Social Learning: 3 Pro Tips To Make Your Course Social

How To Implement Social Learning Into Your eLearning Course

Social learning theory indicates that learning is a cognitive process taking place in a social context. We see in young kids that the social time they have with their peers plays a big part in the learning process. We know, from our own experience as trainers, that this is true for adult learners too.

Learners need to hear their peers struggle or succeed. They also need a platform to vent out frustrations and showcase achievements. When we, as instructional designers, strive to take the learning online, how can we mirror and address the need for social interaction in our courses?

As an instructor in the Digital Marketing field, I have often pondered on this issue. And, here are some things that come to mind:

  1. Learner to learner communication. 
    Most LMSs have inbuilt news forums to facilitate instructor to learner communication. Taking it further and enabling learner to learner communication is a great idea. The course lead may need to prod a little bit to get the conversation going, but ideally, should not play an active role once the ball gets rolling. Pro Tip: As part of your course, have the students post mini assignments or opinions on the forum. This drives the forum adoption up and breaks the ice for you.
  2. External closed social platform.
    You could even integrate an external closed social platform –say Yammer, or a closed group on a platform such as Facebook. Posts shared in the group stay within the group and allows learners to connect with each other beyond the learning environment. Pro Tip: Since this is an external network to your regular LMS, it is an additional administrative work on the instructors’ end. Consider using volunteer support from your learner community, but make sure you get access too.
  3. Twitter.
    Do you use twitter as part of your learning strategy? If you have an open, non-regulated course, and you don’t mind the world knowing about the great work your students are doing, then why not use the viral power of tweets? Encourage the learner community to use twitter, and consider asking them to follow the industry leaders on the topic at hand. Pro Tip: Twitter allows you to create your twitter lists or subscribe to lists created by others- a list is a curated group of Twitter users. Viewing a list timeline will show you a stream of Tweets only from the users on that list. How about creating a twitter list of users you think will be valuable to your students? They can subscribe to this list, and listen in.

As we strive to create more and more meaningful courses for our online learners, I think we also have a responsibility to create a learning environment that facilitates social learning. And if that means thinking social, so be it!