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Home / Resources / 3 questions to ask before starting social learning

3 questions to ask before starting social learning


You’re thinking about introducing social learning, but before you start you need to ask some questions.

If you can find out the answers to these questions you’ll be in a better position to start incorporating social learning into your elearning strategy.

For a brief overview of social learning and what it means in the context of elearning for an organisation have a look at our blog post: An introduction to social learning

1: How are your staff already using social learning?

You might be surprised by how much social learning is going on already, from face to face conversations over lunch about the latest policies or technology to interactions on social media.

It might be a system you introduced like Yammer that has helped encourage interaction, but look beyond the official channels and you’re likely to see many more examples of social learning happening right now.

Once you know how your employees are already sharing knowledge you’re in a much better position to create a framework to promote knowledge transfer.

We’re going to take a look at a couple of case studies featuring social learning in action at Sponge.

Sponge Social Learning Case study: Invision

Invision is a collaboration tool for design teams.

It allows a designer to create their design locally and have it automatically update on the server, allowing other members of the team to view and add comments as the design develops in real time.

Encouraging collaboration in this environment lets all members of the team give their input and share their knowledge and skills in design more effectively than a formal process.

It’s been invaluable in rapid development with less need for formal meetings and more opportunities for quick progress.

2: What do you want out of social learning?

We suggest asking this question second because how your staff are already using social learning can have an impact on what you want the results to be.

The starting point can be as simple as “I want different departments to talk more”, once you know what you want to achieve you can go about creating a strategy to make it happen.

You may want to create a better channel for knowledge to pass from less accessible members of the business to the people who need it. Creating this kind of stream of skills through the hierarchy is more possible than ever if you help staff use the right social learning tools.

Perhaps it would be useful to have an archive of the knowledge that your employees are already sharing. This would allow new employees to search the combined knowledge of your more experienced staff, even if they’re no longer with the organisation.

Your aim will usually revolve around getting the knowledge that needs to be shared from the people who have it to the people who need it. Social learning has the power to make this happen more quickly and effectively than any other channel.

One possible obstacle is that effective social learning cannot be controlled in the same way as traditional elearning. Being aware of this and understanding the need to support and facilitate the process is important before committing to this approach.

Sponge Social Learning Case study: Slack

A messaging and collaboration tool which integrates with other apps.

Slack gained popularity in the development teams at Sponge, it quickly proved its usefulness and it became obvious that it could be used more widely and offer benefits over other apps for the rest of the business.

After a roll out through the various teams as they needed to communicate with development, it gained enough steam to become an officially supported platform.

The emergence and adoption of Slack brought with it the need for training on the tool itself, so the original proponents were asked to present classes in person and create tips and guides on how to use it that could be delivered by email.

3: Who do your staff learn from the most?

With traditional elearning you need to identify your subject matter experts, so it follows that you should get to know your social learning experts.

Finding out who is passing on their skills right now and empowering them to be more effective with new technology is a great way to kick-start social learning.

If possible you can invite the best candidates to help create the social learning system and build something that the right people want to use from the outset.

When you’re asking this question you need to be sure not to ignore all the different types of interactions and learning that are going on.

Estimates for the amount of learning in an organisation that’s informal range from 70% - 90% .

Claire Schooley
Informal learning — as an individual activity and as an activity in a social setting — is experiencing tremendous growth –

Social learning environments can emerge naturally from the informal learning that’s already happening. Identifying the people who introduce the tools for collaboration gives you a head start when building them into your plan.

We can help you answer these questions and move to the next step of introducing a social learning plan that gets the best from your most valuable resource: your employees.

Interested in hearing more about social learning? Join us for our specialist webinar:

A well bee-hived workplace: learning socially from nature
Wednesday, August 19, 2015 12:30:00 PM BST - 13:00:00 PM BST
What is this Social Learning that everyone is buzzing about?

Join us for this insightful and collaborative webinar, to explore the fundamentals of what social learning means, and how we can be inspired by and benefit from the world around us.

We'll be offering plenty of opportunities for you to contribute to the conversation and have your say, as we cover key areas including:

  • The relationship between social learning and elearning
  • How social technologies can help your learners
  • The benefits of social learning to your business
  • The barriers to social learning