its publication to avoid the dissemination of inadequate information that could harm the company's message:
- Content reliability: In a professional context, it is important to ensure the accuracy of the content delivered, making sure it is aligned with the company's vision and values. User-generated content needs to be reviewed by experts before it is published so that other users can rely on it.
- The employee workload: As training professionals, we know it’s sometimes challenging to structure the information to make it understandable for our learners. Since employees' time is valuable, we need to give them the necessary tools and help them to ensure content creation is a rewarding experience and not a hassle on their to-do list.
- Maintain the pedagogical approach consistency: User-Generated Content is a content typology on its own, with its own codes, inspired by social networks, as we mentioned above. However, in a professional context it is necessary to define the framework and objectives of the training created. To do this, it is crucial for the employees and the learning designers to connect to ensure the relevance and success of the training content created.
User-Generated Content integrated into training with Rise Up
Finally, based on these learnings, we decided to create, at Rise Up, a learner-author attribute that allows employees to easily create courses and share it with their peers. To ensure the content broadcasts are accurate and relevant in the company context, we have integrated an option for prior verification by administrators before publication.