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Social learning: Embracing collective intelligence

Social Learning - Cover Image

Executive Summary: Discover the power of Social Learning Theory, which highlights how people learn through observation and interaction. This theory underscores the advantages of collaborative learning, diversified perspectives, improved retention, and skill development. Microlearning leverages bite-sized content to facilitate social learning through easily shareable information. This encourages discussions and collaborative knowledge exchange among learners. The short, focused, bursts of content foster engagement and knowledge absorption. Microlearning and social learning have the potential to reshape training. They can help create a dynamic learning culture that prioritizes interactivity and engagement.

Have you ever watched your coworker expertly use a tricky spreadsheet formula? It’s probably made you think, “Hey, I want to do that too!”. Well, Social Learning Theory describes just that. It’s the idea that we humans are like sponges. We soak up knowledge and skills by observing, imitating, and interacting with others.

Corporate training includes organized programs to improve employee skills and knowledge within the company’s work environment. In corporate training, Social Learning Theory takes center-stage. Companies strive to create an environment where employees can learn from each other. Instead of relying solely on formal training programs or e-learning modules, companies can tap into the power of collaboration and peer-to-peer learning. It’s like a knowledge potluck, where everyone brings their unique expertise to the table (and yes, it can be just as fun as an actual potluck).

Let’s dig in!

📣 Message for the reader

People forget nearly 90% of what they have learnt within just 7 days, unless the concepts are reinforced. That’s why employees swamped with documents, presentations, and classroom sessions are not likely to learn much.

However, time constraints make it difficult to reinforce vast concepts.

What can you do instead? Arm your employees with one concept at a time. Studies show the human attention span is only 8.25 seconds, so keep your training concise.

RapL is your software for that.

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What is Social Learning Theory?

“Most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling. From observing others, one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed. On later occasions, this coded information serves as a guide for action” (Bandura A., 1977).

Social Learning Theory was developed in 1977 by psychologist Albert Bandura. Social Learning Theory emphasizes the importance of observing, modeling, and imitating the behaviors, attitudes, and emotional reactions of others (use this as permission to be a copycat). It suggests that people learn not only through direct experiences, but also by watching and learning from the actions of those around them.

In this context, “Social” means we look at how others in a group act to get what they want. This could be wanting to do well at work, working hard, or learning in certain ways. Things we learn from others can spread and motivate others in the same group. It is human nature to want others to like us and fit into any group. So we watch how they act, what happens as a result, and positively adapt the same practices. This helps us change how we act to fit in (Valamis, 2023).

The Social Learning Theory covers two important aspects: Observing others in order to learn, and the role of cognitive processes in shaping our learning and behavior.

The core principles of Social Learning Theory in corporate training include:

  1. Observational Learning: Employees can learn by observing the behaviors of others and the consequences of those behaviors. This includes both positive and negative outcomes, and people are more likely to imitate behaviors that lead to positive results.

  2. Modeling: Employees are more likely to imitate behaviors that are demonstrated by people they perceive as similar to themselves or as role models. Role models can be peers, managers, leaders, trainers, celebrities, or anyone whose behavior is influential to the observer.

  3. Reinforcement: Positive outcomes or rewards for certain behaviors increase the likelihood of those behaviors being repeated and followed by others. Similarly, observing negative consequences for certain behaviors can lead to avoidance of those behaviors.

  4. Self-Efficacy: This is the belief in one’s own ability to perform a specific behavior or achieve a certain goal. Social Learning Theory suggests that seeing others succeed can boost an individual’s self-efficacy, making them more likely to attempt and persist in similar behaviors.

  5. Attention, Retention, Reproduction, and Motivation: According to Bandura, for social learning to occur, individuals must pay attention to the model, retain the information, reproduce the behavior, and have the motivation to do so.

  6. Reciprocal Determinism: This concept emphasizes the interaction between an individual’s behavior, their environment, and their personal factors (such as cognitive processes, beliefs, and emotions). These factors influence each other and together contribute to the learning process.

Now, let us take a closer look at the benefits of social learning.

Benefits of Social Learning

  1. Knowledge-sharing culture: Creating a culture where knowledge is freely shared is conducive to a company’s growth. Several Fortune 500 companies are known to lose a staggering $31.5 billion annually due to loss of intellectual capital (yikes!). While focusing on what training programs teach is important, remember that employees should also be able to learn from each other. Social learning encourages the exchange of ideas and different perspectives, fostering a culture of knowledge sharing. This has many benefits, including increased creativity, better learning, and improved performance. It also boosts team morale and job satisfaction. 74% of companies believe that a knowledge-sharing culture can boost productivity by up to 40%!

  2. Increased engagement: When employees have the chance to engage in discussions, ask questions, and exchange ideas with their peers, they feel more connected to their work and colleagues. This sense of belonging creates a positive work environment where individuals are motivated to contribute their best efforts. Furthermore, increased employee engagement fosters a culture of collaboration and innovation, as diverse perspectives intertwine to spark creative solutions. This interactive dynamic nurtures a sense of ownership and employee accountability. It empowers them to take initiative and drive meaningful progress. Ultimately, this leads to enhanced productivity and overall job satisfaction.

