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Making sense out of Social Learning

Social interactions happen all around us at our workplace – in meeting rooms, through e-mails, at the water cooler or during coffee breaks. Social media makes these interactions possible on a wider range – across the entirety of an organization, creating an interactive avenue for social learning. But what is a discussion without a direction or conclusion. In other words, how to make sure that ‘learning’ happens?

  • Though the presence of an instructor or moderator is often questioned as a threat to the natural flow of social interactions, it is necessary to appoint a person to conduct introductions, lead discussions and keep them on track.
  • It is paramount for the success of learning in an online social forum that every learner contributes fruitfully to the growth of knowledge. One way of getting everyone to contribute initially is to invite opinions on common topics or events. This may or may not be related to the subject-matter to be learnt, but will successfully break the ice.
  • Once the ice is broken, learners should be encouraged to interact within the group on a regular basis. A point-system can be developed where the learner is mandated to post a certain number of contributions each week. While this approach does not ensure a high quality of the contribution, it can be presumed that with time, learners will put in more effort and strive to improve the quality and relevance of their contribution.
  • Questions and queries are often the foremost reason for learners to participate in a social-learning forum. Make sure that when a question is asked in the forum, it is answered within a pre-determined time-frame. A prompt reply can successfully be the push required for a learner to gain faith in the benefits of joining and participating in the forum.
  • Opinions matter, but must be supported with data, rationale and logic. Encourage learners to strengthen their views with supporting material, to generate content that is succulent and detailed.
  • Learning teams can be formed to encourage learners to work in groups, thus increasing one-to-one interactions within a group. This will lead to a healthy discourse of varying views and opinions that will undoubtedly raise the bar in terms of the quality of knowledge gained.
  • To sustain learner interest, utilize the social forum to invite experiences and shared interests. Not only will the shared experiences and ambitions strike a chord with the learners, it will also be a powerful tool of learning. Debates can also serve the dual purpose of generating learner interest as well as creating a pool of contrasting views, which can be discussed further to reach a common unanimous end.
  • Inviting deliverables from time to time can also sustain learner-interest in social forum. The deliverables do not have to be conventional ‘tests’ or ‘quizzes’ but can be in the form of individual or group presentations, case studies or research compilation. This instills a goal for the group in addition to the spice of some healthy competition!
  • At the end of an activity or over a period of time, individual learners or learner groups may be asked to rate each other’s contribution to the growth of knowledge. Inviting peer grading can be a powerful push for learners to contribute fruitfully in a social forum.
  • And finally, a social forum for learning also needs to create a space to share lighter moments of life and work. This will provide due-relief for the learners as well as create a closer bond of camaraderie – necessary for fruitful collaboration and successful social learning.