Instructional Design: Social Learning and Social Media
Note: Do not confuse the term Social Learning with Bandura's Social Learning Theory in which outcome and self-efficiency expectations affect individual performance (DeSimone, Werner, 2012). Bandura's Social Learning Theory is more detailed in that it has several types of modeling (Acquisition, Inhibition, Disinhibition, Facilitation, Creativity) that explain in detail how we learn from others, in addition to key terms, such as cueing and self-efficacy. While Social Learning is normally more of a general term for learning in a social environment. Some people use the term Social Media Learning for learning from others through mobile devices such as smart phones (e.g., iPhones or Androids) or tablets, such as an iPad.
Conte and Paolucci (2001) define social learning as a process of learning caused or favored by people being situated in a common environment and observing one another. This allows the learners to not only perceive each other for comparison and self-evaluation, but also see others as a neutral source of information, which may help or speed several forms of instrumental learning.
Within a social learning episode the learners update their own knowledge base (adding to, or removing from it a given information, or modifying an existing representation) by perceiving the positive or negative effects of any given event undergone or actively produced by another person on a state of the world in which the learner has as a goal (Conte, Paolucci, 2001).
Social media may thought of as communication tools that allows users to create, modify, and/or distribute content. And rather than being a broadcast model for one-to-many, such as a typical web page, social media are more of a many-to-many model that allows a conversational format for people to create, share, and remix information.
Social media includes such tools as blogs, microblogs (e.g., Twitter & Yammer), file sharing (e.g., Flickr & SlideShare), Virtual Meeting Places, (e.g., Adobe Connect & Elluminate), social sites (e.g. Facebook & MySpace) and wikis.
Social media has provided a virtual bridge by acting as the common environment in a social learning episode. This virtual bridge allows the learners to interact with each other in much the same manner as they would in a common environment, thus they are virtually able to observe and learn from others. Space has shifted as they now do not have to be in the same physical location..
The consensus is that social media are dramatically changing the relationships of individuals to society. Credited with phenomena that range in scope and scale from toppling governments (Moldova), to unleashing mass mobilizations (protest in Iran, humanitarian aid in Haiti), to uplifting individual artists from constraints of social class (the UK’s singer Susan Boyle), the media that flows over digital social networks offers individuals and communities opportunities to communicate with broad global reach as well as with personal intimacy. For the first time, people can ‘see’ each other’s worlds across previously socially defined boundaries, one to one across time and space, or one to millions. These outcomes are not due to the technology alone. The ‘Web 2.0’ features that have enabled this are not just the technical implementations themselves, but the frameworks of ‘participation’ and ‘sharing’ they enable, structure, and call upon us to enact (Lewis, Pea, Rosen, 2010).
The authors go on to note that by building these social media tools, people are able to transform their environments and restructure the functional systems in which they act and learn (Vygotsky, 1978; Wartofsky, 1983).
Probably the main question to ask is, “Are social media tools just as good in a social learning situation as the common environment they are replacing?” Just as the common environment is a medium that allows learning methods to take place, these tools are also media that carry the learning methods. And as the research has shown, it is the learning methods that matter the most, while media are selected for their ability to effectively and efficiently carry the learning method (Clark, 2001). Thus, just as long as a social media tool can transport the learning method, then it should have little or no effect on the learning.
So what gives these new social media tools the capability to allow people to learn and transform? Mason and Renniet (2008) wrote that there were four major benefits of learner generated content that these tools provide:
- The learners have the tools to actively participate in the construction of their experience, rather than passively absorbing content.
- The content can be continually refreshed by the learners rather than requiring expert input.
- Many of the tools are collaborative in nature, thus the learners develop team skills.
- Shared community space and inter-group communications are a large part of what excites young people [and many people of other ages]; therefore it should help to motivate them to learn.
So as an Instructional Designer you can use social media tools to:
- Provide a means of social learning when the learners are spaced apart. This learning is important for:
- Solving small everyday problem before they get big (distributed problem solving).
- Creating an environment that supports creativity.
- Forming ad hoc workgroups as needed to address business challenges.
- Building a work environment that is flexible.
- Guide them to create their own collaborative knowledge bases, rather than relying on others to do it for them.
- Increase the feeling of being a team when the learners are separated by distance by:
- increasing participation
- helping to represent the corporate brand
- developing community
- Help motivate them as this is a primary requirement for learning.
Also see mLearning.
Clark, R. (2001). Learning from Media: Arguments, Analysis, and Evidence. Greenwich, Connecticut: Information Age Publishing.
Conte, R. & Paolucci, M. (2001). Intelligent Social Learning. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation. vol. 4, no. 1.
DeSimone, R. L., Werner, J. M. (2012). Human Resource Development. Mason, OH.: South-Western College Pub.
Lewis, S., Pea, R., Rosen, J. (201). Beyond participation to co-creation of meaning: mobile social media in generative learning communities. Social Science Information, 0539-0184; Vol. 49(3): 1–19; 370726.
Mason, R., Renniet, F. (2008). eLearning and Social Networking Handbook: Resources for higher education. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: the development of the higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Wartofsky, M. (1983). The child’s construction of the world and the world’s construction of the child: from historical epistemology to historical psychology. in F. S. Kessel & A. W. Sigel (eds) The child and other cultural inventions, pp. 188–215. New York: Praeger.