What we know from previous research:

  • We are social beings.  Social processes are essential for human learning regardless of delivery method.
  • Web technology outpaces changes in teaching and learning methods leading to paradigm shifts.
  • Neither one term, nor clear definition exists in the literature to describe the combination of social processes needed for teaching and effective eLearning.  Much research has focused on social presence, however, social presence has limitations; each each new researcher provides a new definition, uses the term in a different context (online conference, discussion, independent study), or provides contradicting findings.
  • Learning Management Systems are not specifically designed to support social processes but are rapidly adapting concepts used by highly popular social networking sites.
  • For organizational learning, it is critical to create the conditions that both generate and share knowledge.  Workforce adult learners bring rich experience to workforce training and have a need to share their experience within group learning activities; by doing so, learners provide a resource for themselves and for others.
  • We have much to learn about collaborative eLearning to improve teaching and learning methods.

What this research adds:

  • This research provides an inclusive, clearly defined term for the collection of social processes that include awareness of others and self, social interaction, social presence, cognitive presence, immediacy, intimacy, emotional investment, and connectedness.  The temporary highly scientific term is “social stuff”.
  • Although the literature is abundant and growing as technology changes, it focusses on the teaching and learning of primary, high school, college, and graduate students.  This research adds to the literature by adding the voice of workforce learning group participants adapting online methods that need to link training to changed behaviors and resulting positive business results.
  • This research addresses what a new paradigm for online and blended training will be like.  It provides suggested actions that learning group participants can use to improve interactions (student to content, student to teacher, student to business leaders, and student to student) to improve learning outcomes.

Implications for practice and/or policy:

  • Social stuff is essential in collaborative learning and positive learning outcomes; therefore, trainers, learners, managers, and course designers attempting to adapt face-to-face training methods to online format need to recognize, create, and maintain “social processes” in workforce learning groups.  However, they may find intimidating challenges in how to define and implement “social process” in online training that is compatible with both learning processes and available technology.
  • Learning group participants each play an important role in the learning process to acquire individual skills and knowledge, adding value to a community of learning by sharing knowledge, and creating high-quality work.

o   Leaders provide presence, a sense of direction, and build ownership and alignment within their learning groups to implement change.

o   Facilitators orchestrate collaborative eLearning activities maintaining a close relationship with the leaders and supporting effective group learning, knowledge building and implementation.

o   Adult workforce students bring rich experience and can provide a resource to themselves and others.  Students take a more active role in the learning process.  Adults need autonomy, the feeling of being in control of reaching goals; to know why their study is important and worthwhile; and feel inspired or motivated by the learning group.

o   Subject matter experts are resources who provide authority on what something means or how it is to be performed, while instructional designers translate that authority into information that can be easily understood and used by others.

Learning how to recognize and use social processes and instructional design principles in online delivery methods is a part of learning how to learn.  Below is a punch list of lessons learned during this research, the quick list loosely arranged by phase:



o   Keep the sponsoring manager involved

o   Employ sound instructional design principles with a focus on adult learner needs

  • Lean out content- create means for students to find vs memorize information.
  • Balance A, B, Cs of learning – attitudes, skills, understanding- affective, behavioral, and cognitive learning.
  • Vary approaches to keep interest high.
  • Involve people in collaborative group activities and leverage participants’ knowledge – they can be a resource to themselves as well as others.  People will support what they help create.
  • In long courses refer back to previous lessons.
  • Make it relevant.  The learning is an important worthwhile effort.  Link training efforts to business results.
  • Create autonomy in the learning- help participants feel in control of reaching goals.

o   Create means to keep score and track progress.

o   Plan to use blended learning methods- make use of best methods at the time needed.

o   Test technology on several platforms ensure all links work, students can log in.

o   Create means to backup backup and backup.

o   Create dual systems- a working and developmental system.  Don’t experiment on live system.

o   Keep it short- short videos and exercises.

o   Follow PDCA continuous improvement process.



o   Keep the sponsoring manager involved.

o   Welcome participants to course and provide means for participants to introduce themselves to others and share experience.  Use forums.

o   Set expectations – create a learning group charter.

o   Assess current state of knowledge.

o   Build a learning community- encourage participants to be active contributors- resources to the community.

o   Create environment where participants encourage each other.

o   Use subject matter experts and sponsoring leaders.

o   Provide One-on-one learner support.

o   Keep score, monitor and publicize progress.  Give developmental feedback- help students go to higher levels of learning.  Review goals.

o   Become an active facilitator.  Respond in timely manner, encourage communication between learners, ask questions, and provide technical support.  Help students go to higher levels of learning.


o   Keep the sponsoring manager involved

o   Evaluate frequently.  During course, link the training investment to business results, evaluate:

  • Reactions
  • Learning
  • Behaviors
  • Return on investment

o   Each evaluation builds on the previous evaluation.  Students that have bad reaction to training don’t learn.  Without learning, there is no change in behavior.  With no changed behaviors, there will be no return on investment.


o   Keep the sponsoring manager involved.

o   At the end of the course answer the question “Now What?”  How do you transfer what is learned in the course to the job.

o   Help leaders to recognize their role in removing obstacles that participants will face in implementing the new ideas and skills they have learned.

o   Celebrate Successes and recognize accomplishments!


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