Many employees existed before computers, the Internet and social media. Back then, televisions had knobs instead of remotes, rabbit ears instead of cable cords. People used to wait anxiously for the mail in the hopes of receiving a letter, and people ate meals with one another and got together for Happy Hour instead of texting each other while driving home. Course studies involved face-to-face interactions with an instructor and other students. Imagine that!
Once the Internet took off, learning moved quickly from the classroom to the computer. We learned the term “social learning” once we realized that social media opened up a world beyond Facebook likes. Learning moved from the computer to our smartphones, and today, we’re in a state of constant connectivity. It’s hard to believe that centuries ago all knowledge was handed down by word of mouth from person to person.
Is it still possible for people to learn through human interaction?
Learning from thousands of pixels on a screen has become the norm, but instructional designers still abide by the four principles of social learning put forth by Albert Bandura, Professor Emeritus of Social Science in Psychology at Stanford University: attention, retention, reproduction and motivation. His social learning theory states that people learn from one another just as they have done through the ages through a process called modeling. First they observe others’ behaviors, attitudes and results, and then they imitate them. It’s similar to the doctor’s mantra “Learn one, do one, teach one.”
Back to the Future
Bandura’s social learning theory dates back to the 1970s, so the question isn’t, “Can Bandura’s four principles exist outside of the eLearning environment,” but more accurately, “How can we get people to learn outside of the electronic laboratory?” His theory names how we learn—by modeling. There’s no doubt that education has benefited from eLearning, but have we benefited socially from a steady diet of pixilated learning?
Finding a Balance
Blended learning is a mix of classroom training and electronic learning, and that’s one way to bring the human element back into learning, but it’s not the only way. If your company has moved entirely to eLearning and mLearning, there are much easier ways to supplement pixilated learning without redeploying classrooms, instructors and equipment.
Based on Bandura’s principles, enterprises can use in-house social media to bring the human element to learning. Peer pressure is a wonderful motivator, and when we reach for excellence and someone notices our efforts, we begin to self-motivate. Natural leaders (mentors) step forward to offer help, and people begin to form networks. When we reinforce formal eLearning through social learning, we retain what we’ve learned, and we can more easily reproduce results in the workplace. Through social learning, partnerships can form, collaborative learning can flourish, and workplace friendships can form.
But social learning is only the beginning, a bridge between eLearning and face-to-face interaction. If social media can topple governments, then social learning can bring us together.