The idea that Social Learning is somehow separate from other types of learning is a misnomer. For me, it represents simply the ownership of, and engagement, with the learning story. ‘Formal Learning’ is a story written by the organisation, and distributed to people: it’s ideal where you need consistency, conformity, where you are trying to build a codified strength, but it lack the context of practice, of local understanding, and often has no space for individual interpretation.
Social Learning, by contrast, is a story that is partly written by, and contextualised by, the community itself. It represents not a codified strength, but a diversified one. It can include formal elements (how we do things around here…), but it incorporates social sense making (this is how I do things around here…), and hence builds a shared story (this is how i interpret this thing in my everyday practice – and i hear how you do it too).
Conversations around formal learning will often centre on infrastructure, and control, often relating to technology. When considering Social Learning, we can think more about how we create the conditions for communities to emerge, and how we support that ‘sense making’ capability.
In my own work, i advocate a model of Scaffolded Social Learning, a design methodology where we utilise both ‘formal’, and ‘social’ elements, and create semi structured spaces, and sense making communities, to help people make the learning journey.
Some things are clear: in the Social Age, the nature of knowledge is evolved, the ways we learn are different, and technology has democratised, and fully contextualised, access to learning. However we choose to react, in our own organisations, i believe that success will lie through creating spaces, opportunities, and support, for how people really learn, with spaces to invest themselves in the experience, not simply to persist in broadcasting formal models of learning that may look tidy, but don’t drive real capability.