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Home / Resources / An introduction to social learning

An introduction to social learning


Interacting and observing peers is one of the most basic forms of learning. On a fundamental level that’s all social learning is; but the rise of social media and social networking has brought new tools for increasing interaction within elearning.

Your employees already share knowledge informally . By encouraging the use of social channels you can help direct the flow of learning from the people with the knowledge to the people most in need of it.

Albert Bandura’s social learning theory , sets out the psychology behind the way we learn in a group. We’ll look at some of the practical applications of the theory you can use in the context of various social learning platforms.

“What makes social a hot topic today is that light mobile tools and vast digital networks extend our access and conversations with all our connections” – Marcia Conner – Author of the new social learning

As elearning designers, we’re most interested in how to improve the experience and results of our learners. By leveraging existing social media networks, we can help boost interaction between the people taking our courses. With careful steering, we can use this cooperation to help reach our learning objectives.

How existing social platforms can help your learners


If you need to teach someone how to perform a specific task in some new software, or show them a physical procedure, video offers an effective solution. Towards Maturity list YouTube as the most popular social network that line managers use for learning.


One of the key benefits of an existing platform is the ability to use the networks that your learners already have in place; Facebook often gives you the best opportunity for doing this. The ability to create private groups for your courses can create a bond between members and allow them to interact with confidence in a controlled environment.


LinkedIn is popular with professionals who are keen to share knowledge and experiences. A LinkedIn group can offer the same privacy options as Facebook, or you can open it up to a wider audience as necessary. They also host Slideshare which gives you a place to display presentations online and allows people to interact by adding comments.


Short messages are often most suitable for links to external resources or specific questions on your subject. Using a unique hashtag for your course allows people to give you feedback or suggest links to any colleague searching for that tag.

All the existing social networks have very capable apps for the major mobile operating systems. Having an established mobile app will be a huge help in getting the most out of any social aspect of a course.

Using YouTube to host the video content of a course for Norfolk County Council allowed staff to access the training quickly from their mobile devices enabling just-in-time learning when it was needed.

Which areas benefit most from social learning?

Induction or onboarding is an area where elearning can be especially valuable. Encouraging interaction for new employees is one of the most important factors in helping them settle in and absorb the company values more quickly.

Including a social element can accelerate the process and allow new staff to feel more comfortable approaching experienced colleagues for help and advice. For companies with a workforce spread over a wide geographical area, an online network is invaluable for fostering this kind of interaction.

Sales and product training often involves sharing knowledge amongst a team. Much of the learning will be done informally between team members so encouraging them to share it in an online setting can benefit people in different locations too.

Part of many learning and development strategies involves creating a learning culture. Giving staff more of an opportunity to formalise the social learning they are doing day to day can help keep it at the forefront of their mind.

Games and gamification can introduce a social element to a learning module. Competition and collaboration are great ways of making staff interact and share skills and experiences. In the successful Learning Leap course, Tesco staff were encouraged to complete compliance training by comparing their progress to peers on a leader board.

Internal social networks


This business collaboration software was bought by Microsoft in June 2012 for $1.2Bn . It’s one of the more popular internal social network sites which caters specifically for businesses.

Facebook at work

Facebook is piloting a business specific social network which gives your employees the chance to use a familiar system with the extra privacy that a business needs.


An open source enterprise social platform which can be self-hosted for businesses that need a high level of security and don’t want a cloud based solution.

Interaction through your LMS or internal social networks

Whilst most social learning coverage concentrates on using the various popular social media channels you can also offer interaction through your own Learning Management System (LMS) or dedicated social network.

Data security and company’s privacy policies are one of the main reasons to move social learning to an internal network. Many organisations have decided to go for a solution like Yammer, offering similar functionality to sites like Facebook but limited to employees only.

Some types of social learning are already happening within LMSs. You can help learners build relationships with their peers through forums, chat rooms and other discussions around the courses.

Real time interaction and feedback is the key benefit from a tool like Twitter, and it’s what sets a true social network apart. An LMS like Moodle will offer more traditional types of interaction.

Whichever type of social learning you go for it’s important to have a foundation of quality learning to build on.

We work with clients who use a variety of knowledge sharing tools, and can create custom elearning that compliments them to drive better results. Get in touch with us if social learning is something you want to focus on in your next elearning project.