User-generated content in training: everything you need to know
Instructional Design

User-generated content in training: everything you need to know

Instagram: such a fun platform! Pictures that look like pieces of art. Videos that make you laugh. Quotes that motivate. Those folks have really done a fantastic job creating an app that keeps users entertained and engaged. Except that they haven’t done it all by themselves.

All these photos, videos, and text that make Instagram an exciting place to wander around is actually user-generated content, also known as UGC.

So what is UGC, exactly? Simply put, it’s any type of content created by users. Think about YouTube and TikTok videos, Q&As on Quora and Reddit, and witty tweets on Twitter. Even customer reviews on a company website are user-generated content (and very effective in driving sales, for that matter.)

You might be wondering if there’s place for user-generated content in something as structured and formal as corporate training. And how that would work. In that case, user-generated content won’t include employees sharing random words of wisdom and funny videos.

In this comprehensive guide, you’ll explore the definition of user-generated content in corporate training, along with the pros and cons of UGC. You’ll also find out the best ways to encourage and incorporate UGC into your training strategy with concrete user-generated content examples.

What is user-generated content in corporate training?

User-generated content in corporate training is content created by learners, and not by subject matter experts or training managers, as is usually the case. Any content with educational value is acceptable: articles, videos, podcasts, quizzes.

User-generated content is not supposed to substitute formal learning content, but to give a different spin on your training strategy. Generating content needs to be voluntary and not part of an assignment that will affect the learner’s performance in the course. Learners may be given an extra nudge or incentive to create content, but they should never be forced.

Involving learners in content creation is an innovative approach that is rapidly growing in popularity. Next, you’ll find out why.

Benefits of user-generated content

So, why all the fuss about user-created content? Apparently, user-generated content can have a positive impact on training effectiveness and workplace culture. Let’s see in detail the benefits of user-generated content in learning:

1. Boost learner engagement

People tend to hold in high esteem the things they’ve created themselves. Also known as the IKEA effect, this cognitive bias can be very beneficial in eLearning. Employees, feeling proud that they’ve built even a small fraction of the course, engage more with training and are positively disposed toward future training courses.

Even those who stay on the learners’ lane feel more engaged. User-generated content resonates with employees more, as it’s the work of people they know and trust, and who speak the same language as them.

Finally, using user-created content is a brilliant way to market your training program internally. Think about sharing a pdf with universal cybersecurity best practices. And now think about Andrew from IT giving a presentation on the most devasting phishing attacks. While the information is pretty similar, which of these options would be more popular with your employees?

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2. Turn learning into a social activity

User-generated content promotes social learning and learning in an informal environment. For example, employees sharing tips on an online discussion is a typical example of UGC and social learning.

When employees learn this way, learning comes easier as it’s no longer the result of studying but the result of an exchange of ideas and experiences. Since not everyone is thrilled by the idea of spending time reading or watching training material, social learning is an effective alternative.

3. Improve knowledge retention

They say that if you can’t explain something in simple words, you haven’t really understood it. (OK, Einstein said it.)

As employees will work on creating content, they’ll need to dive into what they already know and maybe even research some more to add new information. This means they will not only refresh their memory but also expand their knowledge. They’ll learn more as they dig deeper into a topic trying to teach it to others.

4. Reinforce a culture of learning

Another benefit of user-generated content is that it creates a culture of learning in your company. When employees are actively involved in training and are not merely participants, there’s a new vibe in the workplace.

Employees get involved in projects that are not strictly work-related but creative activities that foster personal development alongside work skills. They practice skills like presentation and written communication—abilities that are useful in every business and personal setting. Sooner or later, more employees will want to be part of this.

5. Build stronger collaboration among employees

User-generated content is often the result of collaborative work. Learning together is more fun, so you should create opportunities for employees to work together on user-created content.

As an added benefit, collaboration among employees outside job tasks strengthens their relationships and helps build teams that work efficiently and communicate better.

User-generated content in employee training: pros and cons

Potential challenges to consider

Despite the many benefits of user-generated content, there are some issues that need your attention.

1. Accuracy of the information

The most common concern when it comes to user-generated content is the accuracy of the information. How can you make sure that employees actually know what they’re talking about? Or, that the information they provide is up-to-date?

The best remedy is to assign someone to coordinate the content development process. This person, who can be an instructor or a training manager, can encourage UGC and track what employees are sharing.

If reviewing and editing the content isn’t possible, then it might be best to avoid user-generated content altogether. Especially if the topic is of critical importance. For example, sharing misinformation about safety or compliance issues could cause serious trouble.

