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What Is Social Learning Anyway?

Social learning has evolved from buzzword to business imperative, but there is no industry-wide definition; it means different things to different companies.

March 18, 2013
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Related Topics: Learning Delivery, Learning Delivery, Social Networking, Technology
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Learning management system, return on investment, instructor-led training. Add social learning to the list of terminology in a CLO’s arsenal, because chances are when learning executives interact with their peers, the term is going to crop up. However, unlike the ephemeral trends in fashion or pop culture, social learning is not just “the new black.” Its widespread use and demonstrable impact has rendered it indispensable in many a learning leader’s toolkit.

Consider, in 2012 social learning spending for large U.S. companies exceeded $46,000 on average — a number that nearly tripled from two years ago, according to the January Bersin by Deloitte report “The Corporate Learning Factbook 2013,” based on a study of 300-plus training organizations.

While there are nuances in the definition of the term and how it is used in organizations, there is an underlying theme: Social learning is sharing knowledge, information and experiences via interactive discussion and collaboration among peers. It may be enhanced by the use of technology, including social media. In some organizations it’s viewed as synonymous with informal learning, or it falls under the broader informal learning umbrella, whereas in others each are considered distinct facets of learning.

Part 1: Driving Social Learning

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