Professional Development in Social Learning: 3 different skill areas

woman-95616_640I’m constantly asked by Learning & Development professionals where they can learn more about social learning.

First of all I guess we need to be quite clear what we mean by  the term “social learning:

  • that it is not just something that just happens when people study together but is also something that happens continuously in the flow of work as people work together; and
  • that it doesn’t require social tools for it to happen, although they can make it a more powerful experience, but that the presence of social tools doesn’t necessarily mean people will learn socially.

In other words we need to differentiate between learning about social tools, and learning about the use of social tools (both public and private, internal and external) to enable, enhance and support social learning – both for formal learning as well as an integral part of collaborative working.

So with that out of the way I think that Professional Development covers 3 main areas – which I briefly explain below.

1 – Understanding  the Social Web and the new skills required to use social media and networks effectively for one’s own personal and professional learning and development.

Understanding social media is not just about learning how to use the tools themselves, it’s about understanding the whole ethos of the Social Web, as well as developing a new set of personal skills to thrive there. It’s also about building a Personal Learning Network of colleagues and other contacts that bring you value – both personally and professionally.

How can YOU learn about this.?

  • By doing it yourself – that’s how most of us have learned about social media and networks, just by being immersed in the Social Web and what it has to offer. So jump in and try things out – there are no rules and you’ll learn all about it, just by being there!
  • If you need some guidance: Then take a social media course, or even better get yourself a personal social media coach who will help you in the way you need it – but make sure it covers the key elements mentioned above. For example:
    • The Connected Worker site offers individual and small group coaching as well as workshops for larger groups in Personal Knowledge Management. This approach will ensure you develop the new skills alongside a understanding of the use of social tools.

Remember too that although this is a good starting point, this will NOT provide you with all the skills you need to enable and support social learning in your organisation.

2 – Understanding  social learning pedagogy to enable and support successful formal social learning experiences 

Formal social learning is not just about using social media tools in a training environment nor about adding them onto an online course, it is about scaffolding a learning experience that encourages and supports a deeper social learning experience, and one where individuals can also make use of (public and private) social tools in the ways that work best for them. (See my previous post, 5 principles for successful formal social learning experiences, for more on this).

How can YOU learn about this?

  • By doing it yourself: Participate in a “true” formal online social learning experience yourself – and learn from it, For example:
  • If you need some guidance: Find someone who can help  you understand the social learning pedagogy involved; and if you take a “course” or “workshop” make sure it is one that uses the very same pedagogical approach. For example,

3 – Understanding how to support the continuous social learning and performance improvement of teams and individuals in the workplace

Yet again it’s not about the tools themselves. As people are already learning from one another as they work together, social and collaboration tools can play a part here to enhance this natural social learning. So it’s about helping teams use (probably primarily enterprise) social technologies to work (and learn) purposefully and productively together

How can YOU learn about this?

  • By doing it yourself: Use some social tools with your own team and help to build and support the knowledge sharing and collaborative practices of your team. Doing so you will develop your own understanding of the new social workplace skills that are required.
  • If you need some guidance: Find an organization that can ideally work with your whole team to understand their specific needs as well as  “model” the new collaborative skills involved. (“You can’t train people to be social; only show them what it is like to be social”)
  • If you are looking for accreditation by a professional body in this area: The Learning & Performance Institute has just launched its Diploma in Workplace Learning & Collaboration, which offers a series of online social workshops certified by successul submission of a portfolio of work-based evidence. This is aimed at helping L&D professionals understand and apply these new skills in their organisation. Here’s a brief overview video.

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