Social learning has been around for a few years now and essentially came about from the realisation that social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram could be a winning formula within a learning environment. This realisation, if nothing else, was a way to fill the void that was “how do we capture informal learning?”
LMS vendors have found varying ways to implement social learning into their platforms. Purely “gamified” platforms, subtle inferences to social learning and replication of how social media tools operate.
But how does social learning work within the context of an LMS?
It is probably worth first of all looking at what the definition of social learning actually is. A quick search on Wikipedia tells us the following:
Social learning is learning that takes place at a wider scale than individual or group learning, up to a societal scale, through social interaction between peers.
Therefore, in the context of an LMS, it means learning that is not part of an eLearning course or possibly even a face to face class. Now you can argue that all face to face classes are in fact social learning, but this is still structured, formal learning and therefore sits outside of the realm social learning.
Social learning within an LMS works by allowing learners to share information, knowledge, tips and more with each other by means of all kinds of media (text, image, video, documents, links) in the easiest way possible. Making this information easy to share and be found is the key to making social learning work in it’s simplest form. Think about how easy it is to share a piece of information with your Twitter followers, or how quickly you can make a photo or video viewable on Instagram. Now think about how great it would be to allow your employees to share knowledge and information with each other this quickly. The possibilities all of a sudden become massive.
Not only do you allow learners to upload information into an activity feed, but you make this information part of your learning content catalogue…searchable by all users of the LMS to be able to launch and view and digest that content. You now have an army of content authors contributing to your library of knowledge.
What is in it for people to contribute their knowledge into an LMS?
Most social learning is a cognitive process that takes place is a social setting. However, in addition to this, learning can also occur through a process known as vicarious reinforcement. Vicarious reinforcement is our tendency to repeat or duplicate behaviors for which others are being rewarded. It is this process of vicarious reinforcement that drives people to share knowledge. Seeing other learner’s content being viewed and shared by their peers is sometimes enough to drive someone else to become a contributor. It’s the “I want some of that” factor.
However, most of us like to see some sort of tangible reward for our efforts. This is where the element of gamification comes into the social learning arena. The notion of badges, points and leaderboards conjures up our competitive juices and we suddenly become engrossed in a game to become the best knowledge sharer out there!
You can then take the leaderboard concept further and introduce monthly rewards for the top learning contributor like vouchers or extra holiday…the proverbial dangling carrot.
What is the benefit of introducing social learning into my LMS?
Adding social learning within an LMS can bring a plethora of benefits. Not only are you engaging your learning audience more with new, modern features (similar to those they use on a daily basis outside of work), you are putting trust in your employees to share their wisdom and experiences with their peers. Trust is a big thing and is welcomed by most employees.
Furthermore, you are centralising all of your locked away knowledge into an easily accessible learning platform, where all employees can benefit from that shared information. It is a valuable way for peers to problem solve and learn from each other.
To wrap it up
Social learning is here and it is not going away. The time to embrace it is now. If it is not something that you have it your current LMS then it should be. Your learners will be asking for it soon enough. Don’t me me wrong, there is still a place for formal, structured learning and there always will be, but going social should be on your agenda.
Whether yours is a large, medium or small organisation, social learning has a place to foster collaborative learning. Use it to empower your learners and harness all of that knowledge that they carry around in their heads!