Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Social Learning Strategies

The saying goes "two heads are better than one," but is it?  Social learning is "learning by interacting with other people," (Horton, p. 399).  Social learning is always active, social and learner-driven (Horton, p. 400).   Social learning can take many forms and use many different tools.

Some examples of Social Learning:
Social learning connects learners and promotes collaboaration.

  • Sharing ideas or information via email, chat or social media
  • Collaborating on a document for a group project
  • Discussing learning topics and understanding deeper on discussion forums
  • Sharing on Adobe Connect sessions
    • Student presentations
    • Expert panel discussions
    • Question and answer sessions

This interaction with others strengthens our abilities to accomplish goals and ideals because everyone is part of a team.   Interaction forms a community.  People in the community often bond over common goals, purposes or struggles so naturally students in a course bond.  Individuals in the group can share ideas, resources or experiences which in turn, provides additional learning experiences for their peers.

Simon Sinek says that good leaders and communicators know what their "why" or purpose is in his Ted Talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”.  The secret ingredient for social learning is that if all of the participants in the learning community share a common "why" they will be able to collaborate and actively learn from one another.  This strategy will not work for all learners or instructors, but it can be powerful if it is used properly.

Social learning can be very challenging because often learners and instructors are working asynchronously. Learners may be spread out, come from different backgrounds or cultures, and come in with different prior knowledge and communication skills.  In a face-to-face classroom instructors can mediate immediately, however in social learning there may be a time gap or a misunderstanding. 

Here are some tips for instructors:

  • Be a facilitator; not a conversation dominator.
    • Coach and guide students in what is expected
    • Fuel conversations rather than lead them
    • Provide constructive feedback
  • Provide clear guidelines
    • Provide grading guidelines
    • Provide clear expectations for how much interaction is required
    • Indicate when citations or additional resources are needed
    • Provide examples of clear communication
  • Clarify confusion
    • Answer questions
    • Direct conversations so they stay on topic

Many courses at KUMC already take advantage of social learning strategies with their students.  If you would like to learn more about strategies or tools available for KUMC courses contact TLT EdTech (8-7107) and we would be happy to help you!


Horton, W. (2012). E-learning by design, 2nd edition (2nd ed.). San Francisco, Calif.: Pfeiffer.

Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action. Talk Video. (n.d.). Retrieved April 7, 2015, from

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