From the e-learning to the social learning

The EU definition of e-learning integrates social learning: « E-learning is the use of emerging Internet technologies, in order to improve learning quality, on one hand by enabling access to resources and services, and on the other hand by distance communication and collaboration »

In reality, e-learning has evolved to asynchronous distance learning (often in instructor-led teaching), with some practical exercises. Given the original definition, if access to resources and services became a reality, sharing is often unilateral and collaboration non-existent.

To bridge this need, companies should use a method of blended learning. This is the use of e-learning followed by more traditional support. It alternates between online sessions and face-to-face sessions with a trainer, implementing, in a more participatory way (exercises, role playing …), the concepts explained in e-learning. This meets the needs of employees who wish to interact with their colleagues. In e-learning, as currently practiced, they are left alone at a computer (at home or at work).

What we have is the traditional education system of the European culture, with the exception of some alternate exampes such as the Freinet or Francisco Ferrer schools, where teachers (virtual or not) hold the knowledge and give exercises and assessment.

If Americans are more receptive to the social learning concept, it just may be because teachers (at least at the college level) usually base their classes a series of texts from which they will hold discussions where everyone can participate to enrich their learning and that of others. Today, social media can support and replace e-learning, adding collaboration and more ‘social’ in our learning styles:


  • Self-learning (VCAST, podcast, social bookmarking, ranking, tutorials …)
  • Discussion groups and sharing (enterprise social networks, microblogging, forums, wikis, blogs, chat, exchange files, VOIP …).


All this informal knowledge can be capitalized for and by the community of learners and enriched by all who participate. Indeed, each person generally organizes his or her own learning. We must give the means and the desire to share or « socialize » this personal work, to all learners (that is the role of the trainer). The goal is to organize ourselves to build collective and collaborative learning, a first step towards collective intelligence.

Social learning also meets the need of companies to strengthen social ties within their teams. This is especially important if relationships continue beyond training sessions. Social learning develops a more proactive learning style as well as another way to organize and work: building project teams, setting up communities, and doing collaborative work in the company.

One of the lines developed in the official texts of the National Education in France is to put the student at center of the system. Thanks to social media and social learning, employees can become active learners and work together. Social learning allows a true paradigm shift, can enhance training, both collectively and individually, where each person:


  • can take control of her or his training (selecting information, planning needs, sharing and networking …)
  • can learn to work collaboratively (which in turn can make the company more agile)

The social learning change the culture and the way your work with others. Could be the first step of a social business maturity curve