Blog Roundup: Social Learning while Social Distancing
7 of our best blog posts on building community during quarantine.
As we’re all social distancing right now, it may seem like an odd time to talk about social learning. For many people, that concept brings to mind group activities, class projects, and team building activities. How can anyone engage in social learning when we’re all staying home?
Regardless, social learning has a place in online education—and not on the periphery, either. Courses that place social learning at the core of their program see better results in learner engagement, completion, and satisfaction. We’ve written about the subject many times over the years, so we thought we’d round up our top posts for any educators who are new to the concept.
If this is the first time you’re hearing about social learning, this blog post is a good place to start. It lays down the basics and clarifies which elements are essential for success. A huge part about running a social learning program lies in communicating expectations and leading the way. As an instructor, that puts the spotlight on you to be active in the community to help learners engage.
“…the success of any learning program isn’t dependent on the tools being used but the process through which it is implemented, fostered, and integrated into the work environment.”
Social learning sounds great in theory, but how does it look in practice? This post breaks down six ways to create a more social environment in your e-learning course. From forums to mentors to gamification, this will give you several ideas for how to build a social learning environment for your learners.
“The most obvious and natural way to build social learning is through participation in your forum. Hopefully you have a forum and are encouraging your learners to use it, but if you don’t, consider this your wake-up call.”
Group projects are one of the more controversial assignments in many a course—on- or off-line. However, when organized effectively, they can be a great way for learners to complete an assignment in situations that are closer to what they would be in the real world, where team work and group organization are essential life skills. This blog walks through some tips on how to create a group project for online learners that will be successful rather than otherwise.
“Online education often suffers from isolation, and learners often complain of missing the interaction with peers that happens in a regular classroom. With a good group, however, learners have the chance to connect with others in their course, be part of a team, and learn something from a new perspective. That’s an experience worth sharing.”
Ever feel like building a community takes too much effort and diverts energy from selling courses? This post will make you think again. Community not only adds value to your courses, it gives learners a reason to stick around for the long-term.
“Deliver value to your community and you will find that in return they will sell your program for you through word of mouth and you will have a tribe of loyal fans.”
Building a successful social community requires careful consideration with regard to organization and group management. Whether you build discussion groups based on a single course, or have an open forum for everyone, providing structure and a member policy will help everyone have a positive experience.
“The best communities are … broad enough for a wide group of members to keep the momentum going, but also capable of supporting niche sub-groups.”
Wonder how a social learning experience might work for a less traditional online course? We looked at how instructors for physical classes where taking their courses online. What we found was a course model that could make a perfect case study in the positive effects of social learning.
“Look for ways to unite your online community of students around your online training program, and make it easy for them to introduce their friends and family as well. For this, a monthly subscription at a fraction of your usual in-person lessons might be more attractive. If you offer classes in a range of disciplines (ballet, jazz, tap, and modern for dance, or taekwondo, karate, judo, and aikido for martial arts), and open online membership a range of those courses, then your learners can try out some new techniques while they’re home.”
Finally, a strong social group online can’t be the only safety net for your learners. Sometimes the best social support comes from being able to contact you directly. While it may seem like an intimidating or complicated prospect, with the right boundaries and expectations in place, you can offer your learners an extra bit of human contact to get them through your course.
“In any traditional educational environment, instructors are available during set periods of the day or week to talk to learners. There’s no reason this can’t happen online as well. With tools like Google Calendar, Hangouts, and Skype, you can easily post availability slots and allow learners to schedule a meeting with you via video call.”
Your learners need social connection now more than ever.
Online education can be isolating at the best of times. But under normal circumstances, your learners could turn to friends and family when they needed social time, and that would help balance out the challenges of completing an online course without a peer group for support.
Without that social bonding time, learners are struggling more than ever to connect with each other. Online educators who can build a community space through their course can flip the tables on the old e-learning narrative and make online education a social lifeline during the current crisis.