Social learning theory is a hot topic in today’s hybrid and virtual working world. This theory was developed around the fact that humans are social creatures. It says that engaging with each other during learning activities is a great way to help improve knowledge retention and build collaborative skills. But how can you do that when your team is working remotely?

How to Apply Social Learning Theory in Your Online Training

There are ways to include social learning in your online training programs, and no – it doesn’t have to involve dozens of Zoom meetings. Here are some ways to apply this theory to your organization’s eLearning courses.

How Does Social Learning Theory Work?

Social learning is a concept that dates back to the 1970s. The main point that psychologist Albert Bandura made was that people learn by example. If you look back as far as the cavemen, you can see that humans have always mimicked what they observe others doing. Role models are significant for how we develop as people.

But, the social learning theory does have a caveat. We observe behaviors around us all the time, but we don’t automatically start performing them. The theory says that we only adopt the observed behaviors when we can also see that they are acceptable to the society or group we are part of.

Now you can see that there are two parts to social learning theory that you need to build into your online courses: an aspect of observing others to learn from them and reinforcement on what is acceptable behavior.

Why Does Social Learning Theory Work for Virtual or Hybrid Offices?

You can probably see why social learning would be effective in-house. It would allow for plenty of collaborative work, mentoring programs with senior employees, and engaged focus sessions.

But why does this theory work for remote employees? Do they still get the same benefits as staff in the office?

Thanks to technology like instant messaging platforms, screen sharing, collaborative working platforms, and yes, even video chatting, you can easily bring a social aspect to your hybrid workforce. And when your remote team is able to interact with their colleagues to complete projects and tasks, it does give them a sense of belonging to a community.

That sense of belonging is the key that unlocks the second part of the social learning theory. Once employees feel like they are part of something larger, they will seek to perform behaviors that the group finds acceptable. This is where you can begin to tap into the power of social learning and set the acceptable behaviors you wish to encourage.

Social Learning Tools for a Remote Office

An educational theory is only as good as the tools you use. But there’s a very good chance you already have some of the tools in place.

First, you need a way to instantly connect your employees. You may want to use a chat platform such as Teams or Slack. You may also find that the social forum on your LMS is an excellent fit to encourage instant messaging.

Provide the opportunity for employees to share knowledge and train one another by setting up a corporate wiki. There are many tools to help you build this online. Be sure that you are regularly assessing the knowledge for accuracy as your employees add to it.

Choose the suitable LMS to help you encourage more social learning within your training. An LMS that includes video tutorials, integrations with social media, and live training or feedback options is a great tool to have.

Tips for Implementing Social Learning Theory for a Hybrid Team

If you have the tools in place and are ready to implement some social learning into your training, you don’t have to wait. Many social learning tools can be implemented right away. But you may not have the green light just yet. Here are some tips for getting an eLearning program with social learning off the ground.

  • Be sure to present all the facts to the executive-level leadership. Some people may still think of “social learning theory” as too informal for the vital information your employees need to learn. Show them the facts to prove that this technique helps with knowledge retention and understanding.
  • If you still need proof that social learning can be used in formal office settings, get some examples of major companies that use this strategy. Nationwide Insurance and IBM both have a social learning aspect to their online employee training. They use tools to connect remote employees, ask and answer questions about projects, and share feedback with each other on their work.
  • Don’t try to implement too many ideas at once. Start with just a single technique, like creating an informal company Slack channel to discuss your current training modules. Then work your way up to including live training or collaborative work.
  • Be sure your employees feel empowered to ask plenty of questions. Let senior employees know that it’s vital they check-in and answer those questions. Encourage sharing solutions when a problem is fixed.
  • Finally, if you have employees who genuinely embrace the social learning theory, reward them for it. Let them know that their contributions are appreciated, and it may encourage others to jump into the conversation as well. Look for an LMS with a gamification tool to encourage participation.

Use these tips to implement the tools that work best for your organization.

The Future of Hybrid Work and Social Learning Theory

The signs are all pointing to hybrid and remote work becoming more common in the future. That doesn’t mean we have to give up learning theories that have worked for decades. Many top organizations are finding unique solutions for implementing these tools in their new working environments.

As technology improves to allow for even more social contact while remote, it will become even easier to implement social learning theory. You can help develop your team’s skills, improve the onboarding process, and increase overall performance with these techniques today.