Learning has always been social, in the real world. Think about the time you learned how to cycle or drive a car. You decided to ask an expert you trusted. They gave you instructions. You practiced. They gave you feedback. You failed a couple of times. And then if you kept at it, you could cycle/drive - first tentatively and then with time, without consciously thinking about it.
However, learning in the real world is different from how organizations believe it to work.
In organizations, your manager decides you need to learn something (mostly because the "competency model" tell him to do a job, you need a skill). Your wishes on whether you want to learn it are hardly taken into account.
Then you are packed off to a "training program" where others like you have been "nominated" by their managers. And then you are subjected to some "training games" and exposed to some theory about whatever you have to be trained on. And if you're lucky you do some role plays, case studies and tests , post which you returned to your workplace with a certificate of training.
So training over. But when does learning take place?
Learning takes place when the "knowledge" gained is actually applied in the context of work. What happens with a person tries a new way of working that he has supposedly "learned"? Work suffers. He fails once or twice. And then his manager, impatient that time is passing tells him to get a move on.
So he reverts back to the old way of doing things. And learning is nipped in the bud.
That is the sad truth of "learning & development/training" in most organizations.
How could social technologies help?
- First, creating a community of fellow learners before they "attend training" would help them to learn from each others' experiences.
- Focusing away from "competencies needed" to people sharing their expertise and strengths.
- The facilitator sharing content and theory before the training - so that face to face time could be used for practice and feedback
- The community of learners could be a support and ideation group when they go back to the workplaces and implement the learnings.
- The managers could also be a part of the community to understand how better to support their people's learning to be translated into the workplace