For years, learning programs have relied on an element of social interaction. Learning on one’s own can only go so far. More and more, social demands on your program are creeping in and creating a more well-rounded environment.
It’s hard to remember the learning world without the social component as we now know it; it’s so deeply embedded in most programs. But why does it work? To answer this question, we must first define social learning.
Social learning is the sharing of information and knowledge among peers via interactive discussions and computer-based methods. Such methods include blogs, instant messaging, group discussion boards, wikis, video chats and other social media applications.
So what are some of the benefits of social learning?
Peers Teaching Peers
The most powerful element of social learning is that it comes directly from the minds of the people that do an activity the most. People who have been in the organization for the longest period of time have methods for approaching certain projects, whereas newer staff members often view the same project from a completely different light. Sometimes the previously established process is the most effective way, and sometimes the newer, experimental process is more effective. That’s why senior employees can benefit as much from this practice as young personnel.
The benefits of peer teaching include trust building, enhanced employee cooperation and increased collaboration, which broadens the knowledge base of the entire workforce. In a technologically enabled social learning environment, social learning can lead to the establishment of organization-wide wikis; intensive process- and function-related conversations in discussion boards and video chats; focused, productive encouragement; and information sharing across social networks.
Continuation of Learning Beyond the Coursework
Social learning can be a natural way to extend the lessons of a blended learning course. Much like watching a movie, experiencing a learning object elicits a strong response. When people share these experiences, they want to discuss them. This discussion is quickly achieved via social networking and is a powerful way to identify how learning efforts are working within an organization.
When students are in a socially enabled environment, there is a greater chance that if they do not understand something, they will reach out for the support of their peers. A sharing culture can work wonders in overcoming shortcomings within department knowledge pools.
Taking on Pseudo-Instructor Roles
Grooming individuals for managerial roles? Why not allow them to establish their expertise naturally? Exhibiting a working knowledge of processes is a giant step forward for an employee. However, it’s not the only way to get the most out of social learning. The process goes both ways: If members of the organization are not comfortable taking on these pseudo-instructor roles, they can take on passive learning personas as well.
Social learning takes the pressure off of senior learning personnel and allows them to delegate responsibility. When your employees feel that they are contributing, they become more involved in their roles. This engagement creates an environment where organizational members’ production will increase at a noticeable rate of growth.
Focus on Impactful Objectives
The projects that have the highest priority within the social learning environment are those that are top-of-mind for the people who are directly impacted by the training, adapting to the changing needs of the organization. In order to make the training more impactful, pair learning objectives with current popular events, creating an environment for learning retention. Social learning is a unique opportunity to quickly develop skills and establish approved lean processes for issues as they crop up.
Social learning bridges the gap between your blended learning offerings and allows the professionals within your organization to work together to achieve even greater results. When peers train peers and willingly accept the role of both passive learner and training professional, they establish a greater good. Not only will a successful program teach colleagues how to work together and utilize all of their strengths, but it will also improve their processes and shape them into more productive members of the organization.
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