Exploring Social Learning Constructs in Corporate Informal Web-based Learning Environments

Exploring Social Learning Constructs in Corporate Informal Web-based Learning Environments

Hyunkyung Lee (Yonsei University, South Korea)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9556-6.ch002


As many organizations have taken an interest in social learning, they have been concerned with how to design effective social learning environments for their learners. Although there are studies regarding the importance of social learning, the use of social learning tools, and the implementation and challenges of social learning in the workplace, there is little research on what social learning constructs are crucial for designing social learning environments. This chapter aims to explore social learning constructs in corporate informal web-based learning environments. To achieve its purpose, this chapter initially identified major social learning constructs in informal web-based learning environments based on theoretical grounds and literature reviews. As a result, learning, community, interaction, and social media were identified as environmental constructs, and motivation and self-efficacy were identified as individual constructs.
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Traditional formal corporate trainings, which are mainly led by instructors or served as one-time training sessions, can no longer be expected to be useful for learners in the workplace. Instead, attention on informal learning has been increasing in corporate education (Bingham & Conner, 2010). According to Cross (2007), people in corporations learn informally most of what they need to know on the job. Merriam, Caffarella and Baumgartner (2007) also revealed that it has been estimated that over 70 percent of learning in the workplace is informal. The driving factors of this change can be summarized in three aspects. First, it is revealed that adult learners become more proactive learners when there are practical needs or requirements and they can choose and construct independently their own learning experiences (Zemke & Zemke, 1984; Knowles, Holton & Swanson, 2005; Reynard, 2007). In other words, adult learners can organize their learning based on what would be useful and required of them, and discover meaningful knowledge in the process of learning activities from different knowledge sources. Second, it is found that adult learners learn not only by themselves as individuals, but also with others through collaborative interaction. In this context, connection, interaction, and dialogue are considered as crucial elements in adult learning (LeNoue, Hall & Eighmy, 2011). Third, most corporate education has started emphasizing not employees’ mere acquisition of knowledge but employees’ effective application of learning on the job through sharing authentic knowledge and experience with others. In this regard, corporations have made an effort to provide interactive and collaborative learning environments among learners, practitioners, and workers.

At the same time, social learning has gained high attention in the workplace as it particularly emphasizes social interaction with others for learning in informal environments. Social learning became acknowledged as the primary element for effective organizational performance as most work in organizations are not accomplished by the individual learning of one person but through the social learning of a group of people and networks (Wilkins, 2008; Jarche, 2010). Many companies, however, still maintain the traditional formal education format and have failed to provide effective social learning. This is because of the limitations with the current education format to facilitate learner’s active participation and expand learner’s motivation to share knowledge with other learners. The representative examples are e-learning programs and knowledge management systems. E-learning in the workplace has come into the spotlight for its cost-effectiveness compared to classroom learning. Knowledge management systems in the workplace have also been well established in that it has implemented and computerized a community of practices. Although both e-learning and knowledge management system may result in the successful outcome of cost reduction and technological accessibility, they have shown the limitations in facilitating social learning in two ways.

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