Ultimately, you need to use your judgment to decide when user-created content fits in your training strategy and when it’s best to leave the content creation to the experts only.

2. Reluctance to contribute

Not everyone likes to roll up their sleeves after work. Some may not have the time, some may lack the skills or the confidence. And that’s totally understandable.

Including user-generated content shouldn’t feel forced. You can start by building your training programs using material from experts, and then ask some employees to review the content. When they have something to work with, it’ll be easier for them to make suggestions or add anything they feel is missing, as opposed to preparing everything from scratch.

If they’re not familiar with training (and chances are they won’t be, unless it’s part of their job anyway), make sure you provide all the necessary support. For example, you can give some tips on how to deliver a good presentation or offer to review a draft if they’re preparing written material. If you want employees to grab this opportunity and reap the benefits of user-generated content, you can also offer incentives, e.g., a day off for hosting a company-wide webinar or a gift card from a local shop.

How to apply user-generated content in corporate training

Now that you’ve made your acquaintances with user-generated content, it’s time to see what you came here for. Let’s find out how you can apply user-generated content in corporate training:

1. Be realistic about your expectations

First things first—encouraging user-generated content isn’t about setting a group of learners out to create a formal training course, perfectly organized and in line with the latest instructional design methods. You can’t expect their videos to be top-notch quality, or for them to be the most charismatic speakers.

Encouraging user-generated content is about creating space in your course for learners to experiment with building their own content, which won’t always be flawless.

2. Never make it compulsory

Asking learners to complete a written assignment that will count towards the completion of the course is not user-generated content. It’s just a written assignment! If someone happens to create an amazing piece of content that could be used as learning material, this will later count as UGC.

But the key idea behind user-created content is that it needs to be a voluntary activity. Trying to impose it on employees is beyond the scope of UGC and can backfire and null all the benefits, especially in terms of engagement.

3. Offer incentives instead

It never hurts to give an extra nudge when introducing a new idea to your training strategy. A few ideas? You can create a contest and offer the “best blogger” or the “funniest infographic-maker” a gift.

To address the argument of the busy schedule, offer employees a couple of hours off work. Gamifying the process can also incentivize employees. For example, employees can level up with each content contribution, earn badges, or reach a “legend contributor” status.

4. Use an intuitive LMS

Your LMS will make a ton of difference in the overall quality of your training courses and also in motivating employees to create content. Since course development is not employees’ full-time job, opt for an easy-to-use platform. This way, they’ll be able to build engaging courses in just a few clicks. For example, by typing in a simple text editor, by using drag-and-drop features to add existing content, and by uploading videos directly from YouTube.

A user-generated content platform will support any type of content you can think of, whether it’s text or video-based. It’ll also be helpful if employees can engage in online discussions through your platform, where they’ll exchange knowledge in an informal, less “forced” environment.

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5. Create online discussions

Creating online discussions where employees can contribute with content is the most effortless way to encourage user-generated content. The best thing about this approach is that it 100% taps into the benefits of social learning.

Through informal discussions that don’t even resemble actual training employees learn from each other by sharing real… real-life lessons and tips that come from personal experiences and teachable moments. These spontaneous interactions make learning a process that happens naturally and therefore sticks.

You can always start the conversation with thought-provoking questions, or create different “rooms” for different topics and let employees do the talking.

6. Build a corporate learning community

If you want to follow a more structured approach, you can create an elevated version of a corporate learning blog, where user-generated content will flow freely. Allow employees to create content of their own or share interesting content they’ve found online.

This content could be anything from infographics and blog posts to videos and podcasts. Creating your own corporate learning community is a fun and modern take on content sharing.

7. Leverage the knowledge of seasoned employees

Like we mentioned above, learning through shared real-life examples and experiences happens naturally and is more likely to stay with your employees. And who is better suited to share their knowledge than someone that transpires an air of authority?

Seasoned employees inspire trust and can be very motivating for newer employees. Encourage them to share their accumulated knowledge and valuable experience with fellow employees by hosting a webinar, creating short videos with quick-but-effective tips, or writing posts.

You could also build an alumni network and occasionally invite former employees to talk about their career paths and professional experiences. This way, you show that you invest in lifelong learning and rely on meaningful business relationships—whether people are still employed with you or not.

So, should you go for it?

Finding ways to engage learners is all the more important in the hybrid workplace of today. Applying user-generated content is an excellent way to motivate all employees to discover the real joy of learning and exploring.

Besides, user-generated content is a phenomenon of our times. People contribute with content on social media and other knowledge-sharing platforms all the time. Follow suit and encourage user-generated content in your training courses too. Learning doesn’t happen in isolation—neither should your training.

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