Social learning and your organisation

Social learning is an important part of how we learn and share our experiences. The distinction between social media and social learning is an important one to make; social media such as wikis, Twitter, LinkedIn are tools you can use to support social learning, social learning is how we learn. We look at how you can integrate social learning into your organisation’s learning culture.


Social learning takes place on a wider societal scale as well as individual and group learning. The process should demonstrate

  • individuals can show an understanding of their learning
  • knowledge learned can be applied in practice in social setting
  • learning occurs through social interaction with peers

At the heart of social learning is participation. In Social Media for Trainers, Jane Bozarth says that ‘participants are happy to engage with one another using social media tools for training purposes. They find it convenient, useful for learning at the moment of need, and it helps them develop greater sense of control over their learning’. Sharing what you’ve learnt from others or a training session is a great way to promote social learning; the benefits of sharing has a domino effect among others within the organisation.


In his report ‘Social Learning: Answers to Eight Crucial Questions,’ Ben Betts outlines three broad areas from which individual benefits

  • learning from others: the practice of observing someone performing an action then trying it for ourselves
  • learning in the presence of others: requires self-efficacy where the learner can reflect on their understanding of the skills and abilities they have
  • learning in groups: mainly refers to situated learning (on-the job or simulated learning) where you are able to learn from each other’s experiences, share best practices and lessons learned.

The key to successful social learning is to create meaningful learning experiences that are realistic as possible; for example, 70-20-10 is an excellent example of how social learning is integrated into practice. 70-20-10 creates this kind of meaningful experience as you can apply the learning almost immediately; it also provides a collaborative learning space as well as mentoring or coaching.


Social learning relies on participation; poor design, using elements of social media without thinking about who your audience is, for example may result with poor participation.

Other risks with social learning may be losing control and liability. Comments tend to be taken out of context and often go viral; organisations therefore need to require an element of trust and moderation with their employees.

Liability issues are also a big concern for organisations especially when using social media. Organisations need to think about their policies, how they communicate their best practice with their employees will help promote good practice and bypass liability issues.

Getting started

As with any new process or attempt to encourage new behaviours, getting people to interact isn’t easy nor can it be imposed (that’s a sure fire way for poor participation). Here’s a check list to consider when initiating your organisation’s social learning initiative:

  • determine your audience
  • decide what you want to achieve
  • use technologies your audience is familiar with
  • give your audience freedom to choose how they want to participate
  • identify behaviours your organisation wants to see more of and make the doing of them worthwhile
  • acknowledge your audience’s progress in their participation

Generating value

Social learning should deliver measurable value back to the organisation; understanding what your that value is will help produce the right results for your organisation. Participating in social learning doesn’t automatically guarantee value or results; it does however help create meaningful conversations about what people are learning and experiencing in their learning.

  • Create a series of tasks for the learner to work through
  • Make each task appropriate to the learner’s level of knowledge
  • Encourage reflective practice after each series of tasks; this helps reinforce and share the learning.

Social learning is not a new concept and perhaps you will find your organisation already has communities where people are already interacting, learning, and sharing with one another. The benefits are many in adopting the practice of social learning; creating meaningful on the job learning experiences will benefit both individuals and organisations.

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