Social Learning
ATD Blog

Social Learning: The Future Is Here!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Welcome to the future of learning! As a learning professional for the past 28 years, I have observed many changes in how people and organizations learn. But never before have I seen such speed and significance in the changes as what I see happening today.

Then: Learning is a passive activity. Workers attend a class where the “sage on the stage” imparts what he thinks learners need to know. People read a book or article. A manager tells staff how to do the job.

Now: Learning is a highly active—and interactive—process. Workers join communities of practice to find other people who share their interests and can help them learn. People join book groups so they can discuss deeper insights. People look up answers for themselves on Google or YouTube.

In essence, technology and social media have led to a democratization of learning and education that is unprecedented. Learning is everyone’s domain. Continuous learning and growth are not only possible, but expected. Curiosity is the only currency you need.

So what’s the L&D professional’s role in this evolution?


Workplace learning must adapt to this new world and provide the tools and vehicles to leverage the collective wisdom in the organization. We must support collaborative learning and work. We must build learning and professional networks that cross organizational boundaries, and even go beyond organizations. We must discover and share best practices and ideas and solutions. We can curate content, build platforms, encourage peer learning, and share information. Bottom line: We need to help employees connect with other people and information within and across organizations, so they stay engaged and keep up with industry, job, and organizational changes.

No doubt, there will always be a place for face-to-face classes and online learning, but now we can expand our repertoire to include social learning. To boost your social learning skills, join me at ATD 2017 Conference & Expo for the session Supporting Social Learning for the 21st Century. You will interact with social learning activities, and see a demo of a learning website created for staff learning at the University of California Berkeley.


About the Author

Inette Dishler is a Senior Talent and Organizational Consultant at the University of California Berkeley. She has over 25 years of experience in learning and development in the non-profit, corporate, and academic sectors. Inette had the vision to create an online site for staff to learn and share with each other, and developed the Wisdom Cafe' for this purpose. She is now the Community Manager and Chief Curator for the site. She has managed the campus Leadership Development Program and teaches supervisory and management development classes and consults to campus departments. She is part of a campus consortium coordinating career development programs and services for staff and was a co-founder of an annual career development conference for staff called NOW (Next Opportunities at Work). She is passionate about learning and helping others learn!

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