What is Social Learning? Social learning refers to learning that takes place in exchange with others. So not the individual vocabulary cramming or reading, listening, seeing contributions. And also not practicing as an individual. Rather, social learning is about practicing together or discussing questions, explaining – or even discussing a topic. The sharing of knowledge and insights is at the forefront, as is joint experience. Especially the learning between experienced and less experienced employees can be useful for both sides – and also for the company.
Beginners benefit from the experience and expertise of the “old hands”. At the same time, however, with the “beginner’s glasses” they also introduce a new perspective, which experienced employees may have overlooked, as they have already internalised all work routines. For the experts, the advantage of social learning is that they can learn from each other at a high level. At the same time, they can share their knowledge with the beginners: Learning by teaching is the key word here.
Social learning can take place in personal encounters – or digitally. Social media such as Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp thrive on a mutual exchange. The transfer of Facebook & Co. into the corporate learning context is therefore obvious. So far, however, the company’s internal solutions – so-called Enterprise Social Networks (ESN) – have generally failed. They are simply not “sexy” enough, not aesthetic enough – and above all not easy enough to use. Cumbersome login procedures often block easy access. Or the use from the private Smartphone is completely prevented. Or the learning content is “hidden” on platforms. Or the platform still works with rigid window sizes and is not optimized for mobile use (responsive content). Or or or… Certainly, however, a lot will happen in the coming years, so that social media will also become a matter of course within companies – also in corporate learning. We ourselves have had very good experiences with the lean solution “Blink.it” in the blended learning project “Azubi-Camp”.
Social Learning Communities: Working Out Loud (WOL)
An acronym is whispered in the digital corridors of German and international companies: WOL – or Working Out Loud. The initiator John Stepper started “Working Out Loud” a few years ago as the Grass Root movement:
“Working Out Loud is a simple method to build relevant working relationships that help to achieve a goal or discover new topics.
There is now a growing number of WOL enthusiasts in Germany, especially in large German companies (see the list on the official WOL website http://workingoutloud.com/ ). The very active community passionately uses the social media (Facebook, Twitter & Co.) for the Working Out Loud.
Working Out Loud starts with three questions:
1. What do I want to achieve?
2. Who could help me?
3. How can I help to deepen the relationship with these people?
At first glance, it’s about exchanging ideas about individual projects. However, the actual goal is to establish valuable relationships. And valuable means here not only “useful”, but also humanly valuable. For this purpose, so-called “circles” are formed in which the individuals get peer support, i.e. the support of the community. For John Stepper, it is all about building meaningful relationships.
The procedure for WOL is constantly being optimized and is laid down in individual WOL Circle Guides for easier implementation. Currently (December 2017), the 12-week program reads as follows:
- Week 1: Decide on a goal & create a first list of people related to it
- Week 2: Your first posts
- Week 3: Take three small steps
- Week 4: Exciting attention
- Week 5: Make it personal
- Week 6: Improve your visibility
- Week 7: Be targeted
- Week 8: Become more systematic
- Week 9: Discover new own and authentic contributions
- Week 10: Make it a habit
- Week 11: Imagine the possibilities
- Week 12: Reflect and celebrate
John Stepper names five core elements of Working Out Loud (here freely translated by us):
- Relationship: Establish a social network and deepen your relationships with the people in this network.
- Generosity: Trust in the principle of reciprocity, but without keeping an accounting “quid pro quo” calculation.
- Work visibility: Talk about your work, make it visible, share it. And that is while it is being created – even in an unfinished, imperfect state. Invite for feedback.
- Targeted discovery: Move with a clear intention – and be open to happy coincidences that bring you encounters with other people. Let your goal help you prioritize your activities.
- Spirit of growth: Stay curious, welcome mistakes as a learning opportunity and grow from failure if necessary.
Here is an article by the magazine managerSeminare about Working Out Loud from the beginning of 2016:
The method Working Out Loud – learning to share from netmedianer GmbH
Learning with Twitter
Twitter is one of the most widely used learning tools in the world. For years, it was ranked number 1 on the Hart list of learning professionals. Only in Germany is it a shadowy existence in the realm of the untrustworthy. Used correctly, it can be an extremely useful tool when researching or setting up a network of experts on a specific topic. The expert network serves as a human filter, at best curating the Internet and fishing out the “pearls” on a certain topic.
Twitter also plays to its strengths at congresses and the like. Large events of this kind are a real goldmine for expanding one’s own network. Twitter is frequent there:
- Experts (possibly even scientists) who do research on this topic or express their opinion.
- Bloggers who blog about this topic
- Journalists who publish on the topic
- Interested “peers” who deal with the topic or who are concerned with the topic
- Interested customers who are looking for solutions to the topic
- Young professionals / talents (young and old) interested in the topic
- Interdisciplinary and cross-functional contacts
If you want to use Twitter as a newcomer, we have written a short introduction to the use of Twitter as a learning tool for you.
Twitter also fits the trend of micro learning, which we will discuss in the next article – in short!
Corporate learning: 5 current trends
- The trend towards agile learning design
- The trend towards self-organized learning
- The trend towards social learning
- The trend towards micro learning
- The trend towards the gamification of learning