I frequently hear people use social learning, social media learning, and informal learning interchangeably, but they’re not the same.
The Training Magazine survey on social learning, featured in a keynote at Training 2012, yielded hundreds of suggested definitions for social learning. Brent Bloom, Sr. Director of Talent Management at KLA-Tencor, shared one he felt was pretty close. Social learning may be defined as:
“Learning that is largely self-directed, self-paced, and individualized, where the learner interacts with many different types of resources and inputs and becomes a contributor to the overall body of knowledge.”
If this is social learning, then let’s distinguish between (but not necessarily define) some other related terms.
Social media are the venues where social networking and learning take place. The term generally refers to online social media.
Social networking refers to interacting with others socially, often through social media. Again, this today typically means online social media, but social networking has been going on for a long, long time.
Social media learning is a bad term because it’s technically meaningless. It could be taken as learning to use social media, or learning socially using media. Social media-based learning makes more sense.
Anecdotally, blended learning is a term that seems to mean different things to different people. To me, blended learning is any combination of a variety of approaches that are employed to accomplish learning objectives. Some people call blended learning that incorporates a social media component blended learning 2.0 (3.0 adds mobile), or the “new” blended learning. I’d rather focus on designing effective training than label it.
Informal learning is learning that occurs outside of a formal training or educational program.
Formal learning is learning that results from participating in a training or educational program.
Note that informal learning is not the same as social learning. Reading, searching online, even “lurking” on social networking sites, which are both informal and nonsocial (asocial?) activities, can result in learning.
Likewise, social learning is not exclusively informal. It can be included in many different ways as part of a formal educational program. In the workplace, this means extending learning beyond the classroom for a more meaningful and longer lasting experience. However, let’s not bother putting a label on is, as it’ll only serve to confuse things. Nonetheless, this is the space I’ll be exploring in the coming months.
Your ideas and thoughts are welcome.
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