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Last updated: 22.06.17

The evolution of social learning

More than ever before, learners are turning to their colleagues, friends and online forums to aid them in their knowledge. Here we take a look at the evolution of social learning.

Social learning is a buzzword in the learning and development world that is transforming the way we absorb knowledge. But what does this term actually mean? In short, social learning focuses on learning by interacting and discussing content with others. It plays a large role in the workplace and includes behaviours such as: collaborating with other employees on project deliverables, guided learning programs, and the use of social media for learning purposes.

Over the years, numerous studies have proven that social learning behaviours like discussions and interactions, highly improve knowledge acquisition and development. In addition to this, social learning also encourages continuous learning and on-the-job learning.

Rapid change

While, of course, people and organisations have been learning since time began, the speed and significance in which they learn is better than it ever has been before. In the past, we have seen learning as a passive activity, where learners attend a class and the teacher imparts knowledge they think must be taught, or where people read a book or article, or a manager simply tells his or her employees how to do a job.

But learning is no longer like this. Today it is a highly active and interactive process where workers and students join learning communities to find others who share their interests and can help them with any questions or queries. Instead of searching Google or YouTube to find out how to do something, people are turning to each other to learn and discuss deeper insights.

Social media and technology

Learning professionals believe that over the past decade, the introduction and growing use of social media and technology has led to a democratisation of learning and education that is unprecedented. In today’s society, learning is everyone’s domain and continuous learning is seen as an expectation.

Social media allows users to communicate with learners at the other side of the globe, at just the touch of a button. It is now commonplace for people to communicate via a video call, messenger, Skype and Google Hangouts. Live webinars and pre-recorded presentations are also readily available online. The advancement of technology also makes learning much more engaging with the use of virtual reality, video, apps and gaming.

Adapting to this revolution

According to the Association for Talent Development, workplace learning must adapt to this new world and provide the tools and vehicles to leverage the collective wisdom in the organisation. Learning professionals must support collaborative learning by building learning and professional networks that cross organisational boundaries and even go beyond organisations.

To advance in learning, it is crucial that learners and teachers share their ideas and solutions, collaborating together to build platforms, encourage peer learning and share information. More specifically, learning professionals must help employees connect with others and with information across organisations so that they remain engaged and up-to-date with the industry.

While there will always be room for traditional learning methods like face-to-face classes, and also online learning techniques, social learning is something that should be incorporated into today’s learning methods.

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