The Truth Behind 5 Social Learning Myths

The Truth Behind 5 Social Learning Myths
Summary: Social learning is a hot eLearning topic as of late, especially since the rise of social media and online forums. But how much do you really know about this collaboration-centric eLearning approach? In this article, I’ll shed light on the truth behind 5 social learning myths.

5 Social Learning Myths eLearning Professionals Need To Know

Social learning involves online collaboration, peer-based eLearning feedback, and meaningful connections. It allows online learners to reach out to like-minded individuals who can share their expertise and insight. However, despite all of the benefits it can bring, this popular learning approach sometimes gets a bad rep. In most cases, it’s all a simple misunderstanding. So, here are the facts behind these 5 social learning myths.

Myth #1: Social Learning Emerged During The Digital Era

Social learning is, by no means, a new concept. In fact, Albert Bandura fully developed the idea back in the 1970s. He suggested that learning can occur in social settings by observing and modeling behaviors. For example, if a learner sees that a particular action leads to the desired outcome, they are more likely to mimic that action. Social learning involves three key variables that all impact one another: the learner, modeled behaviors, and the environment or situation. In decades past, these variables were based in the real world. Learners witnessed the behaviors firsthand in face-to-face environments. However, many of these interactions have moved online since the dawn of the digital era. Now social learning can take place remotely, thanks to social media, online discussions, and other online collaboration tools.

Myth #2: Social Learning Is Just For Tech Experts

Only tech-savvy learners can benefit from social learning, right? This is actually one of the biggest and most damaging misconceptions. Social learning is for everyone, even individuals who have never used a social media platform before. Another social learning myth that's tied to this is that social learning is only for younger generations, such as millennials. But Baby Boomers around the globe are also engaging in social learning at this very moment. This falsehood is probably rooted in the fact that younger online learners grew up during the digital era. They have never known a world without mobile devices and the internet. However, human beings are born to adapt. When a new technology hits the market we overcome the learning curve to get the most out of its features.

Quick tip: Research your audience in terms of preferences and tech experience to choose the right online social learning tools and eLearning activities. This also gives you the power to create personalized learning paths based on their tech familiarity. For example, individuals who are new to eLearning may require tutorials and walkthroughs that show them the ropes. Then they can get up to speed and actively participate in online discussions with their peers. Nobody feels left out of the online conversation or isolated from the eLearning community.

Myth #3: Social Learning MUST Involve Social Media

The "social" component does NOT have to be met by necessarily adding social media to your eLearning strategy. In fact, many social learning activities are far removed from Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites. Blogs, forums, and online live webinars are all prime social learning online platforms. The only condition is that online leaners must have the ability to interact with their peers and model behaviors. This can occur formally and informally, virtually anywhere on the web. However, social media is one of the most effective social learning tools at your disposal. Online learners are already using these sites on a daily basis. So, why not use this to your advantage by creating eLearning groups and pages where they can gather?

Quick tip: You don't need to include EVERY social learning online platform that is available. As a matter of fact, you should choose a select few that meet the needs of your online learners. For example, closed Facebook Groups may be ideal for introverted online learners or sensitive subject matter. Look into the most popular online tools and carefully evaluate their features. Then weigh the pros and cons of your top choices. Also, you should get your online learners involved so that they can offer their input.

Myth #4: Social Learning Shouldn't Be Taken Seriously As It Is Less Structured

Social learning can be enjoyable and entertaining. But the underlying goal is ALWAYS to impart knowledge and build experience. Communicating with peers and sharing feedback is an integral part of the social learning strategy. However, it's not a time to chat with friends or discuss weekend plans. Every eLearning activity should have a purpose, an learning objective that online learners strive toward. The myth that social learning shouldn't be taken seriously is most likely based on ineffective eLearning course design. If you aren't serious about eLearning goals, then your social learning activities will probably be a reflection of this. As such, it's important to clearly define the desired outcomes and stress the importance of staying on topic. If online learners are easily distracted, incorporate frequent breaks that allow for extracurricular eLearning activities, such as like commenting on friends' posts.

Myth #5: Social Learning Is Ineffective

This is actually a quasi-myth. You see, social learning is only as effective as the eLearning strategy behind it. But this is the case with any eLearning approach. You must know which online tools to use, how to use them, and what online learners need to take away from the eLearning experience. Social learning has the power to build skills, knowledge, and comprehension if it's structured properly. To do this, you must have clear learning goals and objectives, as well as a comprehensive eLearning plan. Social media, forums, and blogs are just one piece of the puzzle. Online learners also need complementary eLearning activities, such as eLearning scenarios, simulations, and serious games that expand their understanding. Social learning IS effective when it rests on a solid, well-organized foundation.

Social learning offers a variety of benefits in both synchronous learning and self-paced eLearning courses. Thanks to modern technology, online learners from around the globe can collaborate with peers and share their eLearning experiences. Social learning may not be new, but today’s digital tools make it even more effective and engaging.

Are you ready to incorporate a social learning tool into your eLearning strategy? Read the article 7 Tips To Use Google Plus For Social Learning to discover a few tips for using Google plus in your eLearning experiences.