Why Organizations Are Moving Towards Peer-Based Learning

What is peer-based or social learning?

The social learning theory, developed by psychologist Albert Bandura, analyzes the effects of observing, modeling, and imitating the behaviors and attitudes of others. The theory proposes that from early childhood, humans are naturally social creatures who learn behavioral norms by observing others in society. Many natural developmental stages such as walking and talking are first done by children imitating others, and social learning continues throughout life in more advanced ways. For example, social learning makes up the 20% in the well-known 70/20/10 model, which defines successful learning and development initiatives as those where 70% of knowledge comes from on-the-job experiences, 20% comes from interactions with peers, and the final 10% comes from formal education. 

What are the benefits of peer-based learning?

Social or peer-based learning is an impactful way of creating a learning culture within an organization, as it can boost employee engagement. By providing your employees with a forum to discuss, share, and debate their ideas with one another, you’re harnessing their natural inclinations to be social, while simultaneously channeling that energy into productive activities. Novice employees can learn from their more seasoned peers, and employees with advanced knowledge have the opportunity to guide the next generation of learners coming behind them. This open exchange of knowledge encourages team building, mentorship, and an overall company culture where information is the currency that builds a high performing organization. It’s no mystery how this can lead to improved employee retention; employees who have tapped into social learning tend to feel a true sense of belonging and enjoy participating in these exchanges with their coworkers. 

Another benefit of social learning is how it can help combat the infamous Ebbinghaus forgetting curve, which hypothesized that “Humans start losing the memory of learned knowledge over time, in a matter of days or weeks, unless the learned knowledge is consciously reviewed time and again.” A real-life example of this would be someone spending a week at an intensive training course, not making immediate use of the content when they return to work, then being unable to apply the content just a few weeks later. In short, “use it or lose it.” Social learning reverses this forgetting curve, by reinforcing knowledge through natural behaviors and conversations. This powerful (and low cost) method of simply encouraging learners to continue the conversation outside the classroom can lead to real results on the job. When learners “pull” the content they want, as opposed to having it “pushed” onto them, their retention is high because they see the relevance and have an internal desire to gain this information. 

What are examples of peer-based learning? 

  • Formal learning: 
    • Mentors, buddies, and coaches are all examples of formal arrangements that can lead to relationship-building, employee engagement, and meaningful peer-based learning. These relationships can benefit both mentor and mentee alike, by providing valuable development opportunities to both parties. 
    • Gamification makes use of game-like activities and interactions to incentivize the learning experience. High performing “players” (or learners) can receive rewards for their achievements, such as being recognized in the top places on leaderboards or receiving digital badges honoring their accomplishments. 
    • Microlearning, “bite-sized” content designed to fit learners’ moments of need by focusing on one or two specific objectives, lends itself well to social learning as it can be user-generated. 
  • Informal learning:
    • The Boards feature in the Rockstar Learning Platform is a highly engaging feature that allows employees to create “boards” or discussion hubs around topics of their choosing, then invite other individuals or groups to collaborate with them. 
    • Forums allow employees to ask and receive answers to questions. Whether employees engage in active discussions or search the forums for archived conversations, forums provide a wealth of user-generated content. 
    • Wikis allow employees to edit and revise encyclopedia-style entries as needed, and are a great fit for content that is subject to frequent change. 
    • FAQs can be written by employees, leaders, and any member of an organization, and can be a time-saving source of truth for those in need. 

Social or peer-based learning can boost employee retention, employee engagement, and overall company culture all by simply harnessing and channeling people’s natural tendencies to be social creatures. The adoption of social learning can be highly motivating for both new and tenured employees alike, by providing meaningful opportunities for everyone to participate. With applications for both formal and informal learning experiences, social learning can complement any pre-existing learning programs in your organization. Even better, if your learning management system (LMS) has the features to accommodate social learning, adoption comes at no additional cost. The immediacy of social learning offers real benefits for employees in virtual work settings, as online content can be accessed as-needed, any time, from any place. 

With so many benefits, peer-based or social learning can truly make an impact in your organization. 

Try it yourself with a free Rockstar Learning Platform account.