10 Patterns of Interaction: Implementing Social Learning Strategies in eLearning

There are a multitude of interaction methods in an eLearning environment to promote social learning. Research has repeatedly indicated the enhanced productivity associated with social learning.

Now, we’ve already shared with you the social learning definition in a previous post, but do you know which social learning strategy is the most effective for making a course engaging? Let’s look at some patterns of interaction.

Before we talk about the best techniques to aid your eLearners to learn socially, as in Social Learning – a pretty big buzzword these days, let us explain one simple fact. Learners interact best when they are given digital methods that emulate the traditional classroom interaction methods. Consider the mundane human activities in a live training environment. Use these activities as building blocks to create a rich social-learning environment when mentoring your next eLearning course.

So what are the most common patterns of interaction in a live learning environment that can be recreated in the eLearning context and how does social learning work in practice?

10 Social Learning Strategies For Engaging eLearning Programs

1. Tutoring Interaction

In the tutoring pattern of interaction, the expert and learner interact on a one-on-one basis. This pattern is common in coaching, counseling, mentoring and apprenticeship.

In an eLearning environment, tutoring can occur through the subject-matter expert, the course mentor or a caring and experienced peer. This pattern is great for delivering feedback privately, for getting answers to “embarrassing” questions and for topics of interest to an individual.

This type of interaction combines the most important benefits of social learning, especially in the workplace context: building a strong trainer – learner relationship, and getting all the questions answered without the fear of being laughed at.

2. Presentation

In a presentation pattern, one person directs information to others. The information may be about the course, or a topic in the course. This type of interaction can also be used in speeches, lectures and demonstrations.

This form is not usually a two-way interaction, but it may lead to other forms of interaction, such as question-and-answers, that are decidedly social. A great way to make a presentation highly interactive is to have the learners present information themselves.

3. Q & A Sessions

Probably one of the most used social learning strategies is offering Q & A sessions to the learners.

In this popular interaction format, learners ask experts questions in an organized or sporadic manner. This type of social learning session can be used to compile a frequently asked question page (FAQs). These sessions are very important for every eLearning course. They help to fill the gaps caused by learners’ different backgrounds.

4. Post-comment Interaction

The post-and-comment pattern involves an expert, teacher, or a discussion leader posting a message and learners commenting on it. All participants can and should read and comment on the posts.

5. Collaborative Document Interaction

In a collaborative document interaction, learners work in collaboration to refine and improve a single project or a document. This pattern of interaction and working on the same online document is also knows as a Wiki. Your learning management system should have tools to control the version of the submission and updating work in a timely manner. This is the most popular method of teamwork in an social learning environment.

6. Group Discussion Interaction

It’s not uncommon for the typical eLearning strategy to involve group discussions. After all, it is a fun, interesting way to engage your learners and enhance the social learning style of the training program you offer.

It is important that both general and specialized discussions can occur in a group discussion interaction. Think about training employees towards understanding a new product. The instructor can give out roles to implement and play out in the discussion session for a more meaningful social learning experience.

7. Small Group Interaction

What happens when your audience is too big? Shouldn’t your social learning strategies align with this fact? When the group happens to be too big, you don’t want to confuse your social learners. What do you do then?

Breakout rooms and breakout teams are the direct products of small group interaction. Short term teamwork is great for this form of interaction. This interaction format is also a good way to practice communication and interpersonal skills.

8. Panel-Discussion Interaction

Call a celebrity expert or a community expert to talk about pressing issues and have learners listen to the expert in a panel discussion. If you want to model social behavior and expose viewpoints, go deeper into a topic through this beneficial exchange of ideas.

9. The Symposium Interaction

As opposed to one expert, a symposium type interaction has a group of experts discussing a subject with learners. As to how you can make this strategy of social learning theory applicable to the workplace? One easy way to do this in the eLearning context is to organize a webinar with an interesting topic from the course.

10. Ask your Peers About Social Learning

A social networking tool is needed to implement this form of interaction. A discussion forum is also a great tool for promoting expert-peer collaboration.

A common interesting fact about all these interaction patterns is they can easily be implemented using technology, email and texting being the first line of social interaction in the eLearning world.

Enter Social eLearning

Audio and video conferencing make it easy for all participants to interact in real-time. Sporadic messages can be sent out through microblogging and notification tools available on your learning management system.

File and media sharing, social bookmarking, wikis, whiteboards and application sharing all emulate natural human interaction patterns. Tagging and keywording items, and even creating mashups, help promote natural patterns of interaction in an online learning environment.

Do All Social Learning Strategies Work Every Time?

The benefits of social learning theory can easily become obvious in a business setting, if the right strategies are implemented. There are plenty of interaction formats, and resources available for implementing best practices. However, not all interaction formats work well in all situations. Engaging and interacting with learners in an eLearning environment continues to be a challenge, despite the availability of tools.

The key to successful interaction and learner engagement is the right implementation approach. Try incorporating these social learning strategies into your corporate training and fulfill any interaction gaps you may have in your eLearning course.

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