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Why do some organisations still find social learning difficult?

by Susan Dumas

Today's blog is a guest post from Ollie Gardener, Co-founder and CEO of Noddlepod. You can read more about Ollie here. Noddlepod is described as a 'user-focused tool designed to provide the best possible platform for building valuable communities of practice and learning'.

Why is social learning challenging?

Ollie took a few minutes to answer our questions on why organisations find social learning a challenge and to explain how Noddlepod can support a social learning strategy.  

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1. The social learning challenge

Logicearth: We’ve been talking about ‘social learning’ for a long time now. Why are organisations finding it so difficult to make it work for them? From my experience, staff have so much opportunity to be social in their own way – through Apps, social media or just connecting to anyone from anywhere in the world. Why would they be drawn to work social learning schemes or tools?

Ollie: Well - part of the issue that a lot of people are still just talking. It is worked up to be something so big and complex - many over-think, over-talk and over-commit. Instead of trying to “implement” social learning all singing and dancing from the get-go, people should see if there are ways they can help support where it is already working well and start some small experiments to test what works in different contexts.

2. Learning, networking and collaboration

Logicearth: Is social learning really ‘learning’ - isn’t it more about networking, connection and collaborative working – maybe that is where we are going wrong by keeping these separate?

Ollie: In a world of perpetuate beta (H.Jarche) the distinction between learning and work diminishes. Thinking of learning as something different from or additional to work is certainly not helpful.

The people we are seeking to support, our learners, are often extremely busy. By introducing social learning, we shouldn’t seek to succeed despite such restraints and pressures, but because of them. Instead of adding to their workload, look for ways that better communication, collaboration and learning can help reduce those pressures. Look for areas where social learning can offer a better way to do something people have to do anyway.

It is important to define a clear and specific purpose so that learners have a strong self-interest being part of. Keep it practical and genuinely useful for the learners and they will find it easier to make the time. 

3. Role of community managers

Logicearth: We have community managers in the offline world – they have a clear role to engage local populations and encourage people to get involved. What could an online community manager help organisations with?

Ollie: I recently wrote a blog about the role of the facilitator - how L&D must be the catalyst both face-to-face and online.

There is only a subtle difference how people use the terms “community management” and “facilitation”, I simply dont believe knowledge, learning or communities can be “managed”. Facilitation has a stronger focus on making the conditions right, prompting and guiding to ultimate effect.The facilitator is ideally like a catalyst in a chemical solution, triggers new and speeding up reactions, just by working with the ingredients present.


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4. How to be a good community manager

Logicearth: What skills would an online community manager need? How can they develop them?

Ollie: Crucially, facilitation is something many trainers and L&D professionals are very good at already. Online facilitation isn't rocket science. This is about knowing how to tweak our existing skills and extending out toolkit for connecting people in meaningful and valuable ways. Despite this, or maybe exactly because of this, many find the prospect of facilitating online extremely daunting. Facilitation face-to-face can create such an intimate connection, it is hard to imagine how you could ever replicate this online.

While these concerns are very real and understanding, they are based on an assumption that the online is meant to replace the face-to-face experience. In my mind, online learning is about getting the absolute most out of the precious time we have face-to-face. It is about expanding the toolkit available to you in meeting your learner's needs. Online learning is about enriching the learning experience and increasing its impact - and it too requires facilitation.

Online facilitation is about providing the right environment, being the guide and the enabler — just like when we facilitate face to face. Naturally, there are differences between online and offline and the various tools and platforms are good for different things. But the skills and methods of the facilitator are absolutely transferrable and like most things, - the best way to learning the tweaks required is through experiments, feedback and reflection.

5. Tell us a bit more about Noddlepod

Ollie: Noddlepod is a collaborative platform that allows you to build communities of knowledge sharing and social learning. With a unique way of organising content, Noddlepod builds a knowledge database from the interactions of the community. Watch the video to learn more.



Next steps with social learning

Our clients are always asking for our advice on social learning - from simple ways to make social learning work, to what technology is good for social learning. Our next-generation LMS - learningCloud is a good place to start. But - we always advise to look at culture first before technology. 

If you'd like to speak to one of our learning consultants about social learning, get in touch

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