Applying Social Learning Theory using Intranet tools in a Hospital Workplace

Intranets and Social Learning

A new generation is entering the workforce and they like to learn, use technology, and communicate in much different ways than their predecessors. It is essential to the success of a hospital to adapt to this new generation by understanding and utilizing social learning theory.

What is “social learning theory”?

The way in which people learn something new can be a complex process influenced by a variety of factors. What should not come as a surprise is the way in which observation can play a critical role in determining how and what we learn. This can anything from the observation of one’s behavior to the observation in reaction to one’s behavior.

One psychological theory to explain how and why we learn new things was developed by a psychologist named Albert Bandura who proposed a “social learning theory” that suggests we learn

Intranets and Social Learning
A Hospital Intranet can be used as a tool to support Social Learning within an organization.

through observation, imitation, and modeling. For example: even if you’ve never swung a baseball bat in your life, you’d probably know what to do if someone handed you a bat and told you to try and hit a baseball, either because you saw it happen in real life or in the media.

By better understanding how social learning theory works we can utilize that information to Boost learning in the workplace with an Intranet.

Banduru’s social learning theory also suggests that simply because we observe, imitate or model something doesn’t mean we actually learn anything because there are several factors involved in a successful social learning model. These include attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation. Social learning must maintain the attention of an employee in order to increase retention. When learnings are structured in such a way that they ask the employee to “reproduce” a specific action, they will be more successful (more on that below). And lastly social learning is most successful when there is a reward for social behavior, such rewards can include engagement on a blog post or successful turn-out to an on-line forum. Good-will feelings (pride, accomplishment, success) will motivate your employees to learn more within the social learning structure.

Social learning is usually incorporated into an existing learning structure by utilizing specific social technologies such as chats, forums, FAQs, blogs, etc.

What are some of the benefits of social learning in the workplace?

From improved learning retention to reduced training costs to productivity and efficiency gains to increased engagement, social learning has several benefits. Some concrete examples include:

  • Quicker learning. When employees are given the tools to rely on one another to get answers to day-to-day issues from day one on the job, they no longer have to wait for a scheduled training, which can occur at anytime. Because social learning is collaborative, happens in real-time, and has a direct relation to an employee’s work, learning can happen anytime
  • Real time Q&A. When a problem occurs in real time, an ideal scenario would provide an immediate answer. The ability to ask questions, follow examples, reproduce other’s actions and test solutions, in real time, is extraordinarily valuable.
  • With more screen time and less face time in their day-today lives, employees may be socialized to feel uncomfortable asking a direct, in-person question. The intranet may give them the space to ask questions in a way with which they are accustomed. For example, if you have a passive learner, they may be intimidated to ask a question in a meeting, but they will be less likely to hold back said question if a virtual channel is available.
  • Increased engagement. When employees are able to take part of a discussion, at any level from a simple “like” of a comment to leading a discussion or even coaching others – the freedom to engage as they wish equals increased engagement.
  • Increased productivity. Social learning provides for a network of mentors where information is easily created and distributed, where employees can become more informed, obtain more information and make better decisions through increased engagement with others.

How to integrate social learning to traditional learning methods in a hospital?

There will always be a need for traditional learning methods in a hospital setting, such as meetings, memos, directives, internal town-halls, and formal and informal trainings. The integration of social learning into the workplace is not the elimination of these methods but the blending of the two to achieve your developmental goals utilizing tools like online courses offered both online and offline within the organization and the distribution of HR initiatives with active Q&A capabilities. Specific to a hospital setting there are of course patient privacy concerns along with adhering to HIPAA and HITECH regulations.

While utilizing social networks for collaboration (such as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube) are possible in other organizations, when dealing with internal communications in a healthcare organization, they are out of the question. An internal communication portal (intranet) offers a secured, internal and moderated platform that aligns beautifully with the social learning model. But how do you specifically apply social learning theory in support of traditional learning methods given the specific conditions of a healthcare organization?

  • An intranet platform can be utilized to support traditional training methods and reinforce desired behaviors by utilizing tools like web-based training.
  • On-line forums can be utilized for various departments and user groups for employees to ask questions and exchange ideas. Some examples from real time uses of HospitalPORTAL include:
    •  HR Benefits Forum. With an on-line virtual forum current and new employees can ask real-time questions about available benefits and get crowdsourced answers where everyone can contribute their own experience. An example would be “can I add my son who is 19 years old, to my health plