Are you ready to adopt social learning?

Are you and your organisation ready to take up the educational ‘phenomenon’ that is sweeping around the globe? Social learning is one of those buzz phrases that so many of us seem keen to adopt for fear that missing out would see us finger-pointed into a corner of humiliation.

OK, I’ll be honest with you, social learning is nothing new. In the workplace colleagues have been learning from one another at the drinks machine, break areas, hallways and in meeting rooms from day dot.

However, digital platforms are the thing that are propelling social forward. Twitter is a perfect example of this:

Connections need not be a million miles away.

Connections need not be a million miles away.

Vicky makes a very good point here; social media gives us an opportunity to connect with people who we may have never met before but may have a raft of knowledge to pass on – yet some of these people could only be a stones throw away from us.

I’m sure many of you know of my admiration for social media and the desire to learn something new. I enjoy learning, yet very little of my schooling is done in what some would see as a working bubble of a 9-5. In fact hardly any of my learning these days is done within a traditional classroom environment and I think this is becoming the general shift for many of us.

“The more talented people we have, the more we can accomplish, so we should make a habit of helping one another all of the time.”

It seems that our approach to learning is gradually changing – although some of us may not recognise it just yet. It’s far too easy to highlight to your manager, or your manager to you, that you’ve some personal development that’s required and to put your name forward for a new course. But why? Surely there’s someone across your office, in the next building or working out on site that has the answers to the questions you ask? And why is it we make a habit of going to a recognised trainer or senior colleague? Thom Bartley makes a great point in this post that the knowledge and experience we seek could just as easily be from a new colleague as someone who epitomises a part of the office furniture. So why not go to them – after all most of us use digital networks for referrals in our everyday lives.

Not convinced?

Think about your next holiday; do you go straight to the travel agent and go with the first break the advisor suggests? If you’ve not been to the destination before it’s highly unlikely. Chances are you’ll head over to websites such as Trip Advisor to check out the thoughts of like-minded travellers and see what they have to say.

Now, think about your next online purchase from a site such as Amazon. You think you know the product you want but then notice the average rating is less than 3 stars – the likelihood is you’ll not be buying that after all. So instead you look for something rated as 4 or 5 stars, you want products with reviews that match your needs and answer those questions that the product’s details seem to have over-looked.

If you’ve experienced either of these two scenarios then you’ve got the basic concept of how digital social learning can work for you.

Learning can be delivered in a variety of ways.

Learning can be delivered in a variety of ways.

Through online communities we can pick and choose what we want to learn and where we go to for that information. We can rate and comment on resources and contribute in determining what’s the most important and effective learning for us. We can add and share the best learning content, we can learn where we want, when we want and at a pace that suits us best.

So, here at Bromford we’re taking the next steps to provide our colleagues with a platform which we believe will help colleagues in their learning. We’re offering a blended approach to their personal development; videos, e-learning, podcasts, how-to-guides – a wide range of styles. And to bring all of this learning together, and for colleagues to share in their experiences, we’ve integrated a social learning community within the site.

“One size fits all is great when you’re buying a pair of gloves, but that just doesn’t work for learning.”

The great benefit of a social learning platform is that it organises the learning process by collecting information and making it accessible to all through communities. Once collected and shared the information can be used to determine behavior, establish rankings, popularity, value, usefulness and help shape future learning content.

We all respond to different styles of learning – so what we’re doing with the communities is providing an alternative path to colleagues’ personal development, a platform for sharing and discussing learning and best practice from the people who know our business best; our colleagues.

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7 thoughts on “Are you ready to adopt social learning?

  1. Definitely agree with you that social platforms open up the potential for a lot of new learning opportunities – and like you, the majority of my learning occurs online, via social platforms (Twitter, Google Plus, blogs, LinkedIn, MOOCs…). But, this isn’t the case for everyone (…and I would suggest we’re likely in the minority).

    Additionally, your article seems to imply social learning platform = learning community which is misleading. A social learning platform is simply the technology, a vehicle via which a learning community MAY potentially develop – IF like minded individuals choose to participate and interact with each other constructively using the platform. And this is potentially a big IF. Without meaningful participation and interaction it is simply a platform, an interface, a ghost town.

    What you fail to mention in your article is that considerable sustained effort and certain skills are required to develop, participate in, and sustain an online learning community (e.g. skills in social sharing, constructive commenting, written communication – not to mention, having to learn a new platform and make a habit of using it regularly. There is no community without sustained and regular participation, which requires both time and effort).

    Talking merely about platform features and content as a means to create ‘learning community’ perpetuates the myth that this is all it takes for community to develop. If you’ve started using this platform, I’d be interested to hear how you’re supporting the development of a learning community by modelling online social sharing skills, supporting the development of these skills in others, and encouraging regular, meaningful interaction amongst employees.

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  2. Hiya Tanya, thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment – you make some really valid points here. Can I start off by apologising for any confusion in my writing!

    I would agree that there most definitely is a difference between a social learning platform (or network) and a learning community – I was trying to use the examples of Amazon and Trip Advisor to strengthen the case for community based learning; how many people use this everyday without truly realising that they are (socially) learning and how we’ve come to integrate this here at Bromford.

    Although we are in a VERY early stage of adoption of our new communities we do have a pretty successful implementation of another platform; Yammer (95% registered and 85% active users), so we are fairly confident that there will be some uptake from our colleagues but not naive to think that this would just happen without a fair effort of curating.

    We did make a decision to embed our communities into our existing learning platform which colleagues actively use to carry out their one-to-one conversations, register for courses (yes, we still have classroom-style face-to-face sessions) and access learning material from across the business – so we already have colleagues’ buy in of the system and this should eliminate the fear of ‘yet another system’.

    So yes, we will be working hard to support and nurture our communities, like anything social it takes time to build. But please do follow my blog (if you haven’t done so already) and I’ll be sure to post more in the future as to how our communities are developing here at Bromford.

    I had a quick peek of your blog and made sure I’ve given that a follow – lovely to hear that you too are a parent of a young one, they certainly keep you entertained don’t they?!

    Andy

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    • Hi Andy, thanks for your reply. Apologies if I seemed a bit agitated in my earlier comment (have to admit I Was…I have seen / heard the argument that employing social tech = social learning / community SO many times, I was dismayed at the prospect of another….). I had also recently read this post by Jeevan Joshi on his experiences building a learning community which highlights some of the challenges of building sustained, meaningful participation http://www.learningcafe.com.au/blog/2013/07/19/the-slope-of-enlightenment/

      If your organisation already has 85% of active users on Yammer (presumably sharing stuff of value, and interacting with others in meaningful ways if they’re active, regular users) then you’ll probably face fewer barriers than the typical organisation embarking on this path.

      I’d be interested in following your journey as it progresses. Cheers for the blog visit and yes, toddlers are an endless source of entertainment…but also inspiration.

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      • oh the other thing I was going to add was, I’d be really interested to see if the yammer users move over to the new learning community platform…might it not be easier just to build on the existing communities you have in yammer? I understand the desire to integrate with LMS content but wondering if this might also create a potential barrier? Obviously hard to tell without knowing what the new platform is like, and how existing employees are utilising yammer. There are probably pros and cons with both approaches. time will tell – it will be an interesting experiment.

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      • No need to apologise, Tanya.

        Yammer is mainly used as a way for our colleagues to share their stories and have open conversations with one another. It’s proven to be a great way to open channels of communication right across the business – quite a challenge when you’ve got c.1300 people in your organisation who work at various locations.

        So we decided to keep Yammer exactly for that (conversation) and concentrate on developing a community that is aimed at education and personal development.

        It’s set to be an interesting journey Tanya, but I’ll be sure to keep you updated on here.

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  3. Pingback: The future, revealing selves, and the NHS Hack Day | weeklyblogclub

  4. Pingback: Andy Johnson | It’s great to learn, socially

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