Social Learning and Associations

I expect to see more LMS platforms incorporate social learning element such as live chat, integrated forums, and even full-blown social communities. Why? Because learning is fundamentally a social process.

The Growth of Social Learning

Social learning is a growing trend. The 2014 Association Learning + Technology Report by Tagoras surveyed 200 organizations and found that:

  • 88.7 percent of respondents indicated their organization already offers technology-enabled or technology-enhanced learning. Another 10.6 percent said they plan to offer such learning in 2015.
  • More than 80 percent of survey respondents that use technology for learning said they offer recorded (i.e., on-demand) and real-time (i.e., live) Webinars or Webcasts. Self-paced online courses, at 65.5 percent, were the only other format that came close to Webinars.
  • Among the social media tools specifically listed in the survey, YouTube is the most common in associations’ learning programs (used by 33.1 percent of respondents). However, Twitter (32.2 percent), Facebook (28.8 percent) and LinkedIn (27.6 percent) are not far behind.
  • Just over half of respondents (51 percent) report using a learning management system (LMS) to deliver and manage education. This number has grown significantly from the 39.7 percent of respondents who reported using either an LMS or a learning content management system (LCMS) in the 2010 edition of the survey.

Interpreting the Data

How should we interpret this data? Here’s my take.

Social learning is already a standard practice for best-in class communities; organizations can embed live learning opportunities into the community as part of their stable of engagement tactics.

Examples of social learning tactics already being deployed in successful online communities include:

  • Connecting the online community to a face-to-face conference or event through conference session-related discussions
  • Pre-and post-webinar access to a subject matter expert through accompanying Q&A hosted in the community
  • Hosting live online events directly in the community, like a live chat at a designated time

Automation tools available in some community tools allow organizations to create a lite LMS type experience. These tools include:

  • watch a video and earn a badge
  • participate in discussions and earn a badge
  • complete a quiz and earn a badge
  • gather all three badges and earn a designation
  • participate in discussions to keep your designation
  • peer-to-peer based learning activities

These are some examples, but the list goes on. I’ve even worked with organizations who provide CE credit specifically for participating in community discussions!

The Next Step

It’s a logical next step for LMS platforms to integrate some of these functionalities through the acquisition of community platforms. LMS platforms are already social community features to help drive home learning objectives. Some LMS platforms will build these features from scratch, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see acquisitions of LMSs by online community platforms (or vice versa) or mergers between compatible companies.


Ben has helped hundreds of associations launch and nurture their own private online communities through consulting, coaching and training. He’s worked with a variety of organizations over his 12 year association career, concluding it as VP for Marketing & Communications at the 40,000-member Virginia Association of Realtors. At VAR, Ben selected, implemented and launched a private online community, garnering recognition in the association community as well as the real estate trade press, and a Technology Spotlight Award from the National Association of Realtors. As Chief Engagement Officer for Online Community Results, Ben provides field-tested guidance to achieve the ROI associations expect from their online community.