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Marijn De Geus


Founder & CEO

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Social learning: feedback in e-learning


Even though it is often used in connection with social media, social learning is older and its scope broader than that. Canadian psychologist Albert Bandura defined it as ‘Learning through observing and imitating the behavior of others’ in 1971. Social learning is an important mechanism in e-learning, which works by looking at each other’s responses and providing them with feedback. However, participants are often hesitant to share their responses. How can you make sure that responses are shared and provided with feedback?

In our training programs, trainees see a video with exemplary behavior and they have to apply this in their response to a conversational situation that is presented to them as a video. The social learning aspect lies in whether or not they want to share their filmed response with colleagues or friends for feedback, but this doesn’t always happen. Reason for us to research how to stimulate mutual feedback.

1. Know your trainees

Asking and giving feedback appears to be strongly dependent on the type of organization. Students, who are used to working together towards the same goal, often ask for feedback and they are happy with the feedback they are given by peers. In business, learning is more subordinate in comparison with a university, people work more individually and there is less social interaction, as it turns out from talks between our researcher and trainees. Employees don’t want to bother their colleagues with a feedback request. So, firstly, find out what your trainees think of asking for feedback, so that you can use it to anticipate!

2. Explain what happens

Employees also appeared to be insecure about what would happen exactly when they asked for feedback in the training app. Because they can only see their side of the process, it’s good to explain what happens at the moment of a feedback request. What steps do they have to take and what will the receiver of the request see? If you want, let the trainees do an exercise without serious content to experiment.

3. Emphasize the importance of feedback

Employees find mutual feedback relatively less important than students, they rather ask an expert for feedback. Even though coach feedback is implemented in increasingly more programs, this doesn’t eliminate the use of mutual feedback, because both parties can learn from it. So explain its effect on the development on the skills of employees and how it fits in the entirety of the training program. Present social evidence like “78% of people profits from asking for feedback” or “Bob has asked for feedback twice. Do you want to ask for feedback too?”

4. Create trust

Trainees can decide for themselves with whom they want to share their responses and so they know who sees their video. We advise to make groups of 3 or 4 people for this. It’s also key that the trainees trust the software, so you could tell them that the software meets safety regulations and that it’s ISO certified. If the e-learning program is made for an external organization, give it the same branding, so that trust in the organization is transferred to the training program.

5. Remind trainees

Set up automatic reminders for trainees. In our app, this happens when they are asked for feedback, but it could also be a suggestion to ask friends for feedback, when trainees weren’t able to check all appraisal criteria when evaluating their response. In this way, they can get suggestions on how to perfect their response to the exercise. In addition, this makes it clear that trainees can ask for feedback later on as well.

6. Facilitate giving feedback

If trainees have asked for feedback, it’s important that they receive feedback as well. If not, the built-up motivation can disappear again. In a notification to the feedback provider, it should be explained what is expected of them and what happens for every pressing of a button. Social proof and a personal note can help here as well. Make it as easy as possible to give feedback of high quality, for example, by letting them check appraisal criteria and giving them space for a personal message.

Download the casestudy and find out how successful e-learning is at Rabobank!

Author Profile Picture
Marijn De Geus

Founder & CEO

Read more from Marijn De Geus

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