Learning Campaigns Part 3: Supporting Social Learning
Our first two blog posts in this 3-part series focused on the benefits of moving away from the “course mindset” and moving toward a “learning campaign mindset” that drives stronger participant engagement and performance improvement.
Part 3 – Use Campaigns to Support Social Learning
Part 3 focuses on the more intangible elements of social learning that occur during a learning campaign. Jane Hart defines social learning as “people connecting, conversing, collaborating and learning from and with, one another on a daily basis at work” in her book, Social Learning Handbook, 2014. It happens in-person through conversations, meetings, programs and events, as well as online via social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and on collaboration technology like Yammer, Jive and 70-20®.
With 70-20, you can see the interactions between participants working on shared learning challenges (their Comments and Likes on each other’s progress posts). You can also track how people feel about their development and the types of supportive social interactions they have with others. The big question now is: Can we improve the quality and frequency of social learning interactions with campaigns compared to social learning exhibited in standalone challenges?
The Value of Social Learning
There is growing recognition of the value of social learning, in all its various forms, because it enables people to become actively involved in constructing their own learning experiences. In a recent Brandon Hall Group survey, 73% of respondents expected to increase their focus on social learning in the future. When people create and contribute their own content and share insights with others, the collaborative process fosters higher levels of motivation and creativity for those involved in the group or learning community.
A common best practice in social learning initiatives, whether self-initiated or designed as part of a larger learning experience or campaign, is to use challenges, goals or projects to focus a group’s activities. With 70-20, the learning challenges provide the context for the group’s collaboration, and make visible what is often largely invisible and difficult to measure when people work outside a shared platform.
As a group documents their individual learning and progress in a 70-20 challenge feed, participants contribute to the group’s understanding of the problem or project and they can “pull” information from their colleagues on content or examples they find of interest. The campaign thus combines the “push” of defined challenges that support the performance objectives of the learning initiative, with the “pull” dynamics of participants being curious and seeking information to build their own knowledge.
Social Learning in Campaigns
In the majority of Fort Hill’s clients using 70-20, cohorts are dispersed across wide geographies. The 70-20 challenge feed enables members of a group to document and share their progress whether it is part of an extended learning campaign or a standalone challenge.
When reporting progress in 70-20, participants are asked to describe their sources of informal and social learning support. They also respond to the 70-20 Sentiment Index™ that asks, “How are you feeling about your learning and progress?” (with a six-point scale ranging from feeling very positive to challenged to feeling negative).
The answers to these questions provide a unique view into what is occurring in the work environment (outside of formal settings) that supports and promotes self-directed learning. The responses also illustrate how participants are feeling about their learning experience overall which ties into their motivation level.
Looking at four of the five learning campaign groups that were discussed in Part 1 and Part 2 of this Blog series, we can see that the Sentiment Index correlated positively with a high level of engagement in the challenges, as illustrated in the table below:
Social Learning Meets the Sentiment Index and Results
70-20 participants can also Like and Comment on each other’s posts, having virtual conversations with group members about their progress and insights. This social collaboration is energizing for the group and fascinating to observe.
Two examples from the above campaigns are highlighted below:
~ The Mid-Career Leadership Academy had 152 progress posts during their campaign with a total of 138 Likes, and 221 comments about the posts. 50% of this group’s challenges were Completed and they had a 69% average positive response rate on the Sentiment Index. With people located in 5 different countries in the Asia-Pacific region, the group was highly engaged with each other virtually on 70-20, but they relied most often on self-directed Project Planning and Problem Solving to work through their challenges.
~ The Early Career Management Development Program had 32 progress posts during the campaign with a total of 35 Likes and 45 comments about the posts. 75% of this group’s challenges were Completed and they had a 72% average positive response rate on the Sentiment Index. This group learned socially by Watching Others Perform and Talking with Others, while their self-directed learning focused on Taking Personal Initiative and actively Applying Course Learning.
Social Learning on Standalone Challenges
The two clients discussed earlier in Part 1 and Part 2 of this Blog series who created standalone challenges for specific programs or initiatives, had wider variation on the Sentiment Index and less consistent social interaction as follows:
~ The Financial Services client had an average of 84% positive responses on the Sentiment Index, which was the highest of all groups in this study. This very social cohort reported 24% of their learning support coming from Talking with Others. However, of the 67 posts made on 4 challenges in 70-20, there were a total of 57 Likes but only 7 comments. It could be this group’s progress posts sparked conversation and collaboration outside the 70-20 platform. The client’s goals of increasing social learning and collaboration among her team members were achieved, although the group did not complete any of their challenges.
~ The Biotech client had an average of 63% positive responses on the Sentiment Index, and 26% challenged responses, across their four challenges. This group was comprised of L&D professionals seeking to apply new techniques and approaches to how they design and deliver learning in their organization. Their learning support came mostly from Talking with Others, Participating in Meetings and Web Research. Across the 78 progress posts on 4 challenges, only 28 likes and 11 comments were posted on each other’s evidence of progress. The social interaction on 70-20 was lower than what we observed in the learning campaign examples as well as the other standalone challenge described above.
At this stage in our research, we can share some early observations:
1. Social learning can be fostered and sustained virtually well beyond formal learning programs (whether delivered in-person or online) to enhance the motivation and continued development of participants.
2. Whether clients create learning campaigns or have standalone challenges in 70-20, social learning is going to be influenced by many factors including the context of the initiative and type of challenges, the group’s physical proximity (co-located vs. geographically dispersed), and the expectations that are communicated for peer coaching and support by program sponsors.
3. It appears that social learning in campaigns is more substantive – involving more specific comments and peer coaching interactions – than it is in standalone challenges (which have more likes and fewer comments). We will collect more data this year to gain additional insight to support this conclusion.
4. Collaborative learning platforms such as 70-20 can be a catalyst for people to continue to learn together in a constructive way that goes far beyond just posting or accessing information in a shared virtual space (like Sharepoint, Jive or Yammer).
Ideas for Your Action
1. Have groups work on common challenges on a collaboration platform to drive social interaction during your learning campaigns.
2. Have participants select a peer coach (or two) with whom they can pose questions, share info and seek guidance during their challenges.
3. Highlight and share success stories through in-person or virtual reconvene sessions so achievements and learning are shared throughout the entire campaign.
The Fort Hill team is excited about the value of the data emerging from the 70-20 platform and what it reveals about the many benefits of implementing learning campaigns. We look forward to sharing additional insights and client success stories with you as we broaden the use of 70-20 and gather more diverse examples of learning campaigns and other applications of the platform.