Why social should be part of your learning strategy
Social learning is a bit of a ‘buzzword’ right now, but it’s nothing new. In 1977, Albert Bandura developed the Social Learning Theory. This theory transformed our understanding of how people learn. We now know that people can learn by observation, not just by memorisation, forced conditioning or reward/punishment. And to this day, this theory is still changing how we handle learning within our organisations.
Observational learning (or modelling), is played out in every aspect of personal and professional life. However, many instructional designers still use traditional learning methods without considering social or informal learning. Why? Well this is mostly due to two reasons:
Social learning is traditionally hard to measure. Almost every part, of every business, is guided by measurements, targets and ROI. If we can’t report on it, is it worth it?
Lack of control over ‘water-cooler’ learning. How can you be sure your learners are observing the correct behaviour and skills, if we can’t see the conversations that are happening?
When Bandura penned his 1977 theory, these were legitimate learning concerns, and perhaps they still are today, to an extent. But it’s almost 2019 and the technology we have today works towards solving these problems. Using a learning platform which encourages learner-generated content and peer-to-peer review, under the watchful eyes of your internal experts, will transform your learning strategy. Here are three reasons you should integrate social learning into your learning strategy:
1. People learn through observation. Fact.
I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve heard the phrase “I learn better by doing”. But a precursor to doing, is observing. Traditional digital learning does not open itself to observational styles – so you could be falling short on meeting your learners needs without realising. However, if you encourage your employees to contribute resources to your learning platform, e.g. videos and screencasts, will enable your learners to “observe” from right within your digital learning environment.
2. If you build it, they will socialise.
“We don’t have a learning culture.” “People don’t communicate with one another.” “There’s no way to access this information, Sophie knows it all, ask her!” If you want to build a learning culture in your organisation, you need to facilitate it. You can’t blame your learners for not communicating – if you don’t encourage them. Nor can you blame them if you do not lead by example when it comes to sharing knowledge. However, you can change this by investing in a learning platform, which engages your learners and is enjoyable to use. Some of the best learning platforms echo social media, with ‘likes’, ‘comments’ and ‘shares’, creating a familiar, comfortable environment for learners. For example, Docebo’s Coach and Share modules, combined with their mobile app, Go.Learn, fuels learner participation by echoing the likes of Facebook, LinkedIn and Netflix, in style and functionality (it really is fun to use!)
3. Capture the conversation.
Track what is going on in your learning platform to see who is using it, when they are using it and why. Encourage your SMEs to interact with your learning platform, tracking and validating learner-generated content. This will help to overcome one of the concerns L&D professionals face, ensuring the knowledge shared is accurate and not misleading other learners. To truly create a learning culture, you need to ensure your entire organisation is bought-in to knowledge sharing and utilising the learning tools at hand. Once you’ve cracked this – the social learning possibilities are endless.
So now you’ve mastered the art of facilitating social learning you need to remember one key point: For social learning to work, learners need to enjoy taking part. Do not make it too strict or regimented – let it be fun and let your learners learn! Trust your learners to behave responsibly on your learning platform, and lead by example in doing so, then see how your learning flourishes.
Editors note: This blog was first published in November 2018. It has been updated in December 2020 for clarity, with fresh new content included.