Article: The secret of social learning and its adoption

Learning & Development

The secret of social learning and its adoption

The impact of social learning tools and how they affect business is growing. It is no longer a question of if businesses will engage in social learning, but how and when they will adopt social learning. 
The secret of social learning and its adoption

Traditionally, organizations have wrestled with how to define social learning. Social learning can be classified as: “Any type of learning where a person learns vicariously through the observations of, or interactions with, others.” 

Social learning technology should enable this definition of social learning and what is now called the Seven Cs.

Seven Cs of social technologies:

  • Content - in the forms of knowledge-based assets, experiences and expertise – this is where it all starts.

  • Consumption - of content, as in usable, reference-able, searchable, tag-able and reusable.

  • Contribution - of content that can and should be user-generated.

  • Conversation - about content – it’s what makes it socially relevant to the business.

  • Collaboration - with others over content – it is goal oriented and how we get things done socially.

  • Connections - made with others regarding content. In competitive business, it’s not just what you know, but who you know. Once connections are made, vicarious reinforcement follows.

  • Control - this is the most important and relevant “C” enterprises are dealing with today. Social learning technologies should enable customers to govern the continuum of openness and control as it applies to their business.

Social technologies should enable providers and users to navigate the Seven Cs while remaining meaningful to the workflow of the business. In order to help members to embrace social learning platforms, organizations need to create spaces for experimentation. They need to define or create a time-limited framework in order to identify what things work enabling Seven Cs.

Adoption still on the rise

Despite the turbulence of the global economy, Forrester Research predicts that the market for enterprise social collaboration software will grow strongly in the coming years and eclipse demand for more traditional communications and collaboration products.1

Forrester says companies will increase spending on enterprise social collaboration software at a compound annual growth rate of 61 percent through 2016, when the market will reach $6.4 billion, compared with $600 million in 2010.

With respect to who is using social, market trends and data indicate that large businesses and the technology and business service segments are making the most use of social learning, while small business is the fastest growing segment. Still, across the board and regardless of size or industry, the use and adoption of social learning technologies continues to grow and more companies are recognizing the value that they can bring to the business.

In order to compete effectively in a global economy, more organizations are recognizing the need to adapt and innovate as open cultures. More are adopting social technologies that enable conversation, connectivity, collaboration, consumption and contribution of content - within and between their employees, partners, customers and prospects.

Organizations need to enable their customers while allowing them to govern openness and control as it applies to their business.

Competitive challenge 

Today’s customers of e-learning and social technologies are demanding more for their users, operations and business. These demands include the ability to customize the look, feel and functions of their learning management systems. Web technologies that began just a few years ago with Web 2.0 on the Internet and Enterprise 2.0 in business environments continue to advance rapidly to meet these needs. Widgets and social Web applications have become almost mandatory for a successful e-learning platform. New software to make learning more engaging and customizable includes mobile access, online conferencing and information sharing, structured competition and gamification. 

At a business level, three challenges continue to bubble to the surface— governance, adoption and culture: 

  1. Governance: Organizations are concerned with protecting their intellectual property, image and brand. Social learning technologies can resolve this by employing policies that make sense for the business while, at a technology level, providing the enterprise with that last “C” – control.

  2. Adoption: Social business technologies need to emulate the best of consumer based social networking applications. Think about Twitter, Digg and Facebook. These tools solve the problems of rating, review, commenting, real-time updates and all the Seven Cs with simple functionality and simple interface designs.

  3. Corporate Culture: Some organizations are open cultures—conducive to information sharing and collaboration. Others are more closed cultures and need more time to adapt; but it’s important to acknowledge, most businesses recognize the impact of social learning technologies and the power they bring to the enterprise. 

These mission critical needs present an opportunity for organizations and their customers. Organizations must recognize that social learning technologies need to add value to the workflow and how it relates to the business context. At the same time, the ability to contribute, consume and collaboratively interact upon content should be easy to access, use and administer for employee development and the extended enterprise.

This is an exciting time for learning technology. Critical workforce needs and advances in technology mean that learning professionals are at the forefront of the most important talent challenges. With the right technology, you can know that you are up to the task and ready to deliver.


1. Perez, Juan Carlos. Forrester: Enterprise Social Software to Become a $6.4 Billion Market in 2016. IDG News Service. 


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Topics: Learning & Development, #Social Media

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