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social learning

… how we behave, respond and contribute on the platforms, our status updates, sharing, contributions and writing all infl uence our reputation, so think about how you want to be seen and act in ways consistent with that.


n Participating in a group discussion on how to solve a diffi cult work problem, sharing ideas, and commenting on the suggestions of others – that’s collaboration via social learning. And while these are not new approaches to work, social learning tools have given us new ways to collaborate on a different scale.

Social learning is ingrained in the learning models that underpin most formal blended learning programmes. For example, Kolb’s Learning Cycle has a strong social element in the guise of ‘refl ective observation’ (see chart).

Opportunities for social learning also percolate through the fi ve moments of learning need: 1. When people are learning how to do something for the fi rst time (New); 2. When people are expanding the breadth and depth of what they have learned (More);

3. When they need to act upon what they have learned, which includes planning what they will do, remembering what they may have forgotten, or adapting their performance to a unique situation (Apply);

4. When problems arise, or things break or don’t work the way they were intended (Solve); and,

5. When people need to learn a new way of doing something, which requires them to change skills that are deeply ingrained in their performance practices (Change). Whatever learning models you subscribe to, the truth is that we very rarely learn about something in isolation. We may learn the facts and even the skill but as we practice feedback, reinforcement and further sharing of expertise from others will help us to reach ‘mastery’ of something. That’s very much the proving ground for social learning.

…so can you control it? A common question from L&D communities is how can I control this social learning? In truth, you can’t. Learners create their own relationships and meaning using social tools. We know of one organisation in which learners created their own Facebook group as an offshoot from the company’s onboarding programme. They didn’t ask for permission, L&D didn’t facilitate it, nobody managed it. So to bring social learning into your organisation, you need to fi rst recognise

that it sits outside of direct organisational control. Our role is more to create the environment, opportunities and tools to enable it to fl ourish, and to model good practice.

So what are the four habits of highly social learners? To help you step into the social fl ow, and model good practice, here are four social learning habits you should form – and how social learning tools can help you keep them.


(planning/trying out what you have learned)

Abstract Conceptualisation

(concluding/learning from the experience)

Concrete Experience

(doing/having an experience)

Refl ective Observation (reviewing/

refl ecting on the experience)

n Habit 1: Share your ideas It’s called ‘social’ because it’s all about communities: different communities that inhabit different spaces. If you sit in an offi ce, that’s one type of community; a physically located one, united by shared space and a shared coffee machine. If you work in a particular function, like marketing, that’s a different community. You may share a physical space, or maybe you are connected online, through email groups or shared projects. Indeed, teams that work on a project form another type of community: this one more transient. Social tools let you share ideas: you can post updates, share your stories. But you don’t just want to be part of the noise. You share for a reason. You want to share stories that are relevant to specifi c communities or, indeed, specifi c people within a community.

Social tools enable you to share your ideas: ideas for how to do a project better, ideas for strategy, ideas for where to go for lunch, but you need to ensure that it’s the right story in the right space.

So think about the communities you inhabit: think about what adds value to you

in what people say and what’s just noise in the system. Then share ideas that add value.

n Habit 2: Build your reputation We all have a reputation: it’s based on our actions, over time. Maybe you’re generous. Maybe you try to keep the peace. Maybe people turn to you for your expertise in a particular subject or with a particular piece of software. Maybe they turn to you to organise the social calendar or when they are upset. Reputation is a function of our actions, but it’s also

Learning is about change, and working out loud is about sharing your story of change over time … It’s about refl ecting, pondering, making decisions and sharing consequences.

e.learning age april 2015 13

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