The unexpected “social” side of digital learning

Talking with trainers, the major concern about digital learning is related to the lack of social interactions, both with the teacher itself and with peers: in this article we will try to explain how e-learning can be “social” and which features can be used to promote relationships within digital academies.


The Social Learning theory was created by Albert Bandura to define training in a new way: according to the psychologist, the cognitive process that leads to learning takes place in a social environment and can be triggered by observation, even without direct reinforcement. This means that working (and living) close to other people, we can learn from their behaviours and retain new pieces of knowledge we can apply in our everyday life. 

This theory is part of a broader model for learning and development, called 70/20/10 Model: 70% of knowledge comes from job-related experiences, 20% from interactions with others and only 10% from formal educational events



What are the implications of these theories when talking about e-learning? 

It is a common belief that the digital world creates barriers between people and e-learning in particular seems to isolate the student, compared to the social environment of a traditional brick-and-mortar class. This difference mostly comes from the idea that, when you are learning digitally, you can have no contact with others, hence losing that 20% of social learning. 

This idea is, of course, not totally true: we have already showed in previous articles how distance tracking, together with one-to-one calls and webinars, allows teachers to keep in touch with students, partially solving the mentoring part of the issue. 

The same can be said for student-to-student relationships: if learning with peers is fundamental, different features can be added to digital training platforms in order to safeguard these interactions. Keep on reading to find out how. 




The most common “social feature” for digital learning is of course the webinar. We will talk more in depth about this functionality in a forthcoming article, but it is the easiest way to recreate the classroom environment in the digital world: one (or more than one) teacher can video-call a number of students who can interact with each other using a dedicated chat


In a similar way, a forum section can be added to the e-learning platform in order to allow all enrolled students to talk with peers and discuss any issue related to the learning process. This can somehow mimic social interactions in a traditional class, with students sharing and comparing their training paths


Of course, these chat-based features require the student to make an active action for its progress and doubts to be known by others. A much more “passive” solution is represented by the leaderboard system: borrowed from the gaming world, this feature allows to show students’ progress in a public rank where each one is classified according to achievements and badges earned. This has proved to be a great way to foster engagement and motivate students, taking advantage of positive competition and triggering that observing process which enhances social learning. 


At this point, you should know a little better how e-learning can still allow interactions between people and therefore exploit the positive influence over peers that you have in traditional social environments. On the other side, it is essential to give a good measure of the importance of this features, without losing sight of what e-learning really stands for. Do you want to know more? Check our next article!  



Wikipedia, Social Learning Theory, The 70-20-10 Model for Learning and Development



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