1. Social Learning- Introduction

Social learning is a cognitive process that takes place in a social context. It explains the behavioral learning that occurs in human beings purely through their senses of observation and retention, even in the absence of any facilitator or educator. It expands beyond traditional methods of learning where teaching reinforcements are employed to educate people. This is an introductory tutorial that explains how Social learning occurs in individuals through their interpretation of rewards and punishments with respect to actions.

  • Audience

This tutorial is designed primarily for those professionals who want to improve their interpersonal skills and communication better at the workplace. It is designed to help people improve their aptitude and skill-sets through observation and learning.

  • Prerequisites

Before proceeding with this tutorial, you are expected to have a clam mindset and be open to exploring the suggestions mentioned here.

2. Social Learning- Defining

What is new is the way business-people have started walking up to the enormous possibilities that platforms like Twitter, Blogs, and Emails bring to make our learning efforts more reachable and comprehensible.

  • Social Learning in Business

As a result of the use of technology, learning can be made a more personal and individual exercise, where real-time business problems can be dealt with immediately and effectively. Finally, this also makes learning an affordable and scalable process for the organizations.
According to a survey conducted by Deloitte, US companies spent around $13,675 on Social learning tools and services this year, which is 39% higher than what they had spent the previous
year. As per industry experts, these spending will only grow, as newer and more companies get the lookout to connect their employees and engage them in modern, informal and more exact methods of learning with social tools.
Industry experts say that using these social technologies in business can bring about staggering profits of 1.5 trillion dollars in value for companies. The interesting part of this statistics is that more than half of this profit can be obtained in improving communication and collaboration among the employees, and enterprises. The companies are very excited on this front, as this is something that they can achieve without any extra investment, just with proper training and briefing.
Over the years, the companies have started to realize that social learning in business can only work if a conductive atmosphere of learning is provided backed by quality social connections. And these online social interactions need to be clearly focused on learning.

– Using Social learning technology, companies worldwide have been able to effectively share instruction and data with their employees, thereby achieving better collaboration across the workforce, breaking down barriers among employees, and providing extensive knowledge among people across ranks and files.

– In a 2013 MIT Sloan Management Review Report concluded that several large organizations have started that using Social learning-based business software in their operations had resulted in increasing efficiency of the workforce in the following major areas-

 Encouraging and Improving Collaboration (71%)
 Identifying expertise (60%)
 Providing Internal Knowledge (20%)
 Increasing Productivity (56%)
 Removing Internal Barriers (52%)

3. Social Learning vs. Social Networking

People often confuse Social Learning with Social Networking. Social Learning is not exactly the same as logging in to the account, and browsing through disparate topics, or posting a query and waiting for someone in your contact to provide the answer. Lets us analyze both these cases. When you browse through different links and news topics, what you are doing is getting information on things that you have find interesting, but may not be what you wanted information on. In other words, what you experienced wasn’t learning, but knowledge.
When you post a query and wait for an answer, it is more information gathering than learning. Social Networking sites were not conceptualized or designed for Social Learning, hence they lack instruments that can track information, sample it, and make comparative reports on them to see if some actual learning has taken place. That’s the reason comparing Social Learning with Social Networking is a poor analogy.
Social Learning Software, on the other hand, not only provides a purpose and focus to learning, but also tracks your progress and provides a normalized assessment of the achievements of your efforts. Most people who opt for Social Learning are looking for very specific information, or are interested in honing a very specific skill-set.
There are not into knowing random stuff from different categories. In other words, you could say that those who want to learn something to build their careers are interested in Social Learning, whereas those who are into leisurely reading opt for Social Networking.
Larger number of doctors, engineers, architects, and journalist are getting educated online through technologies like virtual classroom, Electa Live, etc.

4. Social Learning- Strategies

Many companies have started implementing a lot of best practices that help incorporating Social Learning in workplace. Many of these practices are developed keeping in focus some clear objectives. These objective are result-oriented learning, increasing creativity through imaginative approaches to work, and connect with people on real-time issues.
To meet these objectives, companies have come up with the following strategies-

  • Strategy 1- Focus on Learning

    Many Social Learning tools are just Social Networking tools or social media forums in reality, that don’t have a clear, focus-driven approach to learning. Most of the times, they are just randomly written articles that don’t directly address any problem. The intent is not to learn, but in expanding their membership base.
    Social Learning tools must provide specific learning programs. The objective should be to help people realize their learning goals. People using Social Learning tools must get real-time assistance when they need it. People must collaborate on similar ideas to reach a faster and more efficient.
    A critical factor to consider is the structure provided within them. The aim should be to provide result-oriented career-specific learning that can be compared with corporate training standards.

  • Strategy 2- Quitting Traditional Learning Methods

    Companies who want to associate social learning with their workplace have now started to add LMS (Learning Management System) software as a social feed. However, this is not a step that sufficiently addresses the concern of the employees. These socials feeds only provide for an instructor or subject matter expert to put a query across to, but that is not enough.
    The social aspect of learning needs to have provisions where people could discuss the answer with their colleagues and see whether such solutions have had success in other real-time implementations. These provisions should allow people to have conversations before a training, and after that as well.

