By Laurie Schellenberger
- How can I add more social media to training in my organization?
- How can I get my supervisors to support this method of learning?
- Do we have the tools and employee attitudes to effectively implement social learning in our workplace?
Whether or not this topic has come up for you and your team, you need to start educating yourself on the “Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How” of social learning.
What is social learning?
When we refer to social learning in today’s learning environments, we usually mean how we use social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, blogs and wikis for delivery of knowledge to learners.
However, social learning is not a new phenomenon; it actually dates back to the Social Learning Theory studies of Albert Bandura in the early 1960’s and is further rooted in the behaviorist studies of B. F. Skinner. Bandura’s studies are focused on observational learning, for which he developed three models:
- A Live Model, which includes an actual person performing a behavior;
- A Verbal Instruction Model, which involves telling of details and descriptions of a behavior; and
- A Symbolic Model, which includes either a real or fictional character demonstrating the behavior via movies, books, television, radio, online media and other media sources.
Social learning occurs when people participate in social networking activities to exchange information. Using social media networking as one method for teaching can be a successful means for continuous improvement for your organization, and serve as part of a strong and multifaceted learning plan.
Next, you need to think about a more formal strategy to support your social learning plan and gain support from organization’s leadership. According to Aaron Silvers in the January 2012 issue of T & D Magazine, there are many ways to design a learning strategy by using social media. He discusses establishing critical success factors:
- Measure the impact of knowledge sharing on performance
- Examine business performance
- Use knowledge sharing to improve the company’s relevance to customers
- Enable people to collaborate
- Provide structured mechanisms for people to share what they know
- Integrate learning and development activities with learning that takes place outside of learning and development
Allowing discussion to take place between you and your supervisors to prioritize these success factors will help achieve leadership’s buy-in to your plan.
Understanding what social learning is and how to set strategies are two important factors to adding social media to your learning toolbox. It’s vital to understand the culture of your organization and how your employees use computers and other electronic devices in their work. Does your company allow employees to link to organizational intranets through the personal devices, or will you need to use the internet to house your learning via social media? An additional consideration is the level of employee competency and comfort with using social media. If your workforce is relatively young, this may be a great way to engage them in learning. On the other hand, if your workforce consists of more seasoned workers, they may generally not be as comfortable using this delivery method and it may take some getting used to. These are important factors in determining whether this is a viable delivery method for your organization.
Learning and development trends indicate that knowledge delivery in most environments is moving towards on-demand, flexible, quick and specific topics, rather than face-to-face workshops that last days or weeks. While all types of delivery have a time and place, it’s critical to assess your needs and determine whether social learning and social media delivery should become a part of your training strategy.
If you have introduced learning via social media to your organization:
- What types of courses have you offered in this format?
- What challenges did you have to overcome to achieve approval?
- What feedback did you receive from learners?
Silvers, A. (2012, January). The Blueprint for Social Learning. T & D Magazine, 34-39.
Sincero, S. M. (2011). Social Learning Theory. Retrieved March 30, 2012, from Experiment-Resources.com: http://www.experiment-resources.com/social-learning-theory.html