There has been commentary in “best of” 2015 predictions that social learning is a fad. For those who learned about social learning not as a theory but as something people were talking about last year, I can understand that. Certainly there were a number of books and articles that made it all sound new. It’s not new. People have always learned socially. Observing this, Alfred Bandura brought us social learning theory, which suggests that learning is most effective in social context. Bandura published his first findings in 1963, but this was an observation of what was already happening. Further research and theories, such as 70/20/10 examined by Center for Creative Leadership espoused that only 10% of on the job work is learned formally, 20% through mentorship or coaching, and 70% in social or networked work environments. Charles Jennings has been further expanding on this theory, where 70% is experiential, on the job (and social) learning.
This article from Nick Leffler explains how social learning is not a “tool” in learning and development, but something much more important.
“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.
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.”