Sociability: Learning at the Speed of an Internet Connection

by Myra Roldan

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Learning as a cognitive process takes place in a social context,” Albert Bandura, 1963.

Social learning is not a new concept. In the late 1970s, Albert Bandura established the theory of social learning, in which he proposed that people can learn in a social context. Fast forward to 2016, when social media networks are in abundance. Networks such as blogs, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter have bred a new form of social learning. Learning is moving beyond the training room to places where learners have access to a wealth of information that is just an Internet connection away.

Think about the last time you wanted to figure out how to do a specific task. Let’s say, for example, you’ve purchased an old lamp that needs to be rewired. You’ve never rewired a lamp, but you’re confident  you can figure it out. More than likely the first place you’ll go to figure out how to rewire the lamp is YouTube. You watch a few videos, and within minutes you’re ready to tackle the task at hand.

You have just engaged in social learning. Social learning doesn’t need to occur in a formal setting; it can be informal and organic. In the example above, social media is the tool and social learning is the action. In fact, as you read this blog post you are engaging in social learning! To take it one step further, you could leave a comment for this post, review other people’s comments, and share ways to innovate for an even better result.

When we integrate social learning into a formal learning setting, its interactive nature expands the rate at which just-in-time content can be shared. So, how can you leverage social learning in your course development? Here are five ideas to help you get started:

  1. Use a teach-back technique. Task learners with researching a specific topic and then have the learners explain the how-tos, pros and cons, and benefits of the topic. This is one of my personal favorite methods and I’ve used this technique in live training events incorporating the use of props. It allows trainers to become facilitators and learners to gain control of their learning. This technique works well in both live and virtual training settings.
  2. Incorporate social media. Social media can be embedded into eLearning, and also used in live or virtual training sessions. For example, in a live session you can ask learners to view a YouTube video, read a blog article and the accompanying comments left on the posts, and then facilitate a discussion where learners share their thoughts and ideas on the media they viewed.
  1. Start a blog. Blogs are a great way to create engagement. Encourage learners in your organization to write how-to posts, share tips and techniques as well as best practices, or discuss their views on specific topics. Blog posts usually motivate readers to leave their comments and share their views and ideas, creating an environment of knowledge sharing.
  2. Leverage social groups for continued learning. Learning shouldn’t end when the course is completed. Create a social group using an approved platform, or if there are no restrictions, try creating a Facebook or LinkedIn group where learners can share their samples and ideas and continue the conversation.
  3. Create a repository of learner-created content. We’ve all heard of micro-learning. Platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo, Wikipedia, and Instagram are great examples of platforms where members create content that is then shared with the larger community. Organizations can use platforms like SharePoint, Yammer, or Basecamp to achieve the same results. Make content mobile friendly and ensure your platform has great searchability so learners can easily find content when the topics originate organically from the learner.

I encourage you to think outside the box, get creative! Social learning is not black and white, and is ever-changing. This is most evident in recent generations that have been born into a digitally connected society. Learning content delivery is changing at the speed of light as delivery methods become more sophisticated, allowing learners to take charge of their learning.

Do you have a great example of how you’ve promoted a social learning environment? Be sure to share it in the comments!