L&D empowers social learning at TrainingZone LiveA common mistake people make is to assume that social learning only takes place online and that it’s all to do with social media tools. But of course it’s not. Social learning can take place anywhere, in many forms. I personally like the idea that it’s about building relationships with people who are outside our closest environment and creating groups where we can learn from each other (read Making people like them people like us). Some debaters claim all learning is social. Regardless, there’s one very clear thing being considered in current discussions on this topic – the fact our learning patterns are changing.
Niall Gavin (@niallgavinuk), Head of HR & Learning Technologies, makes an interesting observation about social learning in his latest blog post inspired by the recent TrainingZone Live event. He writes “we now operate in a very different world, with different expectations of what learning looks, feels and tastes like”. He refers to ‘peer-driven learning’ which he says is happening more and more but disappointingly wasn’t mentioned in discussions at TrainingZone Live. His point is that changes are taking place around us ‘with or without our involvement’ and L&D professionals are taking a risk by not embracing these changes. Are some L&D pros becoming so consumed by what they do and how people could learn from them that they’re not recognising how much people learn from each other?
I must admit, when I was at TrainingZone Live it didn’t cross my mind that social learning needed more attention than any other topic because I already tend to take it for granted. I think it takes place without people realising they’re teaching and learning themselves, for example when using social networking sites (now widely considered as a learning tool) such as Twitter. (Is this a problem or is this the beauty of it?).
Social learning – and in particular, peer-driven learning – was taking place right there at the event, during the workshops and keynote presentations. Everywhere I glanced, people were looking at their iPads, smartphones and laptops, all with access to the internet, and most of them using Twitter. Many were taking notes in the form of tweets and instantly sharing what they were learning or re-tweeting interesting thoughts of others. It might not be a new occurrence anymore, but what surprised me about it was the effortlessness of those people in paying attention to someone speaking and tweeting about it at the same time. Personally I still find it a bit challenging.
One of the values of peer-driven social learning is how it surpasses boundaries. Those who couldn’t attend TrainingZone Live felt like they were at the event thanks to the Twitter stream keeping everyone updated on what was happening – including pictures of the venue and presentations. This wider real time social learning at TrainingZone Live was engaging and addictive. The knowledge sharing was unstoppable – and global.
My point is that those who were using social media tools at TrainingZone live created a peer group, a social learning experience that took place right there and then; and only after reading Niall’s blog did it strike me what a shame it was that the panel of experts didn’t touch upon the subject (at least not in the topical way), which developed before their eyes.
Such an informal way of learning, as we experienced it at this year’s TrainingZone Live, certainly deserves attention from L&D professionals. If the learning and development industry doesn’t fully facilitate and support social and collaborative learning soon and add it to our training blends, we might miss an opportunity to reach those learners whose training patterns are already deeply set in the social sphere.
To find out more about what took place at TrainingZone Live, check out #TZL12 on Twitter.