Learning on your own is not always effective. It’s difficult to teach yourself something well, because you don’t know it. Even if you have a book or a great online eLearning course, you do not know what excellence looks like, you haven’t experienced it, and you cannot question it. More importantly, we are conditioned to learn socially from the moment we are born. We initially learn from our family, then our teachers and friends. Social learning is the upside of peer pressure! Social learning is taking corporate learning by storm. Let’s look at some of the top social learning trends that we can expect in 2018.

A simple way to explain social learning is to look at the two words; “Social” and “learning”. Being social means interacting with others. Learning means acquiring new knowledge. Social learning, therefore, means acquiring new knowledge by interacting with others!

Learn, the way your brain is designed to learn

Effective learning will only come about through effectively using the way we learn best. HR and L&D professionals who forget the human and social element will spend a lot of time and money on training initiatives that struggle against the way our brains are conditioned to learn. So how are our brains conditioned to learn? According to Psychology Today, there are several ways:

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  • By copying others – This is a key way that we as children learned about the world; by imitating the actions of others.
  • By observation – This is more passive, but remembering how someone did something will help you when you’re trying to accomplish the same task.
  • By instruction – This third method of learning socially involves the “teacher” describing the task in detail, and the learner following their instructions.

So, social learning is innate, but it’s influenced by our environment and technology, and those two factors are changing extremely quickly. We’re going to move from talking about general social learning to talking about social learning trends that are changing just as quickly.

From present to future

So, what are the latest trends in social learning? We’ve taken a look at five key areas that are going to be important in 2018:

1. Gamification

Video games offer rewards, points, and increased player levels if players do well. Learning designers can apply these concepts to corporate learning. Language application designers and personal trainers have realized how much potential this method has, and now the general business community is watching closely.

Research by US-based analysts at Gartner suggests that this is going to be one of the biggest social learning trends for this decade. As an HR or L&D manager, creating incentives or rewards for successful training outcomes could be very effective for learner engagement and increase the effectiveness of learning.

2. A virtual world

Virtual reality has finally arrived! The technology has only recently become cheap enough to sell to the public, and it’s now being used for games, exploring virtual environments, and (of course) learning.

This technology could make training sessions, meetings, and remote working much easier. Virtual or augmented reality has the potential to make remote learning and working more immersive and more practical. Imagine not just doing a role play in a classroom, but recreating a learning situation in a Virtual Reality classroom which looks like real life.

3. Independent learning

Smartphones and mobile devices are now a central part of our daily lives. As companies begin to get curious about social learning trends, they can start creating digital, bite-sized resources for their employees to use for independent learning.

Traditionally, corporate learning involved reams of paper and handbooks, followed by a Q&A session or a test. The handbook was either left in the classroom or put on a shelf to be forgotten and once the learner has taken the test, they are free to forget the learning as they wish.

Smartphones and mobile devices are now a central part of our daily lives. As companies begin to get curious about social learning trends, they can start creating digital, bite-sized resources for their employees to use for independent learning. If you have your training room with you in your pocket, then learning is more accessible.

Instructional designers can now create company-specific applications, online videos, and other resources. These allow learners to study and practice when it’s most convenient for them, before using their knowledge in simulations and then applying it immediately to their work behaviors. This approach saves time, increases engagement and maximizes learning retention.

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4. What’s that outside?

Shorter videos, shorter articles, and more digestible resources are needed! Attention spans are decreasing according to researchers who have shown that they’ve decreased from 32 minutes to 20 minutes in the last decade.

Of all the social learning trends, this is one that is going to challenge HR and L&D professionals most. Getting learners interested and keeping training sessions short are both effective ways of improving their attention span. With our electronic gadgets and fast-paced lifestyle, this trend is almost certainly going to continue.

5. If only all the information was in one place…

If the last ten years has been about introducing integrated Learning Management Systems to the workplace, then the next ten years are going to see their roles and prominence expand.

Social learning methods reinforce learning by motivating learners to learn, enjoy the process, and see the value of obtaining new skills and knowledge.

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Initially, a tool that started life as a calendar and catalog for finding and booking courses centrally, the LMS is going to be used for more things; as a library, learning platform, resource center, scheduling tool, reporting tool, and more.

As L&D professionals incorporate social learning elements, learners will be able to track their progress and will receive timely recommendations for further development. An effective LMS will soon be able to track how newly learned skills are being used in the workplace and will remind learners to continue developing them.

So organization, progress-checking, and effective communication with providers will all improve, and the potential for developing a competitive learning culture in your workplace is endless!

Can’t I just show them a presentation and make them take notes?

Death by PowerPoint is an exaggeration, but relying solely on traditional “talk and chalk” with PowerPoint will kill the motivation and engagement of learners. You will see the enthusiasm drain from the room if you use this method, and your learners will learn less if they’re not stimulated.

Conversely, social learning methods reinforce learning by motivating learners to learn, enjoy the process, and see the value of obtaining new skills and knowledge.

Not only that, but it is more cost-effective than traditional methods too. It’s not very often that the best solution is the cheapest! There are surely more social learning trends to come but the above should be the ones that everyone is talking about in 2018.