Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name



Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Monica Tracey


In the global workplace, workers must quickly adapt to changing information and productivity demands. Workers must filter information, avoid overload and find out what they need to know. How can use of social media technologies benefit the knowledge worker and the corporate workplace? This study presents a closer look at the use, perceptions, and reflections of active social media users within the corporate environment. The purpose of this study was to examine, through worker voice, factors in worker use of social media that lead to successful informal learning outcomes in the corporate environment. This qualitative research used a phenomenological methodology. The criterion-based sample consisted of 13 knowledge workers within a Fortune 500 global manufacturing company. Data collection methods included a survey, two interviews and logging of social media use. Social media studied included applications available to workers within the company and included Yammer; SharePoint blogs, MySites, forums, wikis, and team sites; and Microsoft OneNote when used collaboratively.

Findings were based on a synthesis of the textures (verbatim statements) and structures (contextual descriptions) of participant experiences that led to the emergence of themes. Data analysis indicated that characteristics, roles, and the workplace environment are factors that mediate use of social media for informal learning in the corporate workplace. Worker characteristics such as strong technology skills, self-direction, leadership, and caring about learning effectively contributed to successful social media use. Job roles and social media roles also mediated use, providing differing incentives for participation. Job roles that included social media use and approved digital coaching tended to enable participation. Among participants with job roles that did not require social media use, there were other incentives (e.g., socializing, recognition, building influence). However, lack of time to participate was more often a limiting factor in these cases. Environmental factors such as colleague and management attitudes of non value, lack of leadership participation and guidance, lack of tool awareness and effectiveness, lack of time, company use policies, online "noise" and other factors were perceived as constraints to social media use (particularly Yammer use) for informal learning within the company.

Data analysis also indicated that the main theme or essence of participants' lived experiences concerned connection with others and what those connections provided, whether it was interactions, effective learning support, better teamwork, or searchable knowledge. Additional findings indicated these participants perceived value and meaning in communicating with others globally, learning efficiently and effectively on the job, and collaborating with others through the social media tools which then provided resources for others. Participants expressed both disappointment at the current state and hope for a larger, growing learning community as workers with more technological skills joined the company over time. Opportunities to log and reflect on their social media use led to more awareness about effectively using social media. Theories on self-directed learning (Knowles, 1975), social constructivism (Richey, Klein, & Tracey, 2011), the Zone of Proximal Development (Vygotsky, 1978), and the Ecology of Meanings communication model (Campos, 2007) provided a framework that supported these findings.

Most workplace social media studies have not focused on learning, but rather on motivation and communications using different methodologies and sample selection criteria. This study confirms much of the current research on social technology use within the corporate environment and extends findings to provide a more focused study about informal learning based on worker voice. This research is intended to inform instructional designers, learning professionals, learning leaders, corporate learning and technology decision makers, and those with interests in enhancing learning within corporate environments. Additional research is needed to further guide strategies and creation of learning environments that contribute to informal learning.