What is Social Learning And Why Do We Love it?

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Though the London Underground would say differently, humans are naturally social creatures. You’ve just got to look at our evolution to see it.

For thousands of years, we’ve used social learning to create, to build and most importantly, to teach. Without it, we’d still be in the Stone Age, scratching our heads and wondering when the future was arriving. 

Nowadays, social learning is big business, as corporations have taken inspiration from that natural human urge to interact. Social Learning strengthens learning communities, creates a thriving knowledge economy and ultimately saves on costly outsourcing. 

Join us as we sit around the fire and talk about the greatness of social learning.

Firstly, when did we first start harnessing it’s uses for business purposes? 

The History of Social Learning

Back in the early 20th Century, a young Russian named Lev Vygotsky was formulating his Social Cognitive Learning Theory. Like the best theories, it took far too long to catch on, but a key part of his theory is that we tend to learn best by socialising with our peers.

You might be forgiven for thinking that an online learning solution will strip away any chance of social learning, but that’s absolutely not the case with our Academy LMS! (More on that later).

The BoBo Doll Experiments

Social learning really is extremely powerful. You may be familiar with the famous ‘Bobo doll’ experiments of the 1960s. In these, Albert Bandura et al. studied the effects of social learning and imitation by monitoring the behaviour of children interacting with Bobo, a child-sized inflatable doll. One group of kids witnessed an adult model punching and kicking the doll and the other group saw them ignoring the doll, while the control group were not exposed to an adult model. When given the opportunity to play with the doll themselves, it was found that children from the ‘aggressive model’ group were statistically more likely to also behave aggressively towards the doll. This shows that the children learnt from what they saw – social learning is so powerful they didn’t have to do anything to learn the behaviour.

How does this apply to online learning, you ask? Firstly, it shows that we learn from others even without actually going through the motions ourselves. It’s the 20% of learning making its appearance once more – by observing and interacting with others, we take on new information and learn new behaviours, without the need to practise them. Though, as is clear from our other blog posts, practice does make perfect; but social learning is a superb starting point! 

Here’s our very own Juliette Denny discussing the 70/20/10 Model:

The Benefits of Social Learning

There’s a reason why nearly one and a half billion of us visit Facebook on a daily basis. We’re social animals who crave interaction with our peers. When we get that interaction, not only are we more engaged with what we’re doing, but we begin to build habits and are far more likely to repeat our actions in the future.

Sounds great! But how does this help a Learning and Development team?

One of the biggest problems you might face when running a learning management system is in convincing your learners to keep coming back! 

But as soon as you whack in some social features, your learners will be as fired up as Mount Vesuvius in AD 79!

Take our client GAME as a perfect example. Their learners are using their Academy as a real social network, and GAME is feeling the benefits.

The learners keep checking in to chat to each other and post photos of the best costumes worn to their store promotions. To put this into perspective, from April-July 2015, their 3,600 learners logged in more than 40,500 times. That’s nearly 12 logins per user!

And in case you’re worried that social activity is no good if no-one’s learning anything, over the same four months these same learners completed more than 61,000 pieces of content – 17 per learner!

That’s before you even consider the benefits brought by having a community of learners helping each other to understand and apply their knowledge. Clearly, fostering these communities is the way forward.

How We Encourage Social Learning

You can find social networks designed for businesses knocking about on the market, but if you have an LMS, you’d greatly benefit from incorporating social elements within the same virtual space.

Thankfully, our Academy LMS was built to engage learners, so it’s packed full of all the features you’ll find on your favourite social network:

  • What’s Happening? Feed – Similar to Facebook’s newsfeed, this is a stream of updates and discussions started by other learners, all of which can be liked and commented on.
  • Insight Groups – Like focused chatrooms, you create insight groups around specific topics, to keep discussions relevant to the matter at hand. As an added incentive, learners earn experience points and climb leaderboards by participating.
  • Comments under learning – Learners can rate each piece of content and leave comments underneath. This is a great way to start a discussion about it!
  • Live chat – Pop-out chat boxes let learners have discussions in real-time while they get on with work, learning, or pretending they’re not actually watching cat videos.
  • Access to experts – Learners can ask questions to subject matter experts at any point to check their understanding. The discussions are saved as FAQs for everyone’s benefit.

Final Word

Social learning is the beating heart of most modern day companies. It serves to build-up the knowledge of your colleagues until they’re superhuman. Most importantly, it creates a supportive learning community, where knowledge is exchanged for knowledge and where everybody gets on well and lives happily ever after!

Interested in reading more about what makes social learning so brilliant? You’re in luck, because we’ve got a white paper about it!

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