This article first appeared in TrainingZone on 9 September 2011, but is reproduced here for those who don’t have a TZ account.
During social learning month I am writing some weekly articles with some key resources about social learning. This is the second instalment.
1. My first piece this week comes from Michael Rose, who has written an article called Social Learning for a Social Workplace. He first explains that “social learning” is . . .
” . . . not only about learning from others, but about continuously learning from others at the time of need to get the job done.”
But more importantly, that continuous learning requires a different mindset from the traditional training model.
“This mentality is very different from the mindset that many of us are used to – officially “learning” or gaining knowledge during a teaching session, but then immediately storing that knowledge away afterwards in order to “get back to work.”
Michael then provides some examples of how organisations like IBM and The Cheesecake Factory see social learning. A nice overview article.
2. On the Real Workplace Learning blog, Jane Bozarth and I regularly share examples of workplace learning as it most often happens: through social informal and often serendipitous happenings. In a posting earlier in the summer, Jane Bozarth wrote a great little posting, “THIS is what social learning looks like”, where she described what took place one evening on the live Twitter #blogchat. She summarised it thus:
“What happened in #blogchat last night goes on all the time in workplaces. People say they’re having a problem and ask coworkers or others for help. They likely don’t think to document it on their TPS reports, or include it on a time sheet, or maybe even mention it to anyone else. They don’t call themselves ‘adult learners’; they call themselves ‘solving a problem’.”
This is probably very different from most people’s understanding of “social learning”, but serves to show how things are changing.
3. Communities of practice or learning communities are another hot topic at the moment, since for many they seem to be an easy way to get started with social approaches. But too often there is talk of the need for “community management”. Nic Laycock in his blog post, Beware the “M” word in communities, asks if management is an old paradigm in modern learning.
“Social learning, where there is no hierarchy, peer learning, learning communities, communities of practice, SoMe based groups on all the various platforms – dominantly characterised by informality and mutuality. But we still talk about ‘management’ of communities! Why?”
He believes that we need to talk more about community leadership, and outlines what the characteristics of such an activity might include. A great article for those of you about to help build communities in your organisation.
4. And now for something a little different. For those of you looking for some explanation of the advantages of social activities in formal learning from a cognitive processing perspective, Clark Quinn takes you step-by-step through the process in his post, Social Cognitive Processing. But summarises it thus:
“Social learning adds benefits to the learning experience beyond what individual assignments can achieve. You can mimic some of these effects by staging additional information, but it’s not quite as effective as individual learning (nor near as engaging).”
An impressive piece from Clark, who holds a PhD in cognitive science.
5. Finally, a recent Forbes article Is the Traditional Corporate University Dead asks whether, in the social media era, corporate universities are anachronisms in today’s world – the dinosaurs of training. The author, Karl Moore, believes that although corporate universities will likely survive to the extent that they provide the core courses in management and leadership development, they will need to change – citing the innovative approach to learning taken by the ING Bank in Amsterdam.
“The corporate learning departments of the future must cultivate a ‘culture of learning’ throughout the organisation. The keys to this culture include encouraging reflection, enabling knowledge sharing, and instituting learning as a continuous process. While there may still be value in formal classroom learning, more of it will need to happen informally, through initiatives like webinars, brief workshops, and ING-style Knowledge Cafés. Companies will need to transform learning from a formal event or activity into something more akin to what is called collaborative (or social) and emergent learning. These types of initiatives focus on topics that are highly relevant and in-the-moment for managers and workers, and where the sharing of ideas and exchange of opinions lead to creativity and innovation.”
So we finish this week where we started, by emphasing that social learning is not something you just add to the training blend, but is a continuous process that requires a new mindset and approach by L&D. More to come on that in the coming weeks . . .
Also in the series . . .