First, let’s discuss what social learning is and isn’t. With the popularity of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, it is easy to intertwine social learning with social media. Social learning is not a new concept, and in fact, it has been around since the 1960s when psychologist Albert Bandura first introduced the idea of observational learning. In essence, it is learning that happens outside of the formal structure of a classroom and thus centers around sharing, collaboration, and co-creation. We learn every day in our daily lives from the people we meet and the experiences we have—it doesn’t have a start and stop point, but ever evolving.
Social media on the other hand are the tools that help facilitate social learning. We can now upload tutorial videos on YouTube or a presentation on Slideshare. This “new” way of learning represents a fundamental shift in how people work – allowing them to learn non-stop, from every nook of the organization and every corner of the globe.
Let’s take a closer look at Bandura’s social learning theory — one that is perhaps the most influential theory of learning and development.
1. People can learn through observation. The most famous example of this is the Bobo doll experiment where children observed an adult acting violently toward the doll. Later, when they were allowed to play with the doll, they began to mimic the aggressive behavior they observed earlier.
2. Mental states are important to learning. Bandera believed that external, environmental reinforcement was not the only factor that influenced learning and behavior. Intrinsic reinforcement as a form of internal reward, such as pride, satisfaction, and a sense of accomplishment were a key component.
3. Learning doesn’t necessarily lead to a changed behavior. While behaviorists believed that learning led to a permanent change in behavior, observational learning demonstrates that people can learn new information without demonstrating new behaviors.
There are a variety of factors involved that contribute to whether or not social learning is successful.
Now that we have a solid understanding of social learning theory, let’s dive into some of the keys pros and cons of the theory.
There is a reason that social learning has taken a hold on the learning and development community. Some ways it has been implemented include trainers engaging with employees via a blog or coworkers using internal social networks or wikis to share their thoughts, ideas, and best practices.
As you can see, there are risks and benefits associated with social learning, as with all things. However, there is no denying that there is a huge shift in the learning space and many feel that utilizing multiple training methods, including social learning, is the key to survival in today’s shifting business climate.
More and more boomers are retiring every day, leaving companies with a big skills gap problem. So, appealing to Millennials and Gen Z will be important.
Administrators responsible for recruiting, managing, and developing employees should be thinking about how to adapt to this generation and how they like to learn, how they use technology, and their preferred means of communication. This will be essential in creating training curriculum and development programs.
Shifting toward learner-centric training is a wise move and takes into account their needs, versus just the company's. This includes social learning, mobile, on-the-job training and mentoring, micro-learning and virtual reality (VR) to name a few.
There will always be a need for formal and informal training in the workplace. But, the key is to optimize a perfect blend of the two in order to achieve your training and development goals.
If you’re ready to begin adding social features into your training plan, look no further than SharePoint. This is an often overlooked tool that is a part of your Microsoft Office suite and offers many new characteristics that compliment informal learning methods and enterprise social networks.
Properly applied, SharePoint enhances corporate learning and development and makes the learning professional’s many tasks much lighter and the learner’s success far more likely.
Some of the useful social features include personal My Site pages, micro-blogging, community sites and discussion forums. Many of these features also have a strong influence from other top social networks – i.e. hash tags, social tagging, and newsfeeds.
Read our free white paper to learn more about social learning in SharePoint.