By Andrew Das, Paradiso Solutions. Updated on February 18, 2020
We might think is it not possible to learn new things when we are having a good time. In reality, we are learning even then. In some cases, especially when. This is the essence of social learning, and observation is the way it works. Observe, repeat, perfect.
Most of our adult behavior was learned through simply watching our parents or family. How to tie shoelaces, how to put on a tie, learning a mother language. It’s not really a unique human trait. All these activities have their roots in watching others doing something. You see–learning is an observatory behavior!
The dawn of social learning
Social learning is no longer a new concept. It has captured the learning industry’s concerns about its slow rate of evolution. Within our field, there are traditionalists, who believe in the tried and tested classroom-based methods. They consider newer methods might be actually turning people off and diverting them from what they are supposed to be absorbing. In fairness, their heart could be in the right place if they don’t eschew all classroom innovation altogether.
All hope is not lost. Some organizations have been first to recognize the benefits of adopting a social learning policy, particularly those less bound by the need to stay true to conventional methods. They are generally much more innovative.
They realize it’s all about the interaction. The modern workforce is involved in some way with a social network. Sharing information ―sometimes with complete strangers― is normal to us, as is the thought of collaborating with people from across the globe.
As a direct consequence of this, social learning platforms are enabling new connections to ideas. This fact is of particular importance to organizations, as these are the ideas which could, if nurtured, change their direction. Without a proper social space in which to share and develop ideas, they may never grow.
Social learning is evolving (And how!)
Let us share some thoughts on why social learning is so important. The following points certainly are not exhaustive, but they are enough to prompt some reflection on why companies should take up social learning.
1. Companies have a "Social DNA"
Organizations are societies. People with different aims and interests coexist within them. It is through this diversity that people can learn from sharing their experiences. (As long as they see each other as peers and not contenders, of course) This is precisely what social learning is. And as a leader, there should not be a better place than your workplace for it. Pioneering organizations imbibe social learning.
2. Social learning is simply more effective
In a corporation, successful learning happens when new behaviors are woven into the natural social fabric of everyday life. It is a principle of action, but also a fact of life: No matter what, both nature and nurture will generate some set of behaviors. A
Let us give an example of how social learning influences behaviors: Staff at junior levels look at how their mentors, superiors or seniors behave and try to take it up. They also take up new skills and behaviors based on their observations. This is social learning in action. I could go long on how social learning is a critical element for adult learning. By wrestling with ideas and information in a social context, we make sense of them, modify them, and make them our own.
3. Social Learning acts as a catalyst for innovation and impact
We are much more effective in solving complex problems and generating breakthrough ideas as a group. Whenever ideas are shared in isolation or in silos, as it often happens on an email or in individual meetings, there is a chance the ideas are not getting acknowledged, let alone being developed on. When a social learning platform is used, the idea could be added upon by different team members and developed into something that can be substantial. If not for social learning, companies well could be losing out on some revealing thinking that could bring great benefits.
4. Social learning connects you to the organization
Social learning is not just about using some social tools interspersed with formal learning experiences. Social learning is an idea that pushes you to think of your entire organization as a social learning ecosystem. This mindset is fundamental to tap into the full potential of what social learning can bring about.
5. Your competition does it, and so should you!
Your competition is going robust on getting newer technologies in their organization, and social learning is one of them. And it is not just for show: social learning is a better way to work. A social learning platform will likely transform collaboration and sharing of knowledge in your organization. Modern-featured LMS like Moodle encourage users to interact with each other through forum-type discussions, shared resources and team-based activities with results available for others.
What are some Social Learning features to look for in an LMS?
- Discussion boards, threaded discussion, forums.
- Notifications whenever a question that you’ve participated in has been answered.
- “Friending” and “following”. Users can become “friends” to share deeper information.
- Ability to update user profile with bios, user photos, biographies.
- Ability to like, share and comment on content.
- Ability to create and share content in user profile or dedicated news feeds.
- Ability to recommend content to peers.
- Ability to do content tagging and then searching by tag
- Ability to show popular, highly rated and frequently accessed content.
- Ability to create accounts and login using their existing social account credentials.
- Intra-content discussion between learners and teachers.
- Awards, badges, levels or other gamification elements that encourage a healthy competitive environment.
- Ability to acknowledge peers’ achievements.
- Integrated web conference in social groups: video, screen sharing and recording.
- Social interface integrated within the LMS. It is not present in a separate tab.
Advantages of implementing Social Learning in your organization
- Employees’ knowledge is a strategic advantage, and social media eases information sharing, which in turn leads to more informed and better decision-making.
- It creates an environment where people acquire knowledge and info almost unbeknownst to them.
- Students can generate their own learning and take advantage of collective knowledge.
- New employees can ask questions about the organization and its culture, learn from peers and nurture trust. This carries more weight than what they are told in induction on the first day, possibly by someone with whom they will have no further interaction.
- Learning is more personalized as students can obtain info when they need it as opposed to when someone schedules them to.
- Posting blogs and allowing comments enables people to get feedback on specific ideas.
- Organizations can share and discuss best practices.
Social Media tools can be used alongside traditional classroom-based training.
- Provide links to additional info, articles, examples, etc.
- Instructors can spread pre-reading info and link to content prior to an event. This can ensure students enter a course on an equal level and have a basic understanding before entering the classroom.
- Speaking about classes or presentations, it reinforces the knowledge that was passed to students.
- Micro-blogging can be good to get feedback after classes, post tips of the day, etc.
- Companies or individuals can post updates to keep an online presence.
The days of individual learning and personal goals are over. The focus is now on learning through social interactions and collaboration, and Social Learning platforms facilitates connections with individuals with a common task from around the world, fostering development, knowledge expansion and even cultural sensibility.