The Social Learning Revolution in eLearning
Instructional Design

The Social Learning Revolution in eLearning

The boom in social media and the round-the-clock need to connect in communities is doing wonders for the eLearning industry. Social learning is an age-old learning and teaching strategy, backed by many cognitive scientists. While retouching social learning theories is a requirement for this article, we cannot overstate the benefits this effort can incur for training professionals. In this post, we uncover some social eLearning strategies that will help harness better engagement and involvement for your learners.

Leveraging social learning with the eLearning content is the new norm of eLearning courses. Progressive organizations are keeping their employees engaged in training beyond the training hours! This has led to a positive growth in job performance.

Social learning creates the much in-demand informal learning setting where learners can network, share, collaborate, and exchange ideas on problem-solving. Let’s examine some top benefits of social learning in organizations.

What is Social Learning?

Before we delve into the benefits of this type of learning, we need to understand what research in social learning tells us.

Social learning theory: The social learning theorists Bandura and Walters have described this theory as follows:

· Learning is not purely behavioral; rather, it is a cognitive process that takes place in a social context. This points to the learners’ preference to learn in groups. The interchange of knowledge and perspective creates new knowledge that is personal to the learner.

· Learning can occur by observing a behavior and by observing the consequences of the behavior (vicarious reinforcement).

· Learning involves observation, extraction of information from those observations, and making decisions about the performance of the behavior (observational learning or modeling). Thus, learning can occur without an observable change in behavior.

· Reinforcement plays a role in learning, but is not entirely responsible for learning.

· The learner is not a passive recipient of information. Cognition, environment, and behavior all mutually influence each other (reciprocal determinism).

Why Social Learning?

Social learning theories explain this form of learning as learning with and from others. This can happen through direct and indirect contact. Direct contact is, as we know, the face-to-face interaction between learners in a formal classroom setting or an informal on-the-job setting. Indirect contact is what we do on our social media like LinkedIn, Twitter, online course discussion boards, etc.

If we observe closer, we can see some uncanny similarities between the way we meet physically with each other and the features available in social media to do the same.

Think about the “poke” features, the “like” and other emotional gestures, the comments and the reactions available to us in various social media. And the list of physical interaction emulation keeps growing every day! Think about the standard communication and collaboration features in any social media like comments, posts, instant messaging, group discussion boards, wikis, video chats, and so on.

Now think of the availability of these features in a Learning Management System. In order to have an authentic social learning experience, learning management systems are increasingly offering social capabilities.

Learners are now able to share experiences and research new knowledge and combine the two in learning forums to create new knowledge for peers. Social learning leads to better learning and improved self-affirmation – a mandatory personality feature to maintain motivation.

Knowledge repositories created within organizations are another great application of social learning. These repositories are created with experts talking to each other and novices asking experts questions. Effective organizational knowledge management stems from this type of learning. Such practices can only be perfected when learners are exposed to learning platforms in their eLearning training programs.

How Social Learning Helps

Let’s determine how social learning strategies will enhance your eLearning course objectives:

The Learner

Social learning is clearly the most widely used learning strategy in adult learners. As employees, we are more comfortable with the “watch and learn” job learning strategy. By sharing performance experiences, lessons learnt, possible solutions and creative ideas, we are able to gain a wider spectrum of knowledge. We also experience a greater control over our learning.

Have you heard of the 70/20/10 ratio of learning and development used in training? 70 percent of our knowledge is derived directly from observing others during on-the-job scenarios. 20 percent of the learning is achieved through interactions. And only 10 percent from formal learning methods.

What does that tell you about our basic learning preferences? Social learning is the natural way to learn.

Think about fortifying your eLearning courses with multiple social interactions and group work opportunities.

The Organization

Organizations that learn together, grow together!

Have you heard of “learning organizations”? It is a form of knowledge management in which employees undergo active and conscious conversations about their tasks and roles. Important information is documented and stored for later use. Learning and performance gaps are analyzed. New training programs are suggested. New product or service designs are suggested, best practices are implemented. All activities are performed and enhanced through social learning.

A learning portal is the main hub to store all organizational learning activities. In fact, communities of practice are nothing but specialized social learning platforms that keep all employees involved, engaged and updated.

Expert panels are also increasingly becoming the norm in organizations. Moreover, celebrity-guest lectures are enabling organizations to adopt even more progressive business practices.

Providing social learning opportunities through the LMS features is not a new requirement of many organizations. Social communication features are increasingly being added to learning platforms to accommodate the learning needs of the digital consumers. The benefits of social learning outweigh any other learning strategy. So, it is only wise to invest in such learning practices to get more out of your eLearning investments.


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