Social Learning

What is social learning?

This week I attended the Learn@Work conference, Learning and Development conference. The major theme was social learning. Social Learning is using the natural desire to socialise to enable learning in the work place. 

Social learning is when learning occurs in a social situation.

Social learning is often unstructured and an informal learning process where you receive just in time training from a colleague or you learn together how to solve a problem.

Social Media may form a useful tool for social learning however it can not be forced onto learners. It is up the learner to make effective use of social media as a tool for learning. Forcing a learner to use a tool they are familiar with is not helpful in the learning process.

Many people have now started to develop virtual connections using social media. Professional Learning Networks (PLNs) can enhance learning. They provide an opportunity to learn from people with different experiences. It can mean asking a question and have 6 answers in your inbox the next day.

It is also important to remember that some people prefer not to socialise online or in person and may prefer a solitary learning method. So while employers and teachers can provide environments conducive to social learning not all people will use the opportunity.

How can we utilise social learning in the classroom and workplace?

Not all people see that value of Social Media however this doesn't eliminate social learning. Social learning offline is just as important. Social learning with friends and colleagues is built with relationships. People need to feel safe to learn from people around them. They need to feel confident they will not will not be ridiculed or laughed at when learning. 

Methods to embrace social learning in the workplace could include:
  • Openplan offices
  • Flexible work hours
  • Provision of collaborative work spaces
  • Open internet access
  • Access to endorsed social media platforms at work
  • Encouraging employees to share information
  • Use of of big data by employers to determine what staff find effective for learning.
Methods to embrace social learning in the classroom include:
  • Open classrooms
  • Opportunities to work in small groups or in pairs
  • Provision of collaborative work spaces
  • Use of collaborative applications eg: Google Docs, Prezi, Sharepoint
  • Encourage student led learning using pedagogies like inquiry or guided learning
  • Opportunities for students to discuss what they have learn and solve problems together.


Jane Hart on Social Learning-
Rahaf Harfoush on Big Data -

People to follow

Jane Hart @C4LPT
Vanessa North @vanessaAnorth
Michelle Ockers @michelleockers
Rahaf Harfoush @rahafharfoush
Natalie Goldman @nataliegoldman

Image sources

Social Learning image created by @iMerinet using the following images
Learning at home
Learning with Friends
Learning with Colleagues
Learning social media
Social Learning Comic