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Linking Social Learning and Social Media to Facilitate and Strengthen Continuing Education

By Jean Feroldi, Assoc. AIA
Manager, CES Communications and Review
November 27, 2012

Today’s society is constantly transforming – ideas are abundant and the process of how we learn and share information is growing and evolving. Every day, we turn to the online world to gain knowledge, build connections with others, and expand our creativity. In the first two parts of this series, the merits of formal and informal learning were discussed as they apply to the AIA CES Provider Program. While formal learning or classroom-based learning is the most common and widely recognized framework for education, informal learning is any sort of learning or education that takes place outside of the traditional, formal learning setting. Informal learning can be anything from experimentation, observation, or research and can include discussions with other learners or solitary investigation. Segmenting education into these two categories seems like a straightforward and complete structure for classifying learning, yet we need to consider how learning has transformed with greater access to the internet and constant communication.

Social learning is sometimes identified as a subset of informal learning, yet in her article “Defining Social Learning,” Marcia Conner explains “some instances of informal learning are not social—for example, search and reading.” Another misconception about social learning is that it is solely activated by social media platforms implying that it is a relatively new way of thinking and learning. Conner clarifies that “social learning is not technology” but “a very human way people have communicated throughout our history.”

Social learning develops when individuals connect from various backgrounds or experience levels to discuss a topic or work together on a problem. Sharing of information is encouraged by both teacher and student to form a dialogue and strengthen the learning experience. In “Debunking 4 Myths of Social Learning,” Andrea Meier elaborates “instructors still act as models, facilitators, mentors, and guides, but at the same time relinquish a degree of their authority to the “learning community,” which includes students in the classroom, remotely located students, and a huge variety of resources that are as close as an Internet connection. In turn, each individual in the network of learners actively shares both knowledge and challenges.” Social learning is not a linear course of action, but a fluid and inclusive experience.

The accepting and casual nature of social learning has allowed social media platforms to take off and has increased the potential for educational opportunities. Meier observes the benefits of social media as they apply to learning, noting “social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest make it easy and motivate people to connect, share information, and develop relationships.” So, while social learning is not a new education concept, social media has been a catalyst in the growth and relevance of social learning. More concisely, learning and education advocate, Dan Pontefract, concludes social media is a tool; social learning is an action. And online social technologies have enabled frictionless social learning opportunities.”

As a Provider, the significant relationship between social learning and social media presents an opportunity to connect with adult learners beyond the duration of a course. Learning becomes a more personal and interactive engagement and in turn students become more invested in what they are learning as they interact, share knowledge, and learn with other enthusiasts. In “Where Social Learning Thrives” Marcia Conner reiterates the advantages of social learning. “It is inspired by leaders, enabled by technology and ignited by opportunities that have only recently unfolded. The technology and culture of social learning can create an environment where you are enthusiastically supported, where your sense of wonder returns and creativity blossoms — where people thrive.”

Additional Resources on Social Learning

Marcia Conner
Defining Social Learning

Debunking 4 Myths of Social Learning

Fast Company
Where Social Learning Thrives


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