Social Learning Tips to Enable More Meaningful Discussions

Learning is largely a social process, whether we acknowledge it or not. Furthermore, your learners are social by nature. Thus, you should cater to that quality and enable learners to interact with each other during learning experiences. However, you shouldn’t expect any of this to happen automatically. Rather, it’s something that you need to enable and facilitate through technology and design. There are however a few good practices that we’ve compiled that you should look into. So, here are 3 social learning tips to facilitate better interactions.

Social learning tip #1: Encourage participation and contributions

Firstly, you should always encourage participation and contributions in your learning experiences. For instance, you can create initial engagement by having the learners introduce themselves and submit testimonials of their own experience with the topic. Overall, user-generated content can be a valuable driver to the overall learning activity. You should also think about different collaborative learning activities that your employees could engage in to bring a practical aspect to their learning.

You shouldn’t be afraid of constructive criticism either. By creating a safe discuss for argumentations and discussions, you’ll show that the discussions are not just for going through the motions. Similarly, you should never punish for inactivity on “being social” or introduce very strict success metrics of social learning. Commenting just for the sake of increasing one’s comment count doesn’t really contribute to anything.

Social learning tip #2: Keep the discussions with the content

No matter what kind of tools or social learning platforms you may use, you should try to integrate the social aspect into the natural flow of the program. Instead of having a separate forum or space for discussions, you should keep the interactions near the content. Annotations or different types of “social overlays/feeds” are a great way to do this. As your learners don’t have to move to a different “portal” or “page” to share their opinion, the discussions become more spontaneous. This results in a much more fruitful, relevant and to-the-point commentary, instead of manufactured posts on general topics.

If you’re using a lot of content with a playback content, such as videos or animations, it might be beneficial to time stamp the discussions. This way, comments e.g. on a video will appear as the video progresses. This even further improves the relevance and context of discussions.

Social learning tip #3: Initiate discussions and ask for comments

As you might guess from the previous section, totally free-form discussion is hard to evoke. Learners may refrain from commenting feeling that their experiences or thoughts might not be relevant or “right”. If that happens, you won’t be getting a lot of contributions.

Therefore, it pays to guide the discussions ever so slightly. While you shouldn’t censor discussions or restrict topics, you can discreetly point your learners to the items and topics you’d like them to discuss. For instance, deploy a few sample questions to start discussions at any point where you want to activate social interaction. However, remember to focus on quality as empty discussions are pointless. Thus, ask the learners for their own reflections and experiences on the learning topic instead of mundane things like whether they liked the content or not. Sharing of real opinions, ideas and experiences brings a lot more value not only to you, but even more importantly to the other learners.

Overall, you should attempt to make social interactions a seamless part of the learning experience. Forced and manufactured interactions don’t really serve a purpose. If you need help in designing better social learning experiences, contact us for more social learning tips and advise.

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