4 Important Reasons To Encourage Social Learning

4 Important Reasons To Encourage Social Learning
Summary: We live in a world of voyeurs and exhibitionists. We like to watch and we like to be watched; and in watching we learn. In this article on social learning, I will give you 4 important reasons to encourage social learning in your organization or educational institution.

Why You Should Encourage Social Learning

We live in a world of voyeurs and exhibitionists. In fact – we can go so far as to presume that each one of us displays these characteristics to some extent. We like to watch and we like to be watched; and by watching we learn. Social learning is a term that is not new to psychologists, and it is gaining momentum in the world of ‘Learning’ outside the psychological realm.

  1. There is a psychology behind social learning
    In the 1960s, a psychologist called Albert Bandura developed a theory called Social Learning Theory (that was when the term was coined). The theory analyzed the foundations of how people learned through observing others. The theory, under its very appropriately-coined name, was published after years of intense research that went so far as to disprove Skinner’s famous behavioral theory called Operant Conditioning. Several decades later, with the advent of the internet, social media sites, and technology-enabled learning we prudently snatched away the term from the realms of psychology; and before one could say Jack Robinson, a new and very superficial meaning was rendered to the otherwise respected and well-known term – social learning. And today, the term ‘social learning’ is used contextually to describe learning that happens via social media. Having said that, the social learning we know today quite subtly resonates with Bandura’s Social Learning theory – in that learning happens by watching and learning from peers, friends and colleagues on social media sites.
  2. We love to share
    The popularity of social media sites corroborates the fact that we are exhibitionists and voyeurs and that we are interested in sharing knowledge (from letting people know what we are eating on a particular day, to sharing the latest news), and collecting information (by reading and retaining what we read on sites like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Flickr, etc.), from these sites. Knowledge sharing is already happening at the grass root levels. We always thought that learning took place within the four walls of a corporate training classroom, but that’s never been the case; real learning has always happened around the coffee machine in the office, and in (non) shady nooks and joints where like-minded individuals got together to share ideas. And today social media sites are where real learning happens. People have already found social media sites that they are comfortable with, and groups that they can relate to – and knowledge is shared back and forth at the speed of need.
  3. Social Learning is reliable
    Are social media sites safe? Are these sites a reliable medium to share information and expect people to grasp the concepts and ideas we want them to grasp? Would our messages be misconstrued? Would people share our message and would our message be learned? These are just some of the concerns that prevent organizational training heads from taking that plunge into social learning. The good news is this: Social media sites are reliable learning tools. It is from those who learn through this method that we get reports of greatest success – be it in the form of increased productivity, better understanding, happier customers, and more.
  4. Social learning is a process that perhaps started even before you had your organization’s training plan in place
    Social learning is already happening, and we are not in control of it. It’s happening at the lower levels – the grass root levels – among the common employees – at the non-managerial levels. And it’s happening in a smooth, seamless, flawless and successful way; and it’s happening in this fashion because managers are not in control of this type of learning, nor are they interfering with it. In his book, Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us, Dan Pink talks about how humans have a desire to be autonomous, self-determined and connected to one another. He further adds that this tendency to be so is what drives people to achieve more. This probably explains why learning in a tight, controlled environment, is not always successful. We don’t wait to be told to learn or when to start learning. We, as a race, are autonomous beings - autonomous beings who fashion out a destiny for our own individual selves; and learning and gleaning knowledge are essential to carve out a niche for ourselves as well as a successful destiny. The social learning process is a constant process that happens voluntarily as well as involuntarily. And today, social media sites that allow us to share and gain knowledge are a boon to both voluntary as well as involuntary learners.

Social learning is happening all around us. Our employees are learning even without our knowledge; let them learn without our interference and they will continue to learn successfully. Leave social learning alone and let it happen, and it will continue to surprise us.