Learning: the social dimension

I’ll be running a workshop on the social dimensions of learning at Learning Essentials, the  Elearning Alliance conference on Friday 31 October at West Lothian College, Livingston.

In a recent blog post Jane Hart notes that social learning is how we learn naturally, with our friends and colleagues. Social media, although not essential, she says, does offer tools that help us to help us connect to our networks of colleagues to ask and answer questions, and exchange ideas, thoughts and experiences.  This is known as a Personal Learning Network, a concept we explored in our recent animated story.

Continuous learning is less about courses and more about people sharing knowledge, experience, ideas and resources as part of the daily workflow. But Hart also warns against forcing people to use social media in courses or in the workplace and then confusing compliance with engagement learning.

Paul Matthews, in his recent book Informal Learning at Work: How to Boost Performance in Tough Times, notes that employees need to be adaptable, responsive, continuous learners, innovative and willing to share.  To be like that, employees need to work in an environment that allows access to personal learning networks.  The emphasis here is on personal.  People have to want to do this, not be compelled to.

Knoco stories is a blog from Nick Milton offering insights on knowledge transfer. A recent post (Why knowledge transfer through discussion is 14 times more effective than writing) compares and contrasts two ways of transferring knowledge:

  1. Connecting people so that they can discuss
  2. Collecting knowledge in written (explicit) form so others can find and read it

He argues that connecting people is far less efficient than collecting while being far more effective – but how much more effective? He concludes that  effectiveness of transmission of knowledge through connecting is 35% compared to 2.5% for collecting. I’ll leave it to others to decide if they agree with his analysis but it does seem to support the notion that discussion and collaboration are vital parts of learning.

In the workshop we’ll have look at tools for building the personal learning networks and environments that can help us learning continuously and effectively, and willingingly!