“Social” seems to be the word of the year with Social Media, Social Marketing and Social Learning bursting from headlines, tweets, emails and whitepapers. We’re told that Social Learning is the future and we must adapt or be left-behind. But what does Social really mean in a learning context and what can L&D professionals expect from Social Learning efforts?
What is Social Learning and Why Should We Care?
1) Collaboration and sharing are the heart of successful social learning programs. Traditional training programs focus on one-way communication from a trainer to a group of learners in a formal setting. Even the most creative participatory elements tend to feel forced and anything but organic. Social learning helps capture the natural, informal learning processes that inevitably take place when two or more individuals work together to accomplish shared goals.
Imagine the benefits of having direct, personal access to every employee in your company at any time, and you will begin to understand the power of social learning. Software developers on opposite sides of the world can instantly share work while communicating face-to-face, while sales teams can ensure that all team members have access to continuously updated competitive information from a central source. Managers can walk subordinates through complicated tasks while they travel, while customer-support representatives can collaboratively troubleshoot customer issues with geographically distant experts.
2) Social Learning enhances knowledge retention. We’ve all seen studies showing how quickly people forget what they learn in traditional training when they don’t have the opportunity for applying the new concepts. Social Learning programs’ focus on continuous learning can provide a major boost to retention. Social Learning programs provide platforms from which to encourage a continuous stream of engagement with recently learned topics, allowing participants to exercise new knowledge for extended periods of time and get real-time feedback from peers when they need help.
3) Technology actually helps with Social Learning. Many early attempts at computer learning simply tried to virtually recreate the classroom experience. But’s today’s collaborative tools do more than recreate, they unleash learning. Think about how discussion threads, instant messaging, interactive polling, on-demand video and real-time conferencing can enable your learning objectives
4) Learning is now mobile. Technology tracking firm ComScore reports that more than 100 million Americans had smartphones as of January 2012. This gives savvy organizations untethered ways to reach their employees – and customers – with learning-driven content.
5) Your learners are already using social media, so embrace rather than fight it. Your learners want to learn. When done properly, your learners both benefit from Social Learning and appreciate their organization for supporting social business practices. Companies have found value in setting up internal social networks for their employees, for example, which can be used to broadcast technical knowledge, bring people together to solve complex problems and allow co-workers to act as informal coaches without the time investment required of traditional coaching strategies.
6) Content is still king. In a world where thousands – or millions – of sources are just a click away, your ability to make accurate and appropriate content readily available is crucial. Don’t just put your traditional training online, rather think about what resources will make the biggest difference and start there. If you don’t know, ask your employees what they want. And don’t think in terms of version 1, 2, 3, etc. Your Social Learning content will change daily as your learners collaborate and enhance what you provide.
Social Learning Content Case Study
Consider how TRACOM offers content for use in Social Learning. Traditional SOCIAL STYLE classroom training has existed for decades, with online versions for more than 10 years. But now working with clients, TRACOM offers a wide-range of flexible content including:
- Style Tip of the Day via web or RSS
- Mobile applications to determine a person’s Style and get interaction advice
- On-demand videos
- Research whitepapers and presentations
- International and cultural resources
- Online social media forums for learners and instructors
With these Social Learning tools, many organizations have embedded SOCIAL STYLE into their culture and reinforce the application of Style concepts. Download TRACOM’s Social Learning Resource Guide here.
7) Finally, Social Learning is NOT NEW. One of the more powerful advantages of social-learning technology is that, unlike numerous technology-driven trends, social-learning technology does not require people to develop new habits, engage in new behavior or change the way in which they interact with others. Rather, social-learning platforms work around and enhance the ways in which people already interact with each other. This key element ensures that Social Learning is not a fad, but will instead take deep root inside the workforce-development industry, empowering organizations to develop more effective and modern solutions to traditional training needs.