This blog is about social learning and how it can help both your staff and your organisation to grow and develop. If you work in L&D, social learning is one of those ideas that you can get behind and make it work for you. We specialise in helping organisations to make the best of learning technologies to support all types of learning. Our scalable LMS - learningCloud includes a social learning app, which makes it easier for your staff to collaborate together.
Why the focus on social learning?
Is it really new?
Training has always been about learning through social interactions and collaborative learning, this has never been more in evidence than in this 'the age of communication'. In the past, training was delivered largely and almost exclusively in a formal, teacher-student top down environment, extent), the present and the future is very much about social learning – that is - learning through a variety of communication and collaborative technologies.
So, if you are still approaching training in the way that you did even 5 years ago, perhaps the time is now to reflect upon your approach, and to help you to change for the better. Here are 10 easy to follow tips that will help you embrace the concept of social learning.
1. Assess and evaluate your current L&D approach
How do your staff collaborate together? Are there any barriers to sharing information, freely and in a variety of formats? Does knowledge reside inside the heads of just a few high performers in your organisation? These questions are important to ask as they give you a starting point to make improvements. Imagine if you could encourage all your high performing staff to share what they know on a more regular basis!
Watch our tips on social learning with Ollie Gardener of Noddlepod
2. Learn as much as you can about social learning
As an L&D professional, you will already understand that social learning is based around communication and collaborative technologies. There are many different social learning tools that you could consider. It is important to identify the right social learning tool to support your organisation. The use of social media - external tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook and more is also worth considering. Helping your staff to build a network of different types of experts can add to the richness of the knowledge available to your organisation. Does your team or organisation, overall, have its own blog? Many organisations do and it brings a lot of benefits.
3. Identify your learning goals
In an ideal world, what would more communication, collaborative and working together sharing knowledge do for your organisation? Some organisations build communities of practice to support a particular job role or function in the business. For example, all new managers could benefit from sharing and communicating together regularly. When you are new to a role, you learn a lot of lessons very quickly - or at least you have to! Imagine being able to capture this knowledge and pass it on, therefore speeding up the time to competence for managers. This is the true power of social learning.
4. Embrace the social media philosophy of individualism
Many people who are not familiar with the concept of social learning will naturally fear the uncontrollable openness which is at the very heart of it. If you are going to embrace social media channels and social learning tools for the purpose of developing your social learning model, you simply have to “let go” and accept that your role as a modern instructor is to facilitate learning by probing, rather than by dictating.
5. Re-think ownership
One thing which is for certain when it comes to social media, including social learning, is that there is no such thing as ownership. Yes, indeed you may be the learner, instructor, or whatever else you wish to call yourself, but always remember that social learning is shared learning and everyone who is involved must be allowed to have an equal role to play in proceedings!
Sharing is always good, as we are taught from an early age. It is one of life’s many valuable and important social etiquettes and it applies to everything including of course communication and training. Share links, articles, interesting information with your staff. Add value to the information by offering an opinion or how you think it could help your organisation. Content curation is a new important skill for L&D teams.
You may have noticed that a clear pattern has emerged from these top tips; almost everything in some way relates back to the concepts of collaboration, ownership and sharing. And that makes sense really because, at the end of the day these are probably the three most important words when it comes to understanding social learning and where all three are present, it is very likely that a very powerful social learning group has developed.
Start with one team. Ask them how communicating, collaborating and sharing information could help them. Always start with the business challenges first - then think about the best technology or social learning tool that could help.
8. Get feedback
Another feature of social learning is that feedback is the norm. The social media (including social learning) generation like to be heard and are never afraid to offer their opinions or contributions to groups of which they feel a sense of belonging. Do not try to hush people for fear that they may offer feedback that you don’t want to hear – the fact is, they will give their opinion so be open and upfront about accepting criticism in the same way as you would be about accepting praise. At the end of the day, feedback gives you the chance to improve too!
9. Teach and be taught
By all means always teach your learners about their role in a successful social learning environment but by the same token, do also be open to being taught by your learners. Remember that nobody has a monopoly on learning and nobody can stake a claim to the ownership of knowledge. The more that you facilitate the social learning experience, the more your learners will trust that you are on their side rather than trying to outwit them. Social learning has the power to open up all sorts of channels of communication that, for most organisations, are usually one way. Imagine for example, asking your senior leadership to share their career highlights and how they overcame challenges via a blog or other tool. Could this open up communication and encourage more learning?
10. Keep on learning!
As a learning professional whose role is to facilitate and support learning, make sure you stay in tune with what is happening in your industry. The world of social media and online interaction is constantly influx – the most difficult thing in fact is actually staying up to date with the ever- changing social landscape. However, if you commit to trying to stay ahead of the game then chances are, you will always identify the very latest innovations in social learning – and in the process, helping you to ensure that your learners stay actively enthused.
How sociable are you?
We hope you are ready to take the the social learning plunge! If you have tried to facilitate social learning before in your organisation, we'd love to hear from you. Our Learning consultants love to help. Ask questions in the comments below and we'll get back to you as soon as possible. Our scalable LMS, which includes a social learning app is worth a demo.