Social Learning: Beware the Hype Machine

“Social Learning” is something I hear a lot about from our clients and elsewhere. But what it is exactly is tough to say. Everyone has a different definition, but vaguely, we all understand it to mean learners interacting with each other, usually supported by some technology. A lot of people think that sounds good. And, certainly, for certain situations, it is.

However, and I think it’s important to remember, there are other interests involved in the evangelizing of “social learning.” Interests that basically want to sell you something (e.g., platforms, consulting, conferences). Some of the marketing can be rather ham-handed: a well-known platform purports to bust social learning myths on its website, none of which I believe anyone actually holds.

Don’t let the buzz drive a solution. Always let the learners’ needs be the focal point. What do they need to learn in order to do what I need them to do? What’s the best and most economical way to teach that? What do they need once they’re on-the-job to remain effective? Do brand new call center reps really need to be on a corporate-style “facebook” platform during onboarding to learn how to effectively take a call? Does the nature of their job allow for such to be employed as performance support once they are working?

This post is just meant to remind people to be a little skeptical from time-to-time about industry buzz.

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