This is how you turn your e-learning into a social e-learning

Rinke Huisman

An e-learning is often seen as a less social form of learning; you don’t really spend time together, it’s a more individual way of learning. When you don’t think long enough about the way the participants are involved in each other’s learning process, you do create ‘distant’ e-learnings. But when you integrate social learning into your e-learning, digital learning isn’t distant at all. This blog explains which factors play an essential role in social learning and what the advantages are. 

We already wrote about social learning and the various forms learning has, which stimulate learning in your organisation. Learning as a social process comes from social constructivism, a relatively modern learning theory (80’s) with as a starting point that people learn best when they’re willing to share knowledge and develop themselves further, together.

Social learning needs some construction to flourish. Important are the following two insights: 

  • Social learning works best with a personal approach. Research shows that experiencing connections during learning results in a higher intrinsic motivation;
  • Social learning is most effective when there’s a common goal. Mainly when this is contributed bottom-up in the organisation.

Social reminder and process time

Mainly the first point can be easily planned and constructed in an online platform. By offering participants various possibilities to contact each other online, learning possibilities arise. This can happen in various forms: discussions, reflections, feedback moments, sharing insights, literature and curious questions. When you want to start a group’s conversation, Padlet is really convenient to use. One to one contact shouldn’t be too difficult, so use the chat in the learning platform. This way users make contact quickly and they have the learning content within reach. Moreover, notifications of the platform are a social reminder for new responses. 

It may sound contradictive, but because the mutual contact happens asynchronous, the social learning aspect of an e-learning increases. Users process thoughts, ideas and comments on a ‘deeper’ level before they post something. They first think (multiple times) about it deeper, then they write it down and check it. Because of this process time you reach a higher level of learning, together! Moreover, not everyone needs to contribute actively in order to learn. Reading the content, thinking about it and reading what others think about it also works enriching. 

Hello, who’s there?

The more personal it gets, the more involved the participant is during learning. The bigger the involvement, the bigger the chance that the participant uses the social learning features. 

You thus want to know who’s on the other side of the screen when you get a notification. This goes for both participants and supervisors. Create an introduction activity, that delves into a few personal aspects outside of one’s name and role, such as someone’s life motto. By adding a profile picture, it also becomes more personal and users get a real image of each other. Do you have more space for this? Organise an introduction round, based on a video or picture collage, or a live online encounter. Do you mainly want to stimulate the interaction with the supervisor? Make sure that the supervisor shares more than only a name. At a congress you also address someone with a familiar face easier than a stranger with a name card, right? 

The ideal group

The group’s size is also important. Participants are always less active online, but mutual interaction in a group of 20, 100 or 900 differs enormously. Choose for smaller groups, this way you keep the personal touch. A group of 900 participants can also be divided into nine groups that follow the same e-learning. It’s not obvious all these participants in such a group have the same goal. There’s for example a difference between participants who are signed up by their supervisor and participants who participate voluntary. Moreover, participants often have an underlying goal to follow the training, besides the goal of the organisation. Keep this in mind. The ideal group knows how to find each other content-wise and stimulates each other’s personal development. Group assignments in an e-learning and the chat feature help with this. 

Still not completely convinced of social learning?

This list will turn you for sure. Social e-learning results in a few nice advantages: 

  • It improves cooperation and collegiality;
  • It improves the connection between employees (also between employees who don’t see each other easily at the coffee machine);
  • It makes it easier to use knowledge in practice because you learn form each other. You learn from more experienced colleagues but also from colleagues with a different expertise; 
  • It actively involves participants who perhaps have doubts about online learning in the learning process; 
  • It stimulates participants to take responsibility for their own learning process and to use this in a way that suits them;
  • It stimulates the intrinsic motivation of participants which results in a higher effectiveness of the e-learning;
  • Participants develop their digital (communicative) skills better. 

We hope this gives you and the organisation an image of the positive effects social learning has. Start working with this if you’re not already applying this. We’re very curious about your questions and experiences!