Social learning is sharing knowldge, information and experiences via interactive discussion and collaboration among peers. It may be enhanced by the use of technology, including social media.

Social learning and the use of social learning technologies should not be confused with e-learning or the adaptation of online tools to streamline the learning process. We know learning is a complicated process that can happen across a variety of modalities and engage a number of learning styles and intelligences. Lew Vgotsky defined social learning as the process by which learners engage in interaction with their environment, those in the environment and their peers. At this point in time, social learning required face-toface dialogue where users came together to learn through shared experiences and participatory discourse. With the advent of online tools, this community of learning culture has evolved to become an online community, even though it is often separated by continents (Ferguson, 2009). Social learning is being radically redefined thanks to the use and availability of online social media technologies (Kamikow, 2013).

In the 2013 survey, Human Capital Media Advisory Group, examined how organizations are approaching social learning, which methods have proven to be successful and where challenges are experienced.

Key findings from this survey

  • Learning is a driver: 65.7 percent of organizations are using social technologies for learning to some extent.
  • Social learning supports the learning culture: 63.9 percent of organizations are motivated to use social learning to support a culture of learning.
  • Discussion and communication reign supreme: 59.5 percent of organizations are using discussion forums, 57.9 percent are using internal blogs, and 54.9 percent are using secure instant messaging to help employees communicate about products, answer questions and address learning at point of need.
  • Focus on communities of practice: Currently 53.3 percent of organizations are using social learning to support communities of practice, with 35.7 percent of organizations planning to develop communities of practice via social learning during the next two years.
  • Adoption is a struggle for many organizations: Half of the organizations responding cite challenges with adoption and uptake by employees.

Social learning technology should enable this definition of social learning and what is now called the "Seven Cs". Josh Bersin (in the publication "The Enterprise Learning Framework: A Modern Approach to Corporate Training") has often referred to four of them: conversation, connection, collaboration and content. There are three additional and important "C": consumption, contribution and control.

There are "Seven Cs" of social technologies:
  1. Content - in the forms of knowledge-pills, experiences and expertise - this is where it all starts.
  2. Consumption - of content, an in usable, reference-able, searchable, tag-able and reusable.
  3. Contribution - of content that can and should be user-generated.
  4. Conversation - about content - it's what makes it socially relevant to the business.
  5. Collaboration - with the others over content - it's goal oriented and how we get things done socially.
  6. Connections - made with others regarding content. Once connetions are made, vicarious reinforcement follows.
  7. Control - this is the most important and relevant "C" enterprises are dealing with today. Social learning technologies should enable customers to govern the continuum of openness and control as it applies to their business.

How to use social technologies based on the "Seven C":



 Provide on demand to real-time discussion, training, support and expertise  Connection, Content and Consumption
 Foster on-the job social learning through communities of practice (common interest) or purpose (common goals)  All
 Crowd-source real-time "How-to" type information with YouTube videos, images and URLs  Content and Contribution
 Allow users to interact through wikis, blogs, discussion forums and repositories  All
 Conduct focus groups and solicit feedback on products, services and coursware  Conversation and Collaboration
 Grant access to though leaders, instructors and subject matter experts  Connection and Conversation
Provide learning environments where coaches, mentors and instructors can interact, share knowledge or teach learners in community or programmed instructional settings  All
Share and distribute new product and service information to Twitter, Facebook and Google using synaptic Web 2.0 technologies Connection
Support and moderate all levels of "Seven C" capable interaction from B2E, B2C, E2E, C2C, P2P and P2C All


A few of the keys to success for you in use "Seven C" strategy:

  • You have to understand how to analyze your audience and select the right types of collaborative experiences which might apply for a given audience
  • Focus on a complete understanding of your audience needs, because a social learning solution must fit into their daily worklife, not seperate them into a classroom-like experience
  • Don’t let the technology drive the solution – social learning technology is rapidly becoming a commodity and you can find it from many sources, focus rather on the audience, their patterns of work, and where they go for information today
  • Remember the 90/9/1 model – 1% of all employees will actively share lots of expertise and content, 9% will contribute occasionally, and 90% will probably mostly be consumers of information
  • Look at your organizational learning culture – ultimately you must have a culture of knowledge and expertise sharing in order to drive collaborative learning.
  • Don’t be afraid of user-generated content - research shows that in 99% of cases employees will not sacrifice their reputation or career by sharing and posting inappropriate information.  You still need to get your legal and compliance people involved up front, to make sure your organization has posted rules and standards for information sharing.

Social learning is learning with and from others. This can either happen online for instance over popular social media tools like LinkedIn, Twitter and so on or offline - during group discussions, over coffee or during conferences.
All of us use their standard communication and collaboration features like comments, posts, instant messaging, group discussion boards, wikis, video chats and so on. As an extension, you can bring a semi-structured approach to encourage this collaborative learning by building virtual communities to encourage them to provide a forum to share ideas, share knowledge and curate new inputs into a knowledge centre.

Social media has a number of benefits and uses. Some of the ways in which it can be used to good effect are:

  • It can serve as an auxiliary element to formal learning in the form of discussions, sharing of experiences, lessons learnt and so on.
  • It can be used as a tool to encourage employees to generate, gather, explore, get access to, learn and relearn and review knowledge and skills to unravel hidden information.
  • It can also help learners with “personal knowledge management” or “smart working”. For example, they could use blogs to gain that extra bit of information or learn on demand using forums such as Wikipedia or YouTube to seek answers to any queries that they may have.
  • It helps create communities of practice for groups such as those of new employees, teams, project team members or other similar groups.
  • With social learning, one can accumulate informal content from learners and extract useful ideas and find solutions to problems that formal training may not be able to address.
  • With social learning, managing the inflow of informal content effectively and measuring of the benefits accrued on account of the same is possible.

What Is Social Learning Theory?

According to Psychology Today social learning theory combines cognitive learning theory (which posits that learning is influenced by psychological factors) and behavioral learning theory (which assumes that learning is based on responses to environmental stimuli). Psychologist Albert Bandura integrated these two theories and came up with four requirements for learning: observation (environmental), retention (cognitive), reproduction (cognitive), and motivation (both). This integrative approach to learning was called social learning theory. 

More about Albert Bandura theory you see here

Albert Bandura was one of the first to take up the aspect of social learning but was not the only one. The second important person was Lew Vygotsky, the creator of Social Development Theory. The work of Lev Vygotsky has become the foundation of much research and theory in cognitive development over the past several decades. Vygotsky's theories stress the fundamental role of social interaction in the development of cognition, as he believed strongly that community plays a central role in the process of "making meaning."

More about Lew Vygotsky theory you see here


Bersin, J.. Mallon, D. (2016). The Enterprise Learning Framework: A Modern Approach to Corporate Training. Bersin by Deloitte.

Ferguson, R. (2009). The construction of shared knowledge through asynchronous dialogue. The open university repository of research publications:

Kamikow, N. (2013). Anyway you want it, anytime you need it. Chief Learning Officer, 4.

HCM Advisory Group. (2013). State of the industry study: Transforming learning into a strategic business enabler. Chicago: HCM Advisory Group.

McLeod, S. A. (2016). Bandura - Social Learning Theory. Retrieved from

McLeod, S. A. (2014). Lev Vygotsky. Retrieved from

Pandey, A. (2017). Why You should adopt social learning? E-book retrieved from