What is Social Learning? The 21st-Century Definition (Part 1)

Written by Bloomfire Admin

What makes this definition different?

If you ask a friend, “What’s a house?” chances are, they’ll point at the nearest building behind a white picket fence or your neighborhood apartment complex.

If you ask the same question to some architects, they might do the same, but they also might point at a shipping container and say, “That could be a home.” Or they’ll point to a tree. Or an airplane.

When it comes to homes, architects can see beyond what most people see. They need to, because they make a living inventing homes.

Our company invents stuff too. But we don’t invent homes—we invent social learning tools. The tools we’ve invented are used by thousands organizations, including cool companies like Kellogg’s, Men’s Wearhouse, Financial Times, AllState, Dannon, Logitech, and Domino’s Pizza.

When you go to an eLearning conference and listen to a presentation about social learning, there’s a good chance the speaker will mention our company. When you chat with your resident learning technologies guru, there’s a good chance she’ll mention our company too. Like your friends who aren’t architects, their definitions of “social learning” partly hinges on the experiences our team architects.

To make a living doing what we do, we’ve developed a broader definition of social learning, just like how architects have a broader definition of “home.”

We’ve learned a lot since we launched our company in 2010. So this 3-part series unpacks a vendor’s perspective on social learning, influenced by observing thousands of real-life social learning communities.

What is social learning?

In plain English, social learning is learning from others. This can either happen online or offline.

Currently, when social learning occurs online, it’s often facilitated via mechanisms made popular by social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn (e.g. comments, posts, webcams, etc.). Some organizations are implementing purpose-built social learning tools like ours to facilitate online social learning amongst their teams.

Offline social learning has been happening since the beginning of time, and the underlying theory was proposed by Albert Bandura. Most people in their right minds would mimic behavior from others that lead to personal betterment. Imagine a scenario where our early ancestors met sabre-toothed tigers for the first time. After Sally and George got eaten, the rest of the group probably learned from Sally and George and started staying far away from sabre-toothed tigers. In other words, the group learned from others, namely Sally and George.

Part 2: Examples of Real World 21st-Century Social Learning
Part 3: Where Online Social Learning Tools Are Going

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