We’ve talked about social learning before. Heck, everyone’s been talking about it, and we’re talking about it now in the context of using social learning theory in our modern social media world, setting up networks, communities of practice and social units to facilitate learning and ultimately changing behavior.
So, how can you do this most effectively?
Connection is the first thing. Communities can’t form without a place, virtual or otherwise, and a forum to discuss and exemplify desired behavior. This can be weekly meetings or a private Facebook page, as long as people can connect with each other to begin the learning process.
Try to ensure that these communities encompass people who don’t normally work together to broaden the community, open communication and help spread knowledge that might otherwise be compartmentalized.
You will probably need someone to be responsible for managing the community, creating conversations, monitoring discussions and reaching out to those who might be reluctant to participate.
Isolating subject matter experts is also important. These are the people who will model the desired behaviors and help to build communities.
Finally, it’s important to analyze the outcomes. Social learning requires that learners can remember the behaviors that were observed, reproduce them and have good motivation to continue the behavior. These requirements would be great data to collect through surveys and other forms of feedback. Later, you can alter your social learning plan based on the analysis.
|—||Check out this cool article about the power of social media on learning: http://to.pbs.org/Lr0qvn|
The National Inflation Association announced this week that it believes enterprise social networking will “revolutionize the workplace…[and] the enterprise social networking companies with top-tier solutions will experience growth over the next four years that is similar to Facebook’s growth over the last four years.”
It explains enterprise social networking as, “Facebook for the workplace, but without the socializing.” It goes on to say that these types of networking tools can unite teams from all over the company to work seamlessly together on projects. Shared knowledge will skyrocket and productivity will increase.
It lists a number of new enterprise social networking software applications and tools, including Jive, Lithium, Telligent and sectors of IBM and Microsoft’s SharePoint, that are posed to take off this year.
While valued at only $600 million last year, NIA predicts, “This industry is likely to grow 61% annually and become a $6.4 billion market by 2016.”
It seems it’s only a matter of time before the personal, social networks today of work their way into our business lives. As training professionals, you’ll likely begin utilizing these tools to facilitate learning more and more.
Everything you need to know about social learning in 2012.
What is social learning?
Social learning theory has been around since the 1960s when Albert Bandura’s inflatable clown experiments lead to the idea that observational learning can take place via model, verbal instruction and symbols.
This symbolic model is more often what is referred to currently, where different types of media like social networks, movies, television and the Internet can all lead to changes in behavior. This is social learning in the digital age.
eLearning professionals can utilize blogs, RSS Feeds, social networks, file sharing sites and robust communication and collaboration tools to further social learning. Content curation can also be used to narrow down good information to pass to learners.
While many great tools exist to take advantage of social learning, much of the success of this model relies on company culture, learners who are willing to share and communicate.
As Marcia Conner notes in her article, Where Social Learning Thrives, “It’s not easy for people to make the shift from a culture where they fear they are not good enough and need to improve, to one where they feel safe enough to want to improve for the enjoyment of it. Some will think it impossible for a whole culture to shift from fear-based fixes to joy-based learning, from coercion to inspiration. Others have witnessed it and will cheer along.”
The Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies has put together an outstanding list of examples of companies experimenting and finding success with social learning.
IBM, for instance, uses social learning in a wide variety of ways. It has no company Twitter handle, but has a few thousand employees on the social network. It has decentralized social learning, putting learning almost completely in the hands of learners. This may not be the best approach for all companies, but there has to be an element of giving up control and allowing learners a safe, collaborative space to learn from each other.
Another example of social learning in the marketplace is Northrop Grumman’s on-boarding process, which involves networking groups that help to integrate new hires. This along with several other programs helped cut the company’s turnover in half.
Here are some general benefits of instituting a social learning strategy:
- People are already learning on their own; this is your chance to give them the right information
- You’re helping to build a learning community where employees can use and share their knowledge, creating more productive and efficient teams
- The goal is always performance, not necessarily passing a test or taking a class. Social learning affects performance as learners become more self-reliant and autonomous, discovering the best answers on their own
- Social learning is generally more cost effective
- You can create and steer conversation, like on social networks, and get immediate feedback
Here are some things to think about before you institute a social learning strategy:
- Many social networks and social learning tools lack security and privacy
- Creating and monitoring a social learning program can be a lot to manage and you will need a comprehensive tool that fits the specific needs of your company
- It is easy to want to control the process and create a kind of “formal” social learning, but this might crush social learning before it even gets started. You should provide only the framework; you can’t force social learning
- You and your team will have to move away from traditional learning development and reporting. Often success can only be measured by proof that a learner can do something they couldn’t do before. This can be hard for training teams to make the transition from traditional thinking on what learning should look like and how to measure its achievement.
Social Learning: The Future of Social Learning slideshow
The Future of Learning is…Social presentation
Social Learning Theory notes
100+ Examples of Use of Social Media for Learning list
Social Business Council site
Check out a few tools:
- Elgg: Open Source Social Networking Engine
- SocialText: Business Collaboration with Enterprise Social Networking
- GroupSite: Where Social Networking and Collaboration Meet
- Bloomfire: Social Learning Software
- Mzinga: The Leader in Social Software and Analytics Solutions
- Ning: Create a Social Networking Site