Humans are social animals, everyone knows. But did you know that we are social learners, too?
According to a theory proposed by psychologist Albert Bandura, we don’t just learn from reading books and what our instructors teach us.
We can learn a lot just by observing other people.
You might be wondering what this academic theory has to do with online learning and corporate training.
Well, that’s what this guide is about. There are many significant benefits to implementing findings from social learning theory in your learning and development programs.
We’ll first give you more info on social learning theory and then jump into the benefits. Let’s go!
What is social learning theory?
Albert Bandura’s social learning theory explains how people learn and considers the social context of learning in addition to the behavioral and cognitive processes.
According to Bandura, and in contrast to the famous behaviorist learning theories of his time, the learning process includes a social component.
This component is called observational learning, where we get new information and skills by noting what other people are doing, how they’re doing it, and the consequences they face for their actions.
For instance, if we see a person slip and almost fall on a patch of a wet floor, we’ll probably choose to avoid that area. Nobody had to tell us to avoid it; we saw what happened and reasoned what to do.
This reasoning is the cognitive component of learning, so Bandura’s theory is also known as the social-cognitive learning theory.
For a complete overview, check out our detailed guide on social learning theory.
6 benefits of social learning
Social learning is not just an academic theory for professors and psychologists.
Adopting ideas from this theory and using it in your learning environment offers major benefits that can increase learning retention, enable better communication, and provide higher-quality learning experiences.
So, let’s dive deeper into each benefit now.
Benefit #1: A more natural way of learning
A wonderful thing about social learning is that it’s a natural way to learn. You don’t have to teach or train anyone to learn socially. It’s inborn human behavior — even kids can do it.
In the workplace, social learning is most often an informal process. Team members observe what their colleagues are doing and mentally note the results.
For example, suppose one team member shows initiative on a project and receives recognition. Other people in the company will strive to emulate that because they know there’s a reward coming.
Millennials are particularly keen on social learning because they like non-traditional learning methods like microlearning, gamification, and mobile learning.
They also have shorter attention spans, so the high interactivity of social learning engages them and holds their attention better. This effect is significantly pronounced when you use a learning management system (LMS) with features like forums and chats resembling social media.
Benefit #2: Increases learning retention
According to the influential 70:20:10 learning model, only 10% of learning comes from formal sources, such as employee training. We learn the remaining 90% through working and interactions with others.
In fact, according to the above model, 20% of learning comes from social interaction. Learners retain information better when they learn directly from another person because they can remember things like tone of voice and body language.
That means social learning can be a great antidote to the dreaded Forgetting Curve. That’s a concept from pedagogy and social psychology that states we tend to forget most of what we learned in a matter of days if we don’t review the material.
Social learning enables knowledge sharing, and discussing the learning content is a form of knowledge review in itself.
So, by having your learners interact and share knowledge, you are helping them retain information longer.
Benefit #3: Helps cultivate a learning culture
A company has a learning culture if team members are free to share opinions, ideas, and knowledge without fear of harsh criticism or reprisal.
This kind of culture creates a positive environment for collaboration and problem-solving because employees are free to bounce ideas off each other.
It also helps the employee’s well-being to feel like they’re being heard and their ideas are considered.
You can use social learning features in your learning platform to create this kind of culture. That way, your employees (especially new hires during onboarding) will get used to a culture of open knowledge-sharing in the relatively low-stakes training context.
Then, when they start doing their jobs, they can carry that same attitude into their everyday interactions with coworkers.
In a business environment where change is the norm and new technologies and information constantly reshape how we do things, it’s advantageous to have workers who are eager to learn and possess high learning agility.
To reap these benefits, your learning culture has to start early. The best place to start building it is during your corporate training programs.
Benefit #4: Enables better communication and collaboration
How important is communication in a company? Let’s take a look at some sobering stats coming from LinkedIn:
- 74% of employees believe they’re missing out on important info
- Informed employees outperform uninformed ones by 77%
So you can see why effective communication is necessary for collaboration and productivity.
Also, poor communication during training can affect its outcome. For instance, some employees may be shy and avoid asking questions in person.
Whether or not your employees are shy, they will appreciate the option to ask questions and clear up misunderstandings through social learning features like those in Docebo.
Through the chat feature, learners can talk to each other, share knowledge and stay in the loop. There are also discussion forums. With just these two features, there’s a lot you can do to facilitate communication and collaboration.
For instance, a subject-matter expert can answer learner questions in a specific forum thread after each lesson. That way, learners can keep learning while the discussion is preserved for future reference.
Benefit #5: Drives down costs and boosts business performance
The first way social learning can cut costs is pretty obvious — bringing employees together (in-person or virtually) to discuss and share knowledge is far cheaper than hiring experts, organizing seminars, or purchasing e-learning content.
However, the benefits of social learning to your bottom line go further than this. According to a LinkedIn stats round-up:
- A Spanish chain of automobile repair shops, Tiendas Aurgi, saw a productivity increase of 30% and a 20% revenue boost when they adopted social learning.
- The semiconductor manufacturer AMD saw their shift to social learning save them more than $250,000 a year in training costs.
If there’s anything businesses like, it’s lowering costs and upping revenue, and that’s exactly what a social learning strategy can do.
Benefit #6: Allows remote workers to feel connected
Much has already been written about the work-from-home revolution, so we won’t repeat what you already know. Suffice it to say WFH is here to stay.
Many companies are embracing the remote way of working, but it’s not without its challenges. One of the main issues that remote workers face is a feeling of isolation.
Feeling connected to your team can be hard when you only interact through Slack messages and Jira updates.
According to a Gartner study, 41% of remote workers don’t feel connected to their colleagues.
Social learning to the rescue? You better believe it! Learning has always been a collective process for humans, and people can bond by going through learning experiences together. As your remote team members learn and share knowledge, they’ll forge connections that’ll last after the online courses are done.
A feeling of connection and belonging isn’t just essential for well-being but also makes people more productive and engaged at work.
Enable social learning with an effective LMS
Social learning is a powerful learning method that unlocks many benefits for learners and companies.
At the same time, most training today is online and cloud-based, and more and more people are working remotely.
So, how do you take advantage of social learning virtually? Use a powerful LMS like Docebo with all the social learning tools you need. With Docebo, you can seamlessly integrate social learning principles into your online training initiatives and foster collaboration, knowledge sharing, and peer-to-peer learning.
To learn how social learning can benefit your team, schedule a demo today to talk to our experts!