Social learning is not a new concept. Albert Bandura, a social learning theorist, noted that learning is a process that takes place in a social context and can occur purely through observation or direct instruction. In the digital age, social learning is taking on a new flavor. With a variety of unique learning methods that are fast becoming mainstream – right from micro-learning, e-learning, gamification, just-in-time learning, social learning technologies are booming.
Among the myriad social learning technology tools that are available in the marketplace, organizations choose technology tools based on the learning culture to meet the employees’ needs.
But how do you make them work?
The 7 Cs are a great starting point to make an informed decision.
- Content: Organizations must create and curate the right content in the form of knowledge-based assets, experiences, and expertise. Social learning is all about curating resources that are relevant to the audience.
- Consumption: It is also critical to pay attention to how information is consumed. The content must be usable, searchable, and accessible to reference and reuse.
- Contribution: Active participation is fundamental to social learning. Finding ways to support user-generated content plays a crucial role in the success of the learning initiative. HR and business managers must encourage employees to share their learning on an ongoing basis.
- Conversation: When employees are encouraged to talk about their work and discuss ideas freely, learning is effective. Conversing about content also makes the key takeaways relevant to the context of the business.
- Collaboration: Collaboration is at the heart of social learning. It not only helps frame better ideas, but it also helps foster a culture of teamwork.
- Connections: Connections to generate content, share ideas, dispel information- these go a long way in competing in business.
- Control: Organizations often forget to exert the necessary oversight to ensure the learning quality and effectiveness. Social learning tools should enable customers to govern the continuum of openness and control as it applies to their business.
How to apply the 7 Cs for Social Media Learning
Every organization is different. And so ‘the 7 Cs’ will need to be contextualized to your company’s social learning strategy. Here are some concrete steps that you can take:
- Create communities of practice (common interest) or communities of purpose (common goals) to foster ‘on-the-job’ social learning.
- Provide platforms and opportunities to initiate on-demand; real-time discussions centered on learning with experts. This will enable people to connect, create content and actively learn. This includes using wikis, blogs, discussion forums and encouraging people to rate, review and comment on courses.
- Enable real-time crowdsourcing for content such as YouTube videos, images, etc. to encourage users to contribute content.
- The learning environment must bring together coaches, peers and instructors to interact, share knowledge, or teach each other. Encourage conversation by conducting focus groups and soliciting feedback on products, services, and courseware.
- Design learning platforms and channels to provide “learning recommendations” based on “most taken,” “most highly rated” or other user-based ratings. This will help build a connection and help initiate conversations around learning.
Companies are recognizing the value that social learning brings to business; however, challenges do exist. L&D must work out policies to exert good governance and control in an increasingly social and democratized environment. Wide-scale adoption is possible only when workplace social learning tools emulate the convenience and simplicity of consumer-based social networking applications such as Twitter or Facebook. It is essential to ingrain a “social” culture- one that embodies values such as openness, transparency, connectivity, communication, and collaboration.