Learning professionals love to talk about the value of social learning. But that doesn’t mean we’re all referring to the same thing–as we’ve mentioned in the past, social learning is an umbrella term that covers several different learning theories and currents of thought.
Here at Eduflow, we use the definition of social learning that Tony Bingham and Marcia Conner put forth in their book The New Social Learning: Social learning involves “joining with others to make sense of and create new ideas.” A mentor giving an entry-level colleague interviewing tips is a form of social learning. When that person posts what they learned on LinkedIn, sharing it with the rest of their graduate class, that’s a form of social learning too.
For social learning to happen you need a learning platform with social features, especially in remote environments. Otherwise, learners won’t have a space to have the interactions that make social learning possible.
Social learning platforms are learning management systems (LMS) built around social learning. They make it possible for learners to communicate and work together. They emphasize the human behind the computer screen so that learners feel like they are part of a learning community. They also promote the social interactions that make learning more successful and engaging overall.
So, what makes a learning platform social, and how is that any different from a traditional LMS?
Follow us on this deep dive into social learning platforms, what they are (and aren’t), and how you can successfully promote social learning at your workplace.
Social learning platforms vs. traditional LMSs
All social learning platforms are learning management systems, but only some LMSs qualify as social learning platforms.
What is an LMS?
An LMS is a platform or software that allows learning professionals to build, upload, deliver, and track learning material like educational courses and training programs in one place.
LMSs will almost always include features to manage courses, create student assessments, track course completions and monitor participation. Modern LMSs also include features that allow instructors to upload videos (and sometimes give students the option to respond in kind), pull courses from a pre-existing course library, and add options for both sync and async learning.
Wondering about the difference between an LMS and an LXP? So were we…
Where do social learning platforms fit in?
Social learning platforms have all of the same core features that traditional LMSs do. But unlike other LMSs, social learning platforms make learner interaction a priority. They give learners the chance to collaborate, comment on each other’s work, and interact with each other, in addition to the learning material.
Social learning systems use many of the same tactics and features that have made social media platforms so successful—users become part of a learning community, working to master the material alongside others. They can like, comment, and share information easily.
Most importantly, social learning platforms are *not* LMSs with a couple of social features tacked on—the social aspect is built into the platform from the ground up, and it’s intrinsic to the learning experience.
What are the key features of social learning platforms?
Social learning platforms have all of the same features that modern LMSs offer, with things like analytics, fast and easy course design, SCORM compliance, and APIs. But they’ll also have a full range of social features that allow students to collaborate and interact.
Peer review: Students can read each others’ work and share feedback, which helps them learn from each other and frees up instructor time.
Discussions: Discussion boards give learners the chance to interact, ask questions, and share insights into the learning material.
Group work: Group work functionality makes it easy for learners to collaborate and produce a learning product together.
Social media-like features: Features like newsfeeds, emojis, likes, and comments are a low-lift way for learners to engage with each other and build a sense of connection.
Cohort courses: Cohort-based courses have a set start and end date, and a group of students work through the materials together at the same pace, though not necessarily at the same time. The ability to create cohort-based courses is great for employee training that needs to be completed by a certain deadline or group project collaboration, especially for learners in different timezones.
Examples of social learning platforms
As social learning becomes more widely acknowledged as a successful way to learn, more and more social learning platforms are popping up. Here are a few you might want to know about:
We admit we’re biased, but we think Eduflow is pretty great. It’s easy to get started, scales well as your learning needs grow, and offers a whole host of social features that allow learners to collaborate, give each other feedback, and work together.
EdApp is a mobile-first LMS that specializes in microlearning and eLearning gamification. Its social learning features include discussion boards, video conferencing, and virtual classrooms.
Docebo is a full-feature social LMS primarily aimed at enterprises, with social features that encourage user-generated content. Docebo is a good solution for larger enterprises, but pricing probably won’t make sense for smaller and medium-sized companies.
Use a social learning platform to promote social learning at your workplace
Social learning platforms are a great tool to encourage social learning at your company, especially in remote or hybrid environments. A social learning platform with features like peer review, comments, and group assignments can push employees to learn more from each other instead of always relying on managers or formal mentoring structures. It’s also a great way to spread knowledge throughout your organization.
But most importantly, using a social learning platform can also foster a stronger sense of community and trust among learners than a traditional LMS can, because it creates opportunities for communication and collaboration. The right social learning platform can promote a positive culture of collaboration at your company and help you build a thriving learning community.