Think back to kindergarten. How often did you observe how your peers stacked blocks or completed an art project and then tried to do it the same way? Forming knowledge by watching others is social learning in its most basic form.
Social learning is:
These different forms of learning can happen in person or online.
At Intellum, we believe that organizational education strategies must include opportunities to socialize, collaborate, and connect. Why? Because community engagement elicits behavior change and improves learner outcomes.
Continue reading to learn about:
People, including psychologists Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky, have talked about social and collaborative learning concepts since the early 1900s. However, the discussion related solely to in-person, in-classroom learning back then.
The term “social learning theory” was coined by psychologist Albert Bandura in 1977. Social learning theory posits that people learn by observing others. There is also an element of behavior change involved; social learning may lead to behavior change. For example, if a person repeatedly observes a peer using negotiation skills to get what they want, they may adopt similar behavior.
Researchers found that people acquire knowledge through collaboration with peers, teachers, or other experts. Real-time performance feedback plays a vital role in collaborative learning as it promotes behavior change.
The theory of Connectivism, published by George Siemens in 2004, emphasizes learning as a collaborative process. Siemens wrote that “Knowledge that resides in a database needs to be connected with the right people in the right context in order to be classified as learning.”
Over time, educational institutions adopted community-based learning strategies to enrich the learning experience. For example, students might visit a historical figure’s childhood home and then return to the classroom for structured reflection and learning activities that tie the in-community experience to academic course objectives.
Initially, community meant the physical community where learners lived. But, the concept of community has grown to include online communities, which further enrich learning by allowing for a wider diversity of experience and thought.
Today, technology that enables virtual social and collaborative learning—plus community engagement—is now at the forefront of the conversation in schools and the workplace.
After quarantine and isolation, people desperately crave human-to-human interactions. However, not everyone has gone back to the office. Many interactions that used to happen in person now occur online—exacerbating the disconnect.
Research shows that social connectedness is essential to employee well-being and overall workplace happiness. Therefore, companies need to support their employees as humans while keeping them productive. Social and collaborative learning within a community environment is powerful in accomplishing both—and it’s much more dynamic than learning alone.
Glint data shows that people chose “opportunities to learn and grow” as the No. 1 driver of positive work culture.
Innovative companies realize that they can build a learning culture and see improved learner outcomes by rallying the troops around a shared mission.
The mission can be the company mission—or, on a smaller scale, a formalized employee training where a small group trains as a cohort and completes a project together.
Online communities stimulate learning and improve workplace culture, but the benefits don’t stop there. Online community-based learning:
Ideally, you would build your employee, partner, or customer education strategy from the ground up with social and collaborative learning in mind; it shouldn’t be an add-on or an after-thought.
However, many education leaders inherit an existing education strategy that doesn’t include a human element. In this case, you would be improving the current education program using technology that enables online community-based learning.
Adoption will vary person to person when implementing any new technology (such as the Intellum Organizational Education Platform).
According to Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation Model, people fall into five categories: Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority, & Laggards. Innovators, Early Adopters, and Early Majority can adjust to technology changes quickly, but Late Majority and Laggards are less amenable to change.
Some industries will have more employee Innovators and Early Adopters (a technology startup, for example). Other industries will have more employee Laggards (academia, for example).
Let’s pretend you work in academia or have a customer base that doesn’t keep up with new technology. When it comes to using new software, Laggards don’t know how, don’t like it, and don’t understand why the change is necessary.
There are various ways to aid in the change/adoption process:
Let’s pretend you work at a technology startup or have a highly-technical customer base. When rolling out a new organizational education platform or other online community-based learning tools, you don’t need to teach people basic things like “how to leave a comment in a community forum.” Therefore, you won’t need to create as much support content.
Research suggests that companies should include employees in the community (i.e., community managers and moderators). Based on social constructivism, employee involvement leads to an increased connection to the organization and identification with the community. Additionally, employee involvement can help ensure information is accurate.
But not everyone can be a manager or moderator. You can allow the larger employee base to have a say in the implementation via observations, trial periods, and sandbox environments.
For best results, learning must happen inline; users should not jump between tools, apps, or windows.
Here are three reasons why learning must happen inline:
The Intellum platform was purpose-built to support inline social, collaborative, and community-based learning for employees, customers, and partners. It’s a single destination for accessing live and on-demand content plus interacting with others.
As we mentioned at the start of this article, community-based learning blends social learning (observation/instruction), collaborative learning (group work), and community engagement. Therefore, your organizational education strategy should include a mix of the following content and experiences (in addition to traditional learning content such as courses, quizzes, and other assessments):
Social learning is about observation, and you should offer on-demand content and instruction that users can consume independently and asynchronously.
Live online events might feature learning through independent observation—but they can also be collaborative experiences where people learn through group work.
Gamification helps users build their online reputation, increasing motivation and posting within the community.
As we mentioned earlier, people crave belonging within a group. Learning professionals can create belonging—and a sense of community—for learners using technology.
Like creating a sense of belonging among learners, you can use a social tool as part of your organizational education strategy to drive human connection and engagement.
Learning alone provides the benefit of learning at your own pace. Then, of course, you can take as much time as you need or re-watch a training video if you need to. But while independent “social learning” is an integral part of any organizational education strategy, it’s only one component.
Organizational education strategies must also allow users to work collaboratively and learn with others. Various studies show learning outcome improvements among programs that integrate social components (e.g., a community, discussion posts, etc.). For example, segment learners into cohorts, build a community around a common mission or provide time for group work.
In reality, one benefits the other.
When learners have extra time to absorb the information on their own, they can come to their group and lift others up by sharing their understanding. And then, others can impart knowledge to the individual, which they can use as part of their lexicon when making sense of future information.