The problem with formal learning is that it’s inherently abstract: no matter how engaging and dynamic it is, it’s always one step away from our everyday reality. When people leave the event and go back to their real lives, real jobs and real pressures, it’s always hard to bridge the gap. Whilst workshops can be very enjoyable, drawing the links back to reality is a challenge. Which is where social and collaborative approaches come in.
Using social learning communities that surround and extend the formal learning is a great way of continuing the conversation, but situated in our everyday reality: we can draw links out from the classroom and use structured or scaffolded discussions to create meaning in the real world. But it needs to be a two way process. All the time that we are looking forward and teasing out the meaning, we also need to be reflecting backwards, making explicit references back to the models and techniques that were taught.
Social learning is a way of creating a meaning that is anchored in the formal training, but develops a vocabulary that is centred in our real worlds. In other words, if twenty people go through the same formal training, at the end of the social learning experience, i would expect them to have developed twenty different vocabularies of action. The point of learning is not to be the same, it’s to develop our personal practices, informed by new knowledge and new skills.
We don’t want identikit learners.
In the old world, organisations owned the messages and the point of training was to embed that learning, those stories, in the population. Today, in the Social Age, the meaning is co-created by the communities, framed by the organisation. In other words, the organisation no longer exclusively owns the story.