Technology is accessible to more people than ever before. When it comes to learning, solutions now use effective psychology strategies that are sure to make an impact.
In an exclusive 2016 survey conducted by Better Buys, we found that providing access to professional development opportunities, such as online learning, improves employee engagement by 15%.
Engagement is a core component to the most efficient way humans learn: Through social learning.
According to Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory, humans naturally learn through a four-step cognitive process:
Rather than treat all learners passively, social learning requires participation. Teaching involves having a model that the learner identifies with, and can also be done a number of ways such as through a demonstration, with verbal instructions or with symbolism.
Knowledge is more efficiently gained when there’s a social aspect to what’s being learned. What’s also fascinating is that humans often learn without needing to reinforce that knowledge through new behavior.
Social learning has been described as accidental learning because the knowledge is easily gained without structured discipline.
Today’s Accidental Learning is Online
The best way to apply social learning is through eLearning, or online learning, which is designed to mimic environments for accidental learning.
When a person learns directly from another person, this event encompasses memory, learning and motivation as a bridge between cognition and behavior. Often times, a reward isn’t necessary because there’s intrinsic reinforcement when a goal is socially achieved.
For example, in this real-life scenario:
- Two boys attempt to play basketball, but one of them has never played before. The experienced boy demonstrates by shooting the ball into the hoop. The inexperienced boy then learns to shoot the ball with an observation. He does not need to immediately show he can shoot the ball, but the goal is achieved that he’s learned how to. The greater benefit here is that both boys can now play the game, but through social learning the knowledge needed to play was quickly shared with a demonstration.
The reality is that social learning happens every day without us ever requiring a reason to learn. When businesses harness this motivation, it can be applied towards enhancing work.
Here is a set of examples by The Association of Talent Development for how social learning is applied within an online community:
- A company uses its social platform to solicit product development ideas. For Rite-Solutions, this practice led to the development of 15 new products that account for 20% of their total revenue.
- Several minor apps employees rely on are out of date. One employee posts a comment about it in the community, and many other employees “like” this comment. The community admin sees the comment trending and contacts the designer, who updates the apps.
- Employees comment about how helpful a new training video is. The training designers engages with the feedback then creates more videos with the same tone, length and caliber.
While online learning might seem to only add more structure, social media has shown humans have already adopted the internet for this very same purpose. Social learning happens in a vast variety of ways through sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Reddit, which grasp and engage users then motivates them to share and gain knowledge.
Social learning isn’t a new concept, and the internet evolved to adapt to this natural behavior.
So, How is This Applied Through eLearning?
Learning management software (LMS) is built to adapt to content suited for social learning as an eLearning platform.
Some have even noted that choosing the right LMS is like dating. Decision makers must represent their companies as a whole then pair themselves with the right platform. As a unique software buying experience, the decision hinges on what works for the culture of the business with social learning as the focus.
There are a number of ways LMS can engage learners and harness the social qualities needed for effective learning. Here are the top five features:
1. Live Video Seminars
A live video seminar, or a webinar, is a session where the instructor can lead through a live stream. The audience may also have the ability to connect with their own video feed for a more interactive session, but typically this type of content is best served for Q&As and other expert-to-assembly needs. The live feed is also paired with a chat room for accepting real-time feedback.
2. Discussion-Based Forums:
Facebook isn’t the only platform based around discussion, but this is the most familiar medium that today’s LMS solutions mimic. Liking, sharing and commenting are common actions that users can take, as well as creating statuses and using other signals that can add to a company’s cohesive culture. The extent that LMS solutions mimic social media varies. Some may go as far as asking the user to set their mood, and others may not have an option to set a personal profile at all. Social media can even serve as an additional component to an LMS, so that employees are encouraged to discuss content on LinkedIn, for example, instead of within the solution. A main priority for this type of feature is to open a channel for professionals to communicate when they might not regularly.
3. Gamification Tools:
Test taking doesn’t need an entirely formal approach, but it’s often necessary for certification purposes. Businesses need to set standards to evaluate talent and performance. For this reason, gamification has been a very popular trend. It’s based on the premise that when learners are put head-to-head and challenged by each other’s scores, they’ll be more engaged and motivated to perform. This is best displayed with plugins and other interactive tools that can be inserted easily into the content of an LMS solution.
4. Classroom-Based Preparation:
Some knowledge simply isn’t best shared online, and LMS makes these lessons easier to teach as well. When learners must physically interact with each other and need the instructor in-person, LMS solutions also have built-in tools for reserving rooms, assembling course hand outs, and ensuring the instructor has all the materials needed for lessons. If these classes are ongoing, LMS keeps track of attendance and test grades. These metrics can be easily recorded for both in-person and online classes.
5. Centralized Record of Skills:
At the very least, LMS serves as a window into the skills, certifications and talents of employees. Managers can identify skills gaps and assign employees course requirements to further their careers. LMS is very useful for succession planning. The content for a new certification can be added to an individual business’s content library, or the company can partner with an outside resource so employees have opportunities off-site as well.
The LMS Impact
While it’s most likely that businesses use LMS for a better training regimen, there’s an added benefit with social learning that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Having a consistent platform for sharing knowledge not only ensures that all employees are given the proper training, but also allows a company to have transparency into the company’s culture. This transparency opens the door to many possibilities for lasting improvement.
Social learning makes an impact on the effectiveness of each lesson, but applying it through LMS also gives your company insight into recruitment and retention trends. Data is collected for performance beyond the classroom.
This way, it’s easier to measure both short-term and long-term goals, providing lasting benefits that go far beyond each individual and impact the foundation of the business as well.