Social media offers tremendous value as an engaging, dynamic and interactive training platform. Facebook, for example, enables group discussions and linking to experts, while Twitter allows instructors to distribute information in small, easily consumed bites. Similarly, YouTube allows everyone to view, comment and interact around videos.
Some issues may impact organizations’ ability to integrate the medium into training and development, however, such as employees’ varying learning styles and willingness to engage.
Both, for instance, are affected by personality type, as presented by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) instrument, which identifies four preferences — extroversion/introversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling and judging/perceiving — that combine to form 16 different personality types.
Tailoring Social Media Features to Learning Style
Extroversion/introversion describes how people are energized and whether they tend to focus their cognitive energy externally (extroversion) or internally (introversion). Social media features such as a fast-paced instant message meeting room may not be ideal for people who prefer introversion.
As Donna Dunning, author of Introduction to Type and Learning, explained, introverts prefer to minimize interruptions, share ideas in private, think before responding to a group, work in a quiet space and deal with one topic at a time. A more asynchronous message board would likely appeal to them and allow those with a preference for extroversion to share their thoughts as needed.
Sensing/intuition describes one’s preference for taking in information, either through focusing on facts and details (sensing) or big-picture orientation (intuition). As participating in hands-on learning, engaging the senses and use of visual aids appeals to those preferring sensing, they may benefit from social media that provides ready access to video content they can apply immediately and allows them to shape the process with advice from experts.
For learners preferring intuition — those who like to learn theories and ideas, gather information from various sources and create and share ideas — social media enabling brainstorming of new ideas with thought leaders may boost engagement.
Thinking/feeling describes how decisions are made, based on either following objective logic (thinking) or personal values (feeling). As individuals with a preference for thinking like to analyze and evaluate, have brief and concise communications, receive clear feedback and debate and question information, social media enabling them to comment, question and debate in discussion groups may be particularly useful.
Learners preferring feeling — those who like to be in an environment that values contribution, discuss beliefs and experiences and validate others’ ideas — may benefit from social media that facilitates connection to others with similar values and provides positive chat experiences.
Judging/perceiving describes how one is oriented toward the outside world, either through a planned and organized (judging) or a flexible approach (perceiving). Learners preferring judging — those who are engaged by the opportunity to take charge, get clear guidelines, learn in a structured environment, schedule time and tasks, create deadlines and clarify others’ expectations — may benefit from social media features enabling them to accurately share and structure their program’s calendar and guidelines.
Learners preferring perceiving — those who like adjustable deadlines, a variety of learning activities, a flexible learning approach and a variety of information sources — may be engaged by social media that enables free, real-time exchange of ideas and access to information from a wide range of sources.
The Significance of Variation in Use by Personality
In tailoring social media-integrated training to learners’ preferences, it’s important to recognize that all platforms aren’t equally endorsed by different types.
CPP Inc., publisher of the Myers-Briggs assessment, conducted research that demonstrated differences in how various dimensions of MBTI type influence social media use, identifying interesting behavioral variation with regards to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
While a majority of all types (65 percent) reported using Facebook, those with preferences for extroversion (versus introversion) and intuition (versus sensing) were about 10 percent more engaged in Facebook activities.
On LinkedIn, which had lower overall usage than Facebook (33 percent), the difference in activity between extroversion and introversion was fairly pronounced, 40 percent versus 28 percent, respectively.
On Twitter, where use was reported at an overall lower rate (11 percent) than LinkedIn or Facebook, the highest reported use by a single type was 12 percent (three types reported only 2 percent use).
Those who prefer extroversion report more usage of all three platforms than those who prefer introversion.
While social media offers training potential, learning style and willingness to engage in various platforms must also be considered. By understanding how personality type influences learning, program developers can leverage social media features to enable people to learn in the way best suited to their preferences.
Nancy A. Schaubhut and Rich Thompson manage CPP Inc.’s research team. They can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.