The Importance of Powerful Social Learning Strategy
Learning has always been a social activity. It is then no wonder why Workplace Learning too has a strong social element. Across conference tables and across cubicles, over coffee breaks and at the water cooler – social interactions occur continually that form the building blocks of learning within the workplace. These informal instances of learning are not logged into a system or even structured in any way. But the power and reach of social interactions for learning cannot be overlooked. With the help of technology, it is now possible to facilitate social interactions and derive meaningful learning out of them. This makes social interactions possible between a larger group, surpassing geographical boundaries.
Before embarking on a social learning intuitive, it is important to note that it works best when individuals or groups have a genuine shared purpose, need, or interest. Social interactions cannot be forced. Even if you are successful in getting learners to log on to a social forum, they need to find the shared ground for actual learning to happen. A powerful social learning strategy that creates an environment of learning is through sharing experiences. Experiences are personal – but there is a lot of learning that can be derived from them as well. Learners too are much more open to sharing experiences as they do not have to do any background study or extra work for it. It happens during the course of work and when you share it, it helps your fellow learners. Sharing experiences also comes with a sense of pride, so this type of social sharing comes most naturally to most learners. There are various ways to encourage social sharing and derive learning from it.
Sharing through Discussions.
Discussions take place within a social learning platform in a lot of ways – through discussion boards, live chat, virtual classrooms and so on. Instructors often play the role of facilitators, to make sure that the discussions are relevant. A popular way to encourage sharing is to dedicate a day for a ‘huddle’. This session can be solely focused on each individual or team discussing the learning acquired over the week. It can be accomplishments that have made their endeavors successful. It can also be lessons learnt in ‘what not to do’. This helps fellow learners take inspiration from their successes as well as learn from their mistakes. Since these discussions are not part of any formal sessions, learners are more inclined to share freely and bring out the true nitty-gritty of work into the learning space.
Even the most basic models of mobile devices now have cameras and this can be utilized to take pictures. Learners can be encouraged to share a bit of their experiences from time to time through pictures. For instances, retail sales teams who go on regular market visits can take pictures of shelves that are duly set or point-of-sales material well displayed in an outlet. The pictures can be shared with others on the social platform – to compare as well as to learn from. Each sales personnel can point out pictures that stand out and the ones that are not up to the mark. This would also help other teams visiting the market get a better feel of different outlets, their strengths as well as weaknesses.
Learners can also record findings and experiences through the audio recorded in their mobile devices. The short audio recording may record first impressions of a client or a strategy that worked with a particular customer. To maintain the usefulness of audio recordings, instructors can ask the learners to keep the recordings within a decided time limit. One or more such recordings can be played together to form a ‘lesson’. Instructors can utilize audio recording as a precursor for debates and discussions as well.
Videos are a powerful mode of learning. We best remember something that we actually ‘see’. Videos taken on the course of work do not have to be well shot. They should essentially relay what the learner has done or accomplished, and how. It can be ‘talking head’ video where the learner talks about his experiences. Or alternatively, the learner can actually demonstrate a skill or technique and share it with his peers. This is an impactful way of learning and an inexpensive one as well. Professional videos require larger budgets, but sharing videos can be made by the learners themselves. Since sharing experiences is the main objective, nobody minds if the video is a bit shaky or the picture is not too clear in parts.
Utilizing experiences for social learning is a tried and tested way of learning. It aligns with the natural preferred way that most learners choose to learn and it does so without forcing the learning. This mode of learning works for most industries and verticals, but sales and retail are sectors where it has been especially successful. It is not the only way that social learning works – but it is indeed, undoubtedly, one of the most powerful ways.