What is Social Learning?

Social Learning is the latest buzz word. It is a new trend in learning.

Social Learning is learning that happens when people collaborate. It thrives upon the idea that learning can happen anywhere and anytime. Learning has no constraints. Social Learning can also be called informal learning or collaborative learning.

I completely believe in Social Learning because that is how I learnt a lot about Instructional Designing.

I am a better Instructional Designer today because: 

  • I closely follow blog posts on Instructional Designing that keep me updated with the latest learning trends
  • Blogs also allow me to learn what others know about Instructional Designing and I learn my own lessons from them
  • I virtually interact and discuss about Instructional Designing with others who are equally interested and involved in Instructional Designing
  • I get so much knowledge through collaborative learning which I might not have got in a classroom

Social Learning actually is a time tested concept. Have you seen elderly men in coffee shops discussing daily news? In case you want to be up to date with the happenings in the world,all that you have to do is strike a conversation with such people who follow news very meticulously. You will learn lot more than you actually can learn by reading a newspaper.

Today you do not have to actually meet a person to share knowledge or ideas. There are so many tools available that allow you to collaborate virtually.

Some top tools that encourage social learning are:

The list goes on and on. Here is a list of some new tools for social learning.

To start with here are  some interesting articles on Social Learning:

Please let me know how you would explain Social Learning and how you relate to Social Learning.

12 comments to What is Social Learning?

  • Thanks for writing this out Rupa. There was a need for a post like this, as there are people who are already familiar with the concept and using it as part and parcel of their job. But at the same time, there maybe people hearing the terms used and looking out for an explanation of what it is. I will try and write something up in addition to what you have here. Thanks for sharing the example link!


  • You are welcome :)

    You are right! Many people must be looking out for simple explaination of the term Social Learning.
    I am one of them and I loved Jane Hart’s presentation and your example of Trek Earth.

    People can relate to it easily.

  • Ram

    Well, I agree with all you mentioned and here are some of my thoughts. Social Learning is not just about using the Web 2.0 tools viz., Wikis, blogs, and Social Networking in isolation. Though I agree technology enables Social Learning, yet it should actually come from us, the people who use them. As long as people do not want to collaborate, howmuchever efforts we put in, will not produce desired results. Let me substantiate this with an example…We all know that managing e-mail is one of the hardest things especially when working on multiple projects and we setup a Wiki page for each project and ask our team members to post their status and other updates there. But, people are so used to E-Mail and they just do not want to use this new tool for the simple reason that they don’t want to learn on how to use it.

    Technology aside, Social Learning is also about capturing the tacit knowledge that exists in the organizations today — water cooler discussions, lunch meetings, and discussions that happen when you travel with your colleagues while coming to and going from office. It is about moving from conscious incompetence to unconscious competence.

  • Ram

    Another best example for Social Learning is use of Post-it notes. I have observed in our company that many engineers write the code snippets on post-it notes and stick them all around their cubes. This way, it helps not only the person who created them, but also other engineers that work on similar projects or similar programming languages. So, Social Learning a.k.a Collaborative Learning should not be confused with technology tools…it is more about the way people collaborate and learn. Even, in a classroom environment, we get to meet lot of people..the instructor is merely a facilitator of learning and there is no doubt this person disseminates knowledge or information, but we learn more by collaborating with others. So…the word “Collaboration” is the key!!!!!

  • Thanks for the great thoughts ram.

    I completely agree that collaboration is the key.

    I mentioned tools just to hint that people can collaborate virtually now:) Virtual collaboration is effective because of these tools.

  • Ram

    Totally agree Rupa. Again, it depends on how people effectively use these virtual collaboration tools. How many people have commented on your blog or participate in the discussion forums on LinkedIn I created? So, it largely depends on peoples’ mindset!!! :-)

  • Sahana

    Rupa, the post was not only interesting but also summarizes the key factors and advantages of social learning very lucidly. I have learnt more about ID, e-learning, web 2.0 and everything besides in the past few months than I have in the past few years. This is due to:
    1. Twitter which leads one to great sites, blogs, and helps to connect with people.
    2. LinkedIn that introduced me to groups where interesting discussions are happening thus knowledge sharing is quick, pertinent, and insightful.
    3. Delicious where I can follow bookmarks of well known IDs, learning gurus, and e-learning experts and learn from the sites they follow.
    4. Blogs that keeps me updated on the latest happenings and leads me to other blogs of interest.

    But all of this I think worked because we have been and are on the lookout to learn more, to upgrade our existing knowledge and skill sets, to know more about what is happening in our field.

    What happens when everyone is not similarly driven?

    This is why I like Ram’s comments about the “willingness to collaborate” which is the key success factor behind all tools and technology. However, it is also true that the existence and knowledge of these tools and technologies will open up avenues for us to collaborate. Which comes first–the tool or the wish to collaborate is a bit of a chicken and egg dilemma. :)

    I look forward to more such posts from you–one of my main sources for keeping up to date on most things e-learning.

  • Hi Sahana,

    Thanks for taking time to pen your views.

    The essence of social learning is people coming together and learning. If there are people who are unwilling, then this does not hold any meaning to them.

    It is difficult to change people’s mindset :)

    The good news today is there is technology that allows you to collaborate virtually. So people who want to collaborate and learn will make the best use of it.

  • [...] learning is also known also social learning and collaborative learning (Read about it: What is Social Learning? by Rupa. As defined by Jay Cross, “Informal learning is unofficial, unscheduled, impromptu, [...]

  • [...] companies are reluctant to invest in social learning using the Web 2.0 tools. You can try and convince your clients about its power and usefulness. But [...]

  • “Social Learning” Buzz Masks Deeper Dimensions, Social Learning Dimensions – Gilfus Education Group

    Mitigating the confusion surrounding “Social Learning” — Article by Frank Ganis

    Foreword –
    It is our hope that by leveraging socially based technologies the education industry can shape a new educational technology paradigm that realizes the promises of true “Social Learning”.By understanding its applications we can create a unique opportunity to improve student engagement, student retention, academic success and overall educational outcomes. – Stephen Gilfus, Gilfus Education Group (Former Founder of Blackboard Inc.)

    “Social Learning” Buzz Masks Deeper Dimensions

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