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Social Learning Concepts in Associations

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of an association is “an organization of persons having a common interest; the state of being associated, to join or connect together.”

Thus, by their very definition, associations are social organizations. Associations aim to create connections between people with similar goals and interests. Successful association executives know the value of connection through networks. When people connect, share experiences, and trade resources, something called social learning takes place.

Social Learning Defined

So, what exactly is social learning?

It is exactly what happens when people in associations get together. Social learning is the learning process that takes place within a social context, from mentors, peers, and colleagues.

This can be found in your large conferences, luncheons, meetings and events.

For nonprofit associations, where social impact is often part of the mission, social learning is especially crucial. Social interaction is "the glue that makes the learning stick."

The Social Learning Study

A recent study published earlier in the year by Tagoras gives insights into how online communities may be boosted via social learning. The report looks specifically at social learning enabled by social technologies.

Social technologies enable users to communicate via the Internet, cell phones, and other electronic devices. Facebook, Twitter, discussion boards, and LinkedIn are some examples of social technologies.

Here are the key findings from the study:

  • About 63% of the 159 organizations surveyed said they used social technologies to support some type of learning.

  • Social learning is as old as humanity itself, but using social technology can give the practice relevance in the age of the Internet.

  • Only about 42% of the surveyed organizations had explicit plans to use social technologies as part of a learning product or service in the next year.

The findings show that many nonprofit organizations and associations can improve their use of social technologies for social learning too.

Further, the report underscored the fact that private branded online communities software offer a unique and secure home which has the chance to bring people together online and facilitate knowledge sharing and learning.

Peer to Peer Learning

While many associations focus on getting as many people as possible to attend a learning gathering, the study suggests that peer-to-peer learning is more important than mass numbers.

The report also recommends that associations measure the impact of their social learning strategies. If you don't measure your programs, it's difficult to improve.

Use Cases to Contemplate in Social Learning

A good use case for social learning may be found in associations which offer a certification program.

In fact, one of the interesting surprises that many associations see in this aera is the ability of an online community to engage and create value for candidates taking exams to complete certifications.

In some instances, associations see value in offering an online community to provide an open and honest support channel so that that precertification candidates may be there to offer guidance to each other during their preparation process.

For example, when a candidate needs additional help in the content they desire to master they seek answers from their peers. Or, if a member has failed an exam multiple times then finally passes, participants may use the an online forum to post their story and encourage others to keep trying.

As an Association today, it's imporant to keep your eye on trends and always be forward thinking. This report overall offers valuable insight into how associations can use technology to build social learning into their organization.

If interested in reading more, you can check out the full report here.

Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

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