The Roadblock to Social Learning

social-learnOrganizations all over the world are looking for innovative ways to train their staff. There is a general understanding these days that a well trained employee base is a great way to increase the bottom-line.

Essentially, the more trained an organizations personnel, the better equipped they are to do their jobs. Studies have also shown that employees who feel that they have ample educational opportunities are more likely to stay with the organization – which is great for helping companies to retain their top talent and remain competitive.

To train employees, organizations have used live-training, learning management systems, elearning, seminars, and various other methods. Lately, social learning initiatives have also been gaining in popularity.

Despite the growth though, social learning will always be considered an “extracurricular”.

Social learning can take many shapes, but it usually involves group (social) interactions of some kind to drive home main objectives. Sometimes it is in the form of completing a task together, working through a shared issue to reach a common goal, or even earn some kind of reward.

One major roadblock to social learning is that if it is not monitored properly, it will result in “group think”. Usually the most outspoken people lead the entire group’s thinking and interpretation of a situation – ultimately the learning becomes tilted to just one viewpoint.

Organizations also struggle to implement social learning programs because they are more difficult to measure.

In a traditional learning program, such as one with elearning, quizzing can be employed to gain a direct measurement of how material is understood. Since social learning relies upon interactions in a group, this is more difficult to understand at an individual level.

It’s because of this last point that I feel social learning will always have stunted growth in a for-profit setting. At the end of the day, a company must make money. If they cannot accurately measure how their employee’s time during training is impacting their bottom, then the cost outweighs any potential benefit.

For the foreseeable future, I can see the use of social learning growing steadily, but always within the confines of traditional learning programs. Elearning, seminars, live training (via instruction) will remain the status quo.

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About the Author:

Justin Ferriman is the co-founder and CEO of LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by the world's leading organizations, such as the University of Michigan, Digital Marketer, WPEngine, and Infusionsoft. Justin has made a career as an elearning consultant where he has implemented large-scale training programs for Fortune 500 companies. Twitter | LinkedIn

2 Comments
  1. Ross Kendall

    Easy to quantify learning where members of the group take on specific roles or where the group is oriented towards accomplishing a task.

    • Thanks for the comment Ross,

      To an extent I do agree with you, from the measuring of a group’s performance against task(s). That said, most LMSs I’ve dealt with provide individual level feedback in terms of training and understanding of content. In group contexts this degree of insight isn’t as readily accessible, which may make organizations a bit luke-warm towards the social learning idea.

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