Staying Connected: Social Learning in the Digital World

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Natalie Ann Holborow
Digital Content Specialist
Staying Connected: Social Learning in the Digital World

We live and work in an increasingly switched-on and interconnected world. Social media, e-books, websites and apps are all readily available at our fingertips, providing a wealth of information and communication options at any time and from any place. In recent years, technology has completely transformed the way we learn, as noted in our previous blog post ‘Learning in the Modern Workplace: What Does Modern Learning Look Like?’. But as we increasingly move away from formal, face-to-face training sessions and tilt our heads towards mobile devices, how can we ensure learners aren’t becoming disconnected from each other? Does the screen create an impenetrable barrier to meaningful collaboration?

Social learning is a hot topic in L&D as we seek to overcome these challenges – after all, the ability to work as part of a team is often cited as an essential skill in most job vacancy ads today. However, social learning is not a new concept. First coined by Albert Bandura in the late 1960s, social learning theory incorporates the idea that people learn from each other via “observation, imitation, and modeling”. It suggests that reinforcement alone is not enough – learning must also be accompanied by the cognitive processes of attention, motivation and memory. Social learning theory has therefore often been seen as bridging the gap between behaviourism and cognitivism. It is about how we learn in the presence of others.

“Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them on what to do.” Albert Bandura, Social Learning Theory 

Think about the things you remember learning in childhood. What’s easier to recall: things you learned while doing solitary study as part of homework, or what you did as part of a school play? An exam response to a GCSE science 10-mark question or the results of a practical group lab experiment? Often, other people help us to look at the same issues from a different perspective and allow us to have meaningful interactions that engage us. These things could otherwise be challenging or demotivating to grapple with alone. In the workplace, how often have you learned what you need by tapping a colleague on the shoulder or having a quick chat over coffee? 

When we consider that improving employee engagement with learning and increasing on-the-job productivity are two of the top priorities for 9 out of 10 L&D leaders today, it’s vital that this level of interaction and motivation is maintained as learning starts to move out of just the classroom and increasingly into the digital world. 

The key is to ensure that social learning is facilitated in the digital sphere by providing the right software and platforms. Only then can knowledge-sharing and connection thrive.

Studies by Pearson Research & Innovation have shown that digital learning strategies and access to devices can help learners develop a deeper and more engaged understanding of a topic. Technology has opened up a whole host of content delivery channels in a variety of multimedia options: think videos, diagrams, images and interactive assessments. 

But the benefits don’t end there. How else can collaboration in the digital world help to maximise your L&D efforts and ensure the learning truly sticks?

L&D colleagues with clock, collaborating in different times and locations

1. Time and place are no longer a barrier to collaboration

According to the Office of National Statistics, it is predicted that 50% of the UK workforce will be working remotely in 2020. Globalisation and the growth of technology have led to a rise in employees working across different timezones and from different geographical locations. At first glance, this appears to be a challenge to effective collaboration. 

However, with the use of social collaboration tools in your learning technology, discussions can be held, questions asked and feedback given regardless of time and place. Take Thinqi, for example. Fully xAPI compliant and complete with an inbuilt learner record store, it can capture learning in a variety of guises and is perfectly set up to support the capture of collaborative learning. What’s more, by providing those all-important ‘Discussions’ and ‘Groups’ features, we are able to incorporate everyday conversation into the LMS – a vast majority of which is valuable learning material. It’s 100% accessible whenever and wherever you and your learners are.

It’s social learning, right at the point of need.

Employees in the business all learning with books, reports and technology

2. It encourages a culture of continuous learning

In our previous two-part blog series, ‘Building a Learning Culture’, we highlighted how a strong learning culture is one in which learning is an active part of daily working life for every individual throughout the entire organisation. It requires everyone to see the value in continuous learning.

In other words, if you want a solid culture of learning, it must be a team effort.

When learning is relevant, available at the point of need and is easily accessible, it becomes a natural occurrence. The more people share knowledge, ask questions and engage in the digital sphere, the more it will become a cornerstone of organisational culture.

And when we consider that organisations with a strong learning culture boast 37% higher productivity, this is what’s really going to make a difference to bottom-line figures. 

Employees working together and discussing in an inclusive office

3. It creates a more inclusive discussion environment

Not everybody is comfortable with contributing their ideas in a classroom environment. Some people may feel self-conscious or intimidated in front of more vocal peers. Some may need more time to consider their answers, or there may be cultural differences where it is deemed impolite to question the person leading the session.

Enabling online discussion helps to overcome many of these barriers. Everybody has an equal chance of sharing their views and making their voices heard; in the digital world, everyone speaks at the same volume. The pressure of trying to compete with more confident members of the classroom is reduced, and by having an online space that’s open at any time, learners have time to consider their responses carefully before sharing their thoughts.

For more on diversity and inclusion, check out our blog ‘Diversity and Inclusivity in the Workplace: Making Learning Accessible for All’.

Different groups of employees communicating and using technology

In Summary…

Social learning doesn’t always have to happen face-to-face. The screen doesn’t always have to create barriers between people. Just as we look at ways to accommodate modern learners with learning that’s bite-sized, untethered and on-demand, it’s vital that we also remember to facilitate social learning opportunities in the digital sphere. 

It’s no surprise then that a study by McKinsey & Company found that, by using social technologies, companies can raise the productivity of knowledge workers by 20-25%. With figures like this, can your organisation really afford to overlook social technologies in learning? 

If you’re still worried about making that almighty leap into digital, then our free expert guide is just for you. The world is changing fast, and with it, the business and learning landscapes are having to adapt with a mindset of growth and the right technologies.

Don’t get left in the dark. Get connecting. Get learning.


If you would like to learn more about how our cutting-edge blended learning ecosystem can help your learners connect and collaborate in the digital world, we’ve got the tools and expertise to help you succeed. Request a demo to arrange to speak to one of our experts.

We’re always exploring key trends in the learning and development world, so keep an eye on our blog and social media channels to see when new insights are published:




thinqi logo
Natalie Ann Holborow
Digital Content Specialist