  3. Employee retention: Incorporating social learning into your training initiatives can lead to higher employee retention rates as well. When employees feel valued for their expertise and have opportunities to share their insights with others, they become more invested in the success of the company. Retaining millennial staff can also be tricky. Gallup reports 60% millennials actively seek new job prospects, and switch jobs more often than past generations. Millennials value unconventional learning methods like online courses, microlearning, videos, and interactive training. Attention spans of millennials are shorter, and they move from one form of learning to another. Social learning makes it easier for them to continue learning without being distracted and retain information.

  4. Communication and collaboration: By observing and learning from one another, employees gain new perspectives, skills, and strategies. This fosters a culture of open dialogue, understanding, and empathy. As a result, communication becomes more effective. Misunderstandings decrease, and trust is built. Collaboration is also enhanced as individuals bring their diverse knowledge and experiences to the table, creating innovative solutions and fostering a sense of teamwork.

Limitations of Social Learning Theory

Social learning involves learning from others by imitating their successful behaviors. However, this can create problems if these behaviors don’t match our own values and beliefs. This can cause inner conflicts and stop the learning process. Additionally, too much focus on proven behaviors can prevent new and creative ideas.

Sometimes, we can face unexpected difficulties. This can be because we are not aware of all our strengths and weaknesses. It’s no wonder they can cause frustration and make us want to give up. Comparing ourselves to others in order to learn can bring on a host of self-esteem problems and make us doubt ourselves, especially when the focus is on visible indicators like performance.

Determining the outcomes of social learning can be quite subjective since they heavily depend on individual perspectives and behavioral patterns. Traditional learning approaches have concrete metrics for evaluation. However, social learning lacks standardized measurement tools. This makes it challenging to accurately assess its impact. It’s like trying to measure something with a ruler that keeps changing its length – it’s a real head-scratcher!

To achieve fruitful social learning, participants need to have a few key qualities: attention, retention, replicability, and motivation. They must also understand the significance of striking a balance between imitating others and fostering their own personal growth. It’s like finding the sweet spot between being inspired by someone and staying true to oneself – a delicate dance that can lead to great results.

Microlearning and Social Learning

  • Bite-sized training: With microlearning, you can break down complex concepts into easily digestible pieces of information. Microlearning gives your employees access to bite-sized chunks of training materials. Employees can quickly view content while on the go. In a social learning environment, they can also quiz each other on short PDFs or infographics, watch training videos together, and discuss ideas (be prepared for an increase in decibel levels in the office!).

  • Interactive discussions: Speaking of discussing ideas—through chat forums, virtual communities, and collaborative platforms available on microlearning apps, employees can engage in interactive discussions with their peers. They can share insights, ask questions, and learn from each other’s experiences. It’s like having a virtual classroom where everyone can contribute and learn from one another. It is just as fun as it sounds (until someone accidentally sends an emoji to the manager).

  • Gamified learning: Gamified learning takes the traditional approach of training and adds a fun twist. This microlearning approach allows employees to earn points, badges, or even engage in friendly competitions. This not only boosts motivation, but also encourages teamwork and collaboration as colleagues strive to reach new achievements together. Imagine the excitement as employees embark on quests, solve puzzles, or participate in interactive challenges. Gamified learning makes the process of acquiring new skills and knowledge enjoyable, turning mundane tasks into thrilling adventures. Added bonus: no more employees badgering you to provide an engaging and fun break room!

Microlearning and Social Learning also have a positive impact on employee morale, satisfaction, motivation, and security. With easily accessible and relevant knowledge, employees feel empowered and confident in their abilities, leading to higher job satisfaction. Collaborative learning creates a sense of belonging and teamwork, boosting morale. The interactive nature of these approaches keeps employees engaged and motivated. Moreover, continuous learning enhances job security by equipping employees with up-to-date skills and knowledge.

In essence, social learning is a testament to the power of our innate curiosity and adaptability. It’s a reminder that your employees’ journey of learning doesn’t have to be a solitary one. We can lean on each other’s experiences and insights to become better versions of ourselves.

Microlearning, along with social learning, is a dynamic approach that empowers employees to learn at their own pace, collaborate with others, and enhance their knowledge and skills. It’s like having a personalized learning experience tailored to your needs, combined with the power of social interaction. So why settle for one when you can have the best of both worlds? Embrace microlearning with social learning and unlock a whole new level of learning potential!

RapL is an award-winning provider of microlearning solutions. To know more about how we can help you enable a social learning culture, contact us at

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Thanks for being with us all the way here

Dear reader, thanks for being with us all the way till the end. We suggest 2 things from here

1. Speak to us if you want a microlearning strategy deep-dive: Microlearning is extremely effective, if approached sensibly. Microlearning is the answer to today’s shortening attention spans and we know how to make learning successful via microlearning. Drop your context here and we shall partner with you for the rest.

2. Lap up more content: We have written some intense literature on how microlearning is the superglue between people and successful business operations. Access all of it here.

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