Canada Association of Tourism Employees

How To Leverage Social Studying To Help Distant Studying Applications

What are the challenges with existing workplace learning programs?

The current “new normal” work environment with reduced mobility has created an evolving dynamic for on-the-job learning. (Although we’ve seen change before as advances in technology have allowed workers to change the way they work.) In many organizations, work cycles have gone beyond the traditional 9-to-5 model. Employees work on the go / from home and work anywhere, anytime. This paradigm shift in the way employees work has also had an impact on social learning in the workplace.

At the same time, the organizations are working in concert to remain competitive through cost-cutting measures. L&D teams are under pressure to cut budgets and headcount while still fulfilling a tough mandate for continuous learning in the workplace. While the need for individual training support has increased over time, L&D teams have difficulty determining how to provide such personalized support.

It’s clear that traditional approaches to learning just don’t make it. As a result, more and more companies are turning to models that use remote learning programs to address these challenges.

How can social learning help you solve these challenges?

As a result of bans and stay-at-home instructions, many distant learners today feel increasingly isolated and cut off from their traditional learning support groups.

But social media networks are changing that. Remote learning based on social media platforms is able to create networks of like-minded learners who support each other through shared learning challenges. Sometimes accelerated learning arises from ideas or advice generated through social interactions between a group of coworkers and coworkers. In the sense of peer-to-peer support, employees exchange best practices, tips and tricks directly with one another in social networks, so that trainers no longer have to act as intermediaries.

Distance learning programs free learners from being overly dependent on overloaded trainers to decipher complex concepts for individual consumption. Instead, they allow learners to provide real-time feedback to each other and collaborate not only on their personal study trips but also while completing tasks on the job.

The competitive nature of today’s workplace and incredibly short business change cycles mean one thing: a growing emphasis on L&D teams to continuously train their workforce and prepare for ever-evolving business landscapes. It also means that trainers must support workers with job aids and performance support tools when needed so that workers can effectively change older learning habits and adopt new ones. Distance learning programs that can leverage social learning can actually help L&D teams fulfill these multi-faceted corporate mandates.

Why should social learning be an integral part of designing study trips?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for employees by occupation and age in 2020, nearly 56% of employees are between 16 and 44 years old. This large population of young workers is affected by widespread housing. Home mandates require alternative models of distance learning to continue their learning journeys – and social learning offers that alternative.

There is also a credible science behind why social learning is a critical part of an effective learning journey. In the late 1980s, three researchers from the Center for Creative Leadership, Morgan McCall, Michael M. Lombardo, and Robert A. Eichinger, proposed an interesting research-based learning model known as the 70:20:10 model. After their research, learners from companies receive:

  • 70% of their learning from work experience;
  • 20% of their knowledge from interactions with others; and,
  • 10% of their learning from structured or formal training.

With today’s workforce younger than ever and millennials (over 59% of them) using social media more than the rest of the population (29%), it makes perfect sense for L&D teams to use social learning. There are real numbers that prove that social networking platforms really work when used for learning. A new online educational initiative by Harvard Business School with the introduction of social learning achieved an 85% graduation rate, compared to single-digit success for MOOCs.

Younger learners spend a significant part of their day – both at work and outside – communicating, working together, and conversing through their social presence. The use of distance learning programs therefore enables learners to learn continuously. It triggers learning through collaboration with colleagues, as well as interactions at work and after work with social networks.

How can social learning be promoted in the remote workplace?

The proliferation of WFH does not necessarily mean that remote workers will have to put their learning on hold. One of the best approaches to using distance learning programs is to create a multi-channel “learning and achievement ecosystem”. Rather than relying on LMS (Single Domain Corporate Learning Management Systems), L&D teams should pursue multiple learning platforms that provide better opportunities for social interaction between learners.

To advance social learning in the remote workplace, trainers should consider the following:

  • Rethink the use of extensive knowledge databases by companies and make them available for knowledge sharing via social media pages and apps.
  • Offering personalized learning paths that allow learners to access carefully curated content;
  • Create a User Generated Content (UGC) ecosystem where seasoned learners support their less experienced colleagues by sharing best practices, tools, templates and best practices on a social media network.
  • Facilitating learning on social platforms through moderated discussion forums;
  • Enable learners to use social media accounts to reach mentors, coaches and SMEs using an “in the time of need” model;
  • Building interest groups where learners can gather and learn from one another;
  • Use mobile learning to encourage learning on the go anytime, anywhere;
  • Use social media apps that can provide learning and achievement support tools where needed; and,
  • Use micro-learning [1] by providing bite-sized content to learners to guide distance learning programs in the workplace.

Changed social norms, the universality of the “new normal” remote work forced by pandemics, a changed view of employees on “work” and rapid technological improvements have changed the workplace landscape. And with it, the way employees learn has changed. With smaller L&D teams under pressure to support larger groups of learners, social learning has emerged as a way to empower learners on an ongoing learning journey [2].

I hope this article provides the necessary insight into applying social learning in distance learning programs that help L&D teams fulfill their corporate mandates.

In the meantime, if you have specific questions, contact me or leave a comment below.


[1] How to remove the forgetting curve in your employee learning programs with microlearning

[2] How to use microlearning to build learning habits for employees and promote continuous learning in the workplace

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EI design

EI Design is a leading provider of learning and performance support solutions focused on transforming learning – keeping it relevant, impactful and ongoing.

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