Have you ever been to a friend’s holiday celebration? The day is filled with customs and traditions that are new to you, yet you’re able to watch their behavior and join in appropriately.

Or maybe you sat in an audience, waiting for your turn to be called on stage. You weren’t sure exactly how to get up there, or whose hand to shake first, so you watched the person who got called before you and, seeing how smoothly his or her on-stage experience went, you chose to do what he or she did.

These are both simple examples of social learning, but it can go much further than that.

The social learning theory is the idea that people learn from one another, both directly and indirectly.

“People learn through observing others’ behavior, attitudes, and outcomes of those behaviors. ‘Most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others, one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions, this coded information serves as a guide for action.’”

The social learning theory was developed by psychologist Albert Bandura, who combined cognitive and behavioral learning theories and recognized four key requirements for learning:

  • Attention and Observation: The learner observes an attitude or behavior.
  • Retention: The learner remembers what he or she saw. If he was paying close attention during the observation stage, he remembers more; if she wasn’t, she remembers less.
  • Reproduction: The learner imitates or recreates this behavior in his or her own life.
  • Motivation: The learner has good reason to repeat the observed behavior, perhaps because of a desired outcome or reward.

Applying the social learning theory to your corporate training model can help you foster shared learning experiences, help employees develop deep bonds, and improve skill development across your organization. Whether you have an in-person, online, or a blended learning model, social learning should be part of your corporate training strategy.

To learn how you can integrate the benefits of the social learning theory in your organization we’ve developed a few strategies that apply to in-person training and social eLearning. For a blended training model, we recommend implementing a combination of the strategies listed below.

3 Social Learning Strategies in the Classroom

Creating a social learning environment in the classroom is helpful in improving engagement and retention of information. Keep in mind that the first requirement of learning in the social learning theory is attention: you must capture and keep the attention of your students if you want them to observe and retain. There are three basic social learning strategy examples in the classroom:

  • Live Model: A teacher demonstrates the desired behavior. This could include a manager showing the employees how to use new software or equipment.
  • Verbal Instruction: A teacher explains how to do something. A lecture isn’t always as engaging as a live demonstration, which may decrease attention, which in turn affects retention and reproduction.
  • Symbolic Model: Students observe behavior via printed materials, television, or the internet.

3 Social Learning Strategies Online

By nature, online learning uses the symbolic model. Your employees watch, read, and listen to the material through your social eLearning platform. One of the greatest benefits is that there are no time constraints. Your employees don’t have to be active in the online discussion at any particular time. They can join in when they have the time and interest in doing so. An online learning format increases communication, improves teamwork, and creates a sense of community among your employees. Consider these three strategies when designing your social eLearning program:

  • Connect Training Progress to Social Networks: Allowing your employees to share their course completions or certifications on social media affords them the opportunity to take pride in their accomplishments. It also allows their peers to respond to and support their skill development. The organization also benefits from the public exposure that their training program brings.
  • Motivate: Motivation to participate can be built into the social learning management system in the form of rewards and recognition, both physical (a gift card) and intangible (in-program badges and leaderboards). Studies on gamification have shown it to be an an effective way to learn , as it encourages ownership of the learning process, there’s a sense of achievement as progress markers are met, and it’s fun. It can also increase attention , that critical first step in the social learning process.
  • Diversify: As in the classroom, the best learning strategy includes a variety of techniques. Creating one discussion board and asking everyone to post and comment isn’t enough. This will resonate with some employees, but not others. To have the best chance to get all employees involved, your social eLearning platform could include videos and presentations, real-time group discussions, message boards, mentoring, and more.

How to Make Social eLearning a Part of Your Organization

Consider your objectives. Do you want an online space where employees can feel comfortable asking questions? Do you want to collect a library of information that will be used by present and future employees? Do you want a platform on which to teach new skills essential to the growth of your company?

Most likely, you’re looking for something to include all of the above. A social eLearning platform can be customized to suit your company and your goals, including both formal and informal educational approaches, to keep your employees engaged, motivated, and on a path of personal growth that benefits both them and your company. Knowledge Anywhere specializes in these solutions, and we would love to help you explore what it could mean for your company.


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