Social Learning vs Formal Learning: Which Is Better and Why?

The entire concept of learning has significantly changed over the course of history. Thanks to the growing expansion of Internet, th...



The entire concept of learning has significantly changed over the course of history. Thanks to the growing expansion of Internet, the changes are still underway. Online learning software has gained widespread popularity and has changed the whole education landscape.

These changes and developments brought innovations in both social learning and formal learning. Let’s first understand how these two approaches are different from each other, before we decide which one is better and why.

Understanding the differences between Social Learning & Formal Learning

Both these learning concepts have been with us for a long period of time. Even though their goal is the same, they are completely different from each other. Let’s delve into what these learning methods are and their core differences.

  • Formal learning - This form of learning is used in everyday education. It is based on a system created by tutors. Therefore, the student is introduced to a strict curriculum that he or she has to closely follow in order to adopt new information and knowledge. While this systematic approach might be effective in elementary schools, it becomes obsolete later on when more complex subjects show up.
  • Social learning - This learning approach is completely different than the formal one. It relies on some pre-set materials, but during the course of learning, there is a big emphasis on teamwork and collaboration. Through the whole process, students participating in learning activities support each other making it easier for everyone to make progress and learn new things.
Although formal learning is still used by many but social learning is a widely popular option due to the variety of benefits it offers. Let’s move onto examining the benefits of social learning.

Why is social learning better?


Social learning is a better approach because it allows communities to share common knowledge and move forward together. In the past, there was no such medium that allowed for this knowledge to be shared with a higher number of people.With the advancement in technology, the development of various social media websites evolved greatly allowing people to communicate easily. No matter if we are talking about messaging, audio or video calls, anyone can do it now. All this has paved the road for social learning to become hugely popular and accepted in education. These are some of the reasons why it is a better option than formal learning.
  • Group activities - Social learning relies on teamwork a lot. This is great because people have the chance to work together to figure out challenges ahead of time. An approach like this is especially valued in business education, where no formal education is accessible for a variety of tasks.
  • Easy knowledge sharing - With a plethora of communication options, teams of people can easily work together on learning new things. Technology greatly helps this process, which is why online learning is becoming increasingly popular. It works well with various communication tools.
  • Feedback - According to an infographic on recruiter, students expect better feedback from their teachers and their colleagues. This kind of behavior is emphasized in social learning, as it makes it possible to advance through the learning materials much faster.
  • Better information retention - The above-mentioned infographic also shows that in formal education, students tend to forget over 70% of course materials only a week after training. The reason is the forced approach of traditional education where deadlines are set and people have to work hard in shorter periods of time.

    In social learning, there are no deadlines and students make progress at their own pace. This enables them to dedicate more time to course materials and better understand them. This further drives the information retention rate upwards.
  • Easier adoption of new knowledge - Through feedback and a slower pace of learning, students adopt new knowledge easily. If anything is confusing, challenging, or unclear, students can rely on others to make progress. This makes the whole learning process easier to handle.
  • Higher motivation - According to the above-mentioned infographic, students express that they enjoy working together as the fear of the unknown is divided among several people. This makes people ready to take on new challenges and the motivation for adopting new knowledge is higher, leading to better results.
  • Practical approach - No matter what task people have, it is much better to work in a team. Social learning is all about learning together. Therefore, it is simply more practical for students.
All these benefits show how easier it is for people to adopt new knowledge when they are working in a group. It is clear that social learning is a better option than formal learning as it provides enhanced flexibility to the students.

Which approach is most suitable for you?

No matter if you are thinking about investing in the knowledge of your employees, or you are planning to make a career in the online learning world, social learning should be your primary choice. When it comes to the business world, the emergence of new software tools happens on a yearly basis. Therefore, social learning is a much better option and people can jointly work on improving their industry knowledge, without facing any problems.

On the other hand, if you are a course creator, you will be able to decentralize your role in the whole process, thus engaging your students to work together towards achieving goals. Remember, to make social learning better for everyone, it is necessary to include proper communication options.
Summing up

It is clear that social learning is more capable than formal learning. For those who are planning to enforce team education in a business environment, it is clear that social learning is the best option as it will allow teams to work together on enhancing knowledge. Not only will they build closer relationships with the company, but their professional relationship will develop as well, which will lead to higher productivity. 
Author Bio: Kamy Anderson is an ed-tech enthusiast with a passion for writing on emerging technologies in the areas of corporate training and education. He is an expert in learning management system & elearning authoring tools - currently associated with ProProfs.

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