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Social Learning – Why We Learn Best With And From Others

Natalie Ediger, December 19, 2018· Digital Learning

Social learning is about learning together – through social interaction. This leads to an active learning process with interacting learners. And that ultimately means that the knowledge remains for a long time to come.

Social learning can take the form of coaching, but it can also involve exchanges in communities. And yes, social media naturally offers us completely new opportunities to do just that. Observational learning is also part of social learning. It’s certainly already happened to you, for example if you don’t make any progress on a job, you ask your colleagues for help – learning from each other and with each other, that is.

Digitalization in Social Learning – Brake or Chance?

Digitalization plays into the hands of the whole, because the possibilities are manifold. In the beginning it was rather limited, but today we can exchange information via countless channels and in many different ways. Skype, blog articles, Facebook, comment features and the ability to share content with your friends are just a few of them.

This can create communities where people can share more and more knowledge and become experts themselves. Such communities often emerge quite naturally, especially on social media. Those filter themselves out who prefer to consume and absorb the knowledge of others. On the other hand, there are those who prefer to pass on their knowledge. Basically, it’s very similar to the real world. Even a moderator crystallises out, even if not chosen at the beginning, sooner or later someone (or several!) has taken over this role.

Advantages of Social Learning

Newly acquired knowledge, whether from classical further training courses or based on the training of a new employee, can be conveniently carried into the company and anchored there. This information is often stored somewhere – online or offline – and can thus also be used to support future onboardings. And since today we are particularly on the move on our smartphones, it naturally helps that we can access this knowledge digitally when and where we want. An additional aspect is that every employee can search for exactly the information they are interested in.

The communities that are created through social learning, in the form of regular working groups but also on a digital level, help to keep employees motivated. Some may become even more ambitious because they want to be seen as experts in a particular field. In addition to the advantage that everyone is trained, social learning also strengthens team spirit and togetherness.

So the opportunities are there. In a company, however, this is not enough. Technically, implementation is not a problem. But what is the corporate culture like? Is it important to educate oneself further and is the internal opinion regarding this topic generally the same – not least among the managers? Should, can and may employees take the time to write a blog article, comment on and follow up on a Facebook post, or record a tutorial video on the new tool? Social learning can only work if learning in this sense is anchored in the corporate culture – whether in the coffee break, on the intranet or via Facebook.