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Digital Learning: Social Learning – Part 4

This is the fourth in our series on Digital Learning: Learning Without Limits where we examine the evolving nature of learning and its effect on individuals and organisations and the workplace.

Contrary to the current hype, social learning has been around for a long time. Children in a classroom, young people at a skateboard park, students at a lecture hall, delegates at a conference or even people at a street market, are all social learning like mad. The distinction between these and the hyped-up definition of social learning we hear described today is simply that the latter takes place on electronic devices such as mobile phones and tablets.

Definition: social /ˈsəʊʃl/ adjective only before a noun

Connected with society.

Definition: learning /ˈlɜːnɪŋ/ noun

The process of acquiring knowledge from reading or studying.

Social learning is learning that takes place through interaction with others. While it is available through laptops and PCs, it is increasingly accessed through mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Advantages: One of the reasons why teachers and lecturers in formal education settings such as schools and universities encourage pupil and student talk, is that human beings learn from each other. Social learning, therefore, is a natural way of fostering learning through interaction, with students sharing and picking up ideas, hints and tips from each other, from instructors and from experts. Where it takes place through routes such as Twitter (such as PRINCE2.com), Google+ (like our own PRINCE2 page) LinkedIn (such as the ILX Group discussion page), a community of best practice, knowledge, resources and of support is created and/or is accessible before, during and after a course with the result that learning and application of that learning is successful. Social learning can also boast of advantages such as being inexpensive, quick and easily accessible.

Disadvantages: These relate to the age-old societal problem: the human factor. Reliability may be an issue. There have been some well-known, embarrassing and catastrophic examples of the great, the good and the everyday person being caught out through believing inaccurate information. Feelings can be hurt. Social interaction through social networks is quick and immediate, and comments made in an instant can have a lasting duration. People sometimes say a cruel or unkind thing without meaning to do so and this affects learners’ confidence and attitude. You won’t, therefore, be surprised to hear that social learning may not be for everyone. It is therefore incumbent on organisations to effect a gradual, cultural change in order that social learning is embraced and exploited successfully.

Useful Links:

  • ILX Group: Digital Learning For Business report and Infographic
  • Chartered Institute of Personnel Development: Learning and Talent Development 2011
  • Learning and Performance Institute: Learning Survey 2012
  • How our training enables organisations to meet objectives
  • The ILX Digital Learning Licence explained
  • The Cabinet Office's Best Management Practice Portfolio

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