  • Strategy 3- Structure Learning on Real-Life Scenarios

    Companies realize that hardly anyone would be interested in taking time out of their busy schedule to sit in a training where they are taught on something irrelevant to their jobs. Many people won’t like to spend time after work in a place where they are not learning something that directly improves their performance, or something that doesn’t have a direct relation to their work responsibility.
    People need experts and experienced peers to share scenario-based information, as well as giving answers to questions that might arise exactly at the time they will be needed. That will help these professionals to get very specific and exact answers that address the situations precisely. This reduce the time they look around on bogus sources for answers, and helps them doing their jobs quicker and better.
    Social Learning experts stress on the need to treat every single professionals as an individual who will have his own pace of working and giving output. By treating everyone asking a query as a unique person, the learning becomes personalized and customized to the needs and specification of the individual employee.

  • Strategy 4- Change in Attitude Toward Learning

    Many companies are yet to fully embrace Social Learning as they lack a clear understanding of the positive impact it can have on their business. This is where companies who have witnessed significant improvement in their company bottom lines need to step forward and share their experience, and provide a clear idea that Social Learning not only improves the soft skills of an employee, but also delivers on business generation and profits.
    People need to realize the Social Learning is not some out-of-box, experiment to gauge its effect. Social Learning comes naturally to people and that has been the case for centuries. We are only engaging technology into it and making the experience faster, smoother and better.

5. Social Learning- Software SCRUM

One of the most successful Social Learning programs in today’s world is scrum, an interaction based, incremental agile software designed to manage product development. It provides a working environment where a development team can work as a unit to reach a common goal. It does this through its daily face-to-face communication model, allowing the members of a team to self organize by encouraging physical co-location, and close online collaboration of all team members. A key principle of scrum is that acknowledge the possibility of customers changing their minds about their needs during production processes, and understands that these unpredicted challenges cannot be easily handled in a predictive or planned manner. Hence, scrum works on an empirical approach that focuses on optimizing the team speedy delivery.
The Scrum framework is based on three cores-

 Scrum Master
 Sprint
 Product Backlog

  • Scrum Master

    The job of scrum master is advertising the challenges that the team face while delivering the product goals. Instead of a traditional team lead or project manager, scrum stands like a barrier between the team and other distractions. The scrum master ensure that the scrum processes is used as intended, and often facilitates key sessions, and encourage the team to improve. It takes the responsibilities of a team facilitator.
    Scrum Master Service to the Product Owner (Stakeholders)-
    • Providing techniques for effective product backlog creation and management.
    • Helping the Scrum team understand product planning.
    • Assisting the product owner optimize the product backlog.
    • Facilitating Scrum events as requested or needed.
    Scrum Master Service to the Development Team-
    • Facilitating the development team with Scrum cross-functionality.
    • Helping the development team in maximizing their output.
    • Addressing obstacles in the path of the Scrum team.
    • Coaching the team in Self-organizing events and facilitating, if requested.
    Scrum Master Service to the Organization-
    • Helping the organization adopt to the Scrum working environments.
    • Organizing Scrum implementations within the organization.
    • Helping employees and stakeholder understand how to use Scrum.
    • Bringing changes to increase the productivity to the Scrum team.
    • Working with other Scrum Masters to increase the effectiveness of Scrum.

  • Sprint

    A sprint (or iteration) is the basic unit of development in scrum, and is restricted to a specific duration. The duration is fixed in advance for each sprint, with two weeks beings the most common. Each sprint starts with a sprint planning event that includes defining the sprint backlog, specifying the objectives and task of the sprint, and make an estimated commitment for the sprit goals. Each sprint ends with review that checks the progress, and identity lessons for future
    improvements.
    During the Sprint-
    • No changes are made that would hamper the sprint goal.
    • Quality goals do not decrease.
    • Terms can be re-negotiated between product owner and development team.
    Each sprint has a clearly-defined set of instructions of what is to be done, a flexible plan to guide the team towards the result, and the resultant product. Each sprint is treated like a product with a one-month deadline. When a sprint’s deadlines become too long, the definition of the final result will keep changing due to numerous inputs, due to which there could be increase in complexity and risk of failure. Sprints enable predictability by inspecting the adaption to the inputs and ideas with the progress toward a sprint goal at least every calendar month. Sprints also limit risk to one calendar month of cost.

  • Sprint Review

    A sprit review is held at the end of the sprint, where the scrum team and stakeholders collaborate on the actions that should be taken to optimize value, and the presentation of the increment is intended to elicit feedback and foster collaboration.

  • Product Backlog

    The Product Backlog is a list of all necessary items needed for achieving the desired result. The unique and best thing about a Product Backlog is that it’s never complete. It starts by laying out the initial, best-known and understood requirements.
    The Product Backlog evolves constantly with the user and the environment in which scrum is used. This result in a dynamic backlog which keeps are record of evolving ideas and new inputs at every given step of the implementation, and also gives a prediction as to how these new ideas will change the final output. The Product Backlog exists till the product exists. Once the final product is over, the Product Backlog is released to another medium where others can refer to these contents
    and use them while designing a similar product.

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