I’m developing some practical models for implementing social learning in organisations, trying to give ann idea of structures and methodologies that can be used. I’ve written previously about approaches to moderation and the ways that we can co-create meaning in these spaces, as well as the importance of narrative at the end, so i’ll only touch on the explanations here. In this piece, i wanted to start pulling it all together into a structure, almost an outline that could be applied to a particular course to make it ‘social‘.
In a scaffolded social learning approach, we implement a course structure, defined by a core narrative, bubbles for co-creation and gateways. There’s a narrative written at the end. Let’s look at this in more detail.
The structure is our learning story, it’s how we curate the learning: what are the foundations, what do you need to know first? We have to start by building the chapters in the learning. In the diagram above, the line represents the story, the bubbles are aligned to each chapter. Now, in a good blended learning approach, we will be doing some ‘knowledge‘ transfer, teaching something, and that teaching may come through workshops, e-learning, mobile or any other approach. It’s generally not the place of social learning to push out knowledge though.
Social learning is about creating meaning from that knowledge, it’s about the conversations that take place in the semi formal spaces that surround those more formal elements. In the diagram, the conversations are represented by the bubbles, bubbles of co-creation. Conversations within a structure.
Social learning is about challenge and support, it’s about creating meaning within the group, not imposing meaning from outside of it. The organisation can be in the conversation with the learners, it can provide support and challenge through a moderator, but it can’t own the conversation. To own the conversation, to impose messages, would make the conversation formal, removing the key differentiating feature of social learning, the freedom to create.
So the learning has a structure and the moderator helps to move the cohort forwards, there is formal learning (that takes place through other media) and there are bubbles of discussion to co-create meaning within the group.
Next comes the narrative: it’s a powerful approach to building legacy for both the organisation and the individual learners, but narrative isn’t about agreement, it’s about discussion. Writing the narrative of learning within a particular bubble, and from the whole programme, may fall to the moderator, but may be done by individuals within the group or by sub sections of it. It’s literally a journalistic skill. We are not looking necessarily to agree on everything, although it’s fine to agree, but we want to document areas of disagreement. We want to learn from the disagreement and the discussion.
So we have bubbles of co-creation, falling within an overall narrative structure, with a moderator helping move the conversation forwards. That just leaves the gateways: these may be as simple as the points where the moderator moves us forwards, to the next chapter, or it may be as formal as an assessment, where we ask the group to complete certain social tasks (e.g. co-writing a definition of leadership) before they progress. After all, this is a semi formal learning experience, it still has structure.
This is just one idea of how a social learning space can be implemented: i’m certainly not suggesting it’s the only one, but i wanted to create something practical to sit alongside the ideas. This will be an evolving space and i’ll tackle other ideas for implementation in due course. Please do share your own thoughts.
You can read more of my ideas in ‘exploring the world of social learning‘ or through the blog here. I would also encourage you to visit Jane Hart and Harold Jarche, influential on my own thinking and within this space (amongst many others within my learning communities too numerous to mention).