Social Learning Has Never Been About a Single Tool

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

I noticed a ReTweet from Shannon Tipton yesterday morning where she was disagreeing with the flop part of the following blog post: What eLearning Trends Will Pop, Flop and Flip in 2015? (the link has been removed because it no longer exists anywhere I can find)

That caught my attention and I had to explore further.  Things get a bit murky when you combine eLearning with anything, especially social learning. After skimming some of the article but reading thoroughly about the flop, I naturally disagreed with it also.

In what world could social learning be waning? It’s the way humans have always learned, even back to prehistoric times.

The post isn’t that simple though. It’s not saying social learning is fizzling, it’s saying social learning in the context of eLearning is. At least that’s what I think it’s talking about, really it’s not well-defined in the post, not nearly well enough to say what is flopping.

What are Social Media-styled eLearning Tools?

I don’t know. Does anybody?

My first thought is the fad several years ago where rapid development tools were shoving in ways to Tweet from within a course and calling it social learning. I’m not necessarily against that, it could further discussions if it was used.

The link to Sharon Boller’s post doesn’t fit the description of  what’s being discussed either (and frankly I don’t understand how it relates to the conclusion of them flopping). What Sharon discusses has nothing to do with eLearning in the traditional sense. Sharon’s post is at least easier to disagree with and know exactly what you’re disagreeing with 🙂

My only conclusion is that the post has no conclusion (or knowledge) about what is meant by social media-styled eLearning tools.

So, since this isn’t very clear, I’m going to assume it has something to do with social learning and eLearning, in which case if either of those is going to be a flop, it’s eLearning.

Social Learning

Social learning surely can’t be dying, or flopping, or fizzling. It’s not. It’s a natural progression of how people really learn, not a fad that’s only 10 years old (or . People have learned socially for thousands of years and since computers and social media it has merely taken a modern turn.

Since the beginning of social media social learning has taken off.

People have used it to:

  • Develop their professional knowledge.
  • Learn about their hobbies.
  • Learn how to be more efficient at a job task.
  • Learn about what they didn’t know they didn’t know.
  • Learn about what they knew they didn’t know.
  • And more!

People have done all of this without L&D even being involved and the messiness and slowness that training and courses brings along with it.

Social learning will only grow, and L&D will have to catch up the further it falls behind. Weaving social learning into eLearning was only the first attempt of L&D mainstream to deal with social learning that inevitably happens. L&D has the unfortunate craving to control the experience and make everything pass through their gates.

L&D will fail at controlling, just as IT has failed at controlling. People are going to learn socially just as they are going to bring their own IT equipment to the office.

It’s up to L&D to figure how to work WITH social learning and empower people to use it even more effectively to learn, not fight it and control it and make it go through their gates.

Pop or Flop?

If social learning flops, then L&D and the organization will also flop with it because it’s the only way for an organization to stay relevant. L&D will become a dinosaur if it doesn’t recognize this and will become obsolete.

eLearning will have a limited effect on the modern organization. Training can only go so far, and is used unnecessarily more than it isn’t.

My only conclusion is that social learning will pop. It will become more relevant than eLearning ever was. Just because throwing a Twitter hashtag inside a course doesn’t work well doesn’t mean social learning is a flop, or even social media-styled eLearning tools (whatever that is!).

My conclusion is that eLearning will eventually flop, but social learning will indeed pop and continue to pop. It will be recognized as the most important way forward in learning and the tools that support it will grow in importance to organizations who want to thrive.

Social Learning Tools

There are tons of great tools out there to accommodate social learning, but they aren’t social learning tools, they are social tools.

There’s no such thing as a tool out there that can be used for only learning. Be it a LMS, rapid development tools, or whatever. These tools have a limited use and will have a limited lifespan. Think more along the lines of Yammer or Chatter. These are not social learning tools, they are social tools to enable people to connect and learn from each other. Social learning is something that happens within these tools among a myriad of other things.

eLearning has a limited purpose and limited life. Social learning has been around before eLearning and will continue to thrive well after the fad of eLearning has faded away.

I’m Hungry

I don’t know about you, but I’m hungry for information, hungry to learn, and hungry to learn from the best of the best. Social is the only way for me to do this.

I’ve heard again and again that employees of organizations around the globe are hungry to learn and they’re going to find a way to do it with or without L&D.

Employees are hungry for information and they are hungry for a place to socially learn, collaborate, and share which all go hand in hand. eLearning will continue to keep its niche for some time but it will by no means enter the mainstream and stay there.

Social on the other hand has broken into the mainstream a long time ago and with it has brought social learning, wider collaboration, tearing down of silos, and all kinds of other great things.

Social learning has been around forever, but we’ve entered a new era where we can now learn and share on a global scale with no boundaries of the organization. Even from within the organization we can share knowledge at speeds previously unknown.

What do you say? is modern social learning the best thing since sliced bread or is it bound to unravel and fail?