A few years ago we were all jumping on the social learning bandwagon because it was the next ‘big thing’ in training. Some companies jumped in head first while others dipped their toes cautiously before adding social into their training programs. Regardless where you fall on the spectrum, it’s safe to say that social learning is here to stay. Now, if you’re still on the fence about social, this blog will give you more insight about what it is, how it effects your business and what top social learning LMS features you should consider.
For older generations, working independently was a praised quality in an employee. But, this is not so much the case these days, especially with the increasing number of Millennials in the workplace. Learning as part of a team is highly valued and for good reason. Just as Aristotle said, ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.’ In other words, when individual parts are connected together to form one entity, they are worth more than if the parts were in silos.
With that said, employees that learn and work together will have a profound impact on your productivity, employee morale, increased engagement and more.
For some, when they hear the word ‘social’ they automatically think about various social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. Social learning isn’t social media. Social media is a tool used to enable social learning.
In its most basic form, social learning is the idea that humans learn better through each other rather than being talked to via a traditional classroom-style program. Learning socially could mean a variety of things from discussion boards to group projects.
Social learning happens outside the formal structure of a classroom and thus centers around sharing, collaboration and co-creation.
The great thing about utilizing social learning in the workplace is that it encourages continuous learning - this is a huge shift from learning in the past.
Social learning seems like a fairly new concept but in actuality it has been around since the 1970s when psychologist Albert Bandura theorized about social cognitive learning and what has been perhaps the most influential theory of learning and development.
THE THREE CORE CONCEPTS OF SOCIAL LEARNING
There are, of course, certain things that need to happen in order for social learning to be a success. This includes,
Social learning wouldn’t be a ‘thing’ in the training space if it didn’t have some significant benefits to your business.
The goal of any training program is to increase the skill level of your employees to help them be more productive which ultimately increases your bottom line.
Reduced training costs is a major benefit to your business. Traditional training is very time intensive and costly. Wouldn’t it be great to create a continuous learning environment that would keep your employees out of the classroom and in the workplace? Social learning enables this and even improves learning retention!
Increased productivity and efficiency is another wonderful side effect of social learning. This culture of continuous learning can only be beneficial to your business.
Another area that sees positive gains is in employee engagement. We know that it costs a bunch of money to hire and train new employees and the importance of retaining top talent. Millennials espeicially value engagement which helps them feel fulfilled in their profession.
Social functionality has become integral to LMS solutions for extended enterprise, ecommerce and (to a lesser degree) employee LMS solutions. These social LMS features serve many strategic business functions including:
More importantly, people can leverage all the social behaviors they apply elsewhere to the process of learning.
These days, most people are accustomed to social media and the conventions associated with profiles, friends, posts, liking and sharing. But what social tools are most valued in today’s learning management systems (LMS)?
A study of various LMS vendors gave their insights into what prospective customers want in social features, including newsfeed, question and answer, user generated content, ability to share content, follow content threads, chat and file sharing.
Technically, social learning features were built into learning management systems long before social media was invented. And, until recently, were underutilized. SharePoint, for instance, has been a training tool for quite some time and unbeknownst to learning managers, is ripe for social learning.
If you’re the one in two organizations currently using SharePoint, you’ll find that it houses what is considered to be the top social learning LMS features every organization should have. Let’s take a closer look at these social learning features:
Utilizing a SharePoint intranet allows your employees to have one central place to learn about company news and the latest goings on. Communication sites just rolled out recently as well for Office365 users. A SharePoint communication site is a great place to share information with others. You can share news, reports, statuses, and other information in a visually compelling format.
In addition, there are a variety of social means within the SharePoint intranet such as Team Sites, MySites, and Community Sites. They all serve a unique purpose for social learning.
For the broader group, there are community sites which act like a forum. Anyone within your business can ask a question or give an opinion to start a discussion in the community where others can like or comment. The person who started the thread can even mark the ‘best reply’ as well as make it a featured discussion.
There is also an element of gamification in community sites with the badges feature. Badges can be assigned to members to indicate their status in the community, i.e. subject expert.
Narrowing it down a little further are team sites. Team sites are for smaller, focused projects. One way that trainers use this feature is by creating a team site that is tied to their classroom. After in-classroom or online training, peers can visit the team site to discuss what they learned, work jointly on content, assign tasks and utilize a calendar. Everybody within the group can also turn on notifications when anything new is added.
All content stored in SharePoint is also trackable with an advanced metadata tagging feature. So regardless of where you are within SharePoint you will be able to find the content you need.
MySites are the most narrowed down social feature. They are essentially a personal profile page on SharePoint where you can manage and store your documents, content, links, and contacts. Fellow employees can friend you and follow your newsfeed as well as make comments. My Site is a way for other users to learn about you and your areas of expertise, current projects, and colleague relationships. In addition, it is also a place for content providers to target information to you based on the information that you and your organization provide in your profile, such as your title, department, and interests.