Sunday 12 July 2015

Does Social Learning Really Work?

One of the top challenges for businesses today is learning and development issues. Each industry is preparing for growth and a million training tools, products, courses that have evolved claim to deliver desired results – with no tool to measure learning or results.

People learn from each other in social environment and casual settings from time immemorial, encouraged by a sense of competition, inadequacy or basic survival instincts. The popular belief system that is prevalent and most of us are conditioned to believe that learning happens only in classrooms.

The reality is classroom instructions are mostly just informational and even if it leads to skill acquisition, it does not prepare the learner to try the new skill in the context of real life or business scope. It is only if there is opportunity for experiential learning, individuals can relate to learning; knowledge they receive, its application and think critically about their learning experience.

The term social learning can be applied and effective in any setting or circumstances where there is a group of individuals with a shared learning goal – either consciously or instinctively or both.

Imagine “Decision Making”; “Presentation Skills”; “Team Building” “Strategic Thinking” or any of the popular franchisee models that is generally delivered with a power point and accessories – Unless learner takes critical decisions in real time scenarios or presents to a live audience or builds a team for a purpose evaluating individual strengths and think strategically to lead a project or company, where does the learner stand in the crowd?

Even if these modules are taught in class rooms, it is automatically followed by social learning, where the learner practices and his peers or leads guide him towards mastery.

Benefits of social learning
  •  Better engagement and better learning
  • Opportunity to engage with an expert even in informal setups.
  • If you can check within your team for an expert to address critical business challenges and complex issues
  •  Cost effective and can be managed with limited budget leveraging strengths internally

Approach towards social learning

  • Assess learning needs not based on level or role, but based on individual learning gap and get the learning road map ready regarding what kind of social environment learning suit his style
  • Identify preferred learning methods - If one is more attentive in a small group and feels lost in large learning groups, accommodate that.
  • Based on the above two, design learning methods. 

A mentoring program, like-minded meet-ups or an action learning project with members from different departments or background, could be great social learning opportunities.

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