What is Social Learning?
Social Learning Definitions
Merriam Webster describes social learning in terms of psychological theory:
…a change in behavior that is controlled by environmental influences rather than by innate or internal forces.
Wikipedia describes it this way:
… learning that takes place at a wider scale than individual or group learning, up to a societal scale, through social interaction between peers.
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My personal favorite is from Marcia Conner who co-authored the book The New Social Learning: A Guide to Transforming Organizations Through Social Media.
… participating with others to make sense of new ideas.
It was behaviorists from the psychology field who first analysed how people learn through observation.
Later, researchers like Albert Bandura started to look at interaction and cognitive processes. Through observation we see the consequences of other’s behaviors and gain some idea of what might flow from acting a certain way.
Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do. Fortunately, most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action. (Bandura 1977: 22)
Today, with our mobile devices and easy-to-share content, we can learn from others throughout the day – even between, or alongside work tasks.
The step-change that has enabled social learning to flourish is online video. TED’s Chris Anderson says the rise of web video is driving a worldwide phenomenon he calls Crowd Accelerated Innovation — a self-fueling cycle of learning that could be as significant as the invention of print. Back in 2011, Chris had an insight into the true significance of web video, and what it might mean for the world’s future. In this TED Talk, we can see just how prescient his prediction was.
Social Learning in our Personal Lives
We use social learning all the time. When was the last time you watched a 2 min “how to” video on YouTube when you forgot how to rewire a plug or wanted a new recipe for dinner? Did you rush to hospital the last time you burnt yourself cooking or one of the kids got an insect bite? The chances are you looked it up on your smartphone first to make an informed decision about your next step.
The last time you wanted to make a major purchase, did you simply go out and start shopping for it at the mall or in the city? Chances are good that you checked with friends on Facebook to elicit their opinion, and read online reviews and articles.
What about when you have a new idea for a project on the house or even a business concept – do you rush headlong into it, or do you seek feedback from your online network as a means of some initial validation?
Social Learning in the Workplace
Social learning platforms integrate learning from within the organization with feedback and knowledge-sharing from clients, partners, and vendors. In this compilation of interviews, experts in the filed share their views.
Social Learning in Higher Education
Massive open online courses, or MOOCs, are a disruptive innovation in higher education, operating on the premise that quality education should not be a luxury good. The online courses are aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. In addition to video lectures, readings, and problem sets, MOOCs integrate social learning through interactive user forums to support community interactions between students, professors, and teaching assistants (TAs). The opportunity to extend the learning experience into the social sphere is, for many, a game-changer to how much they learn and retain.
Here’s an introduction to MOOCs from Iversity, one of the leading platform in Europe.
A New Way to Learn and Increase Personal Productivity
I like to leverage online social communities such as Facebook Groups to learn from peers who share the same interests.
For me, the most powerful thing about Social Learning is the energy I draw from others’ work. When I see what my social peers have created, I feel fired up and my personal productivity skyrockets.
One of my special interests is history, and it makes a great place to start your Social Learning journey—either for the pure fun of it, or to expand your horizons.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I may receive an affiliate commission. I only recommend products or services that I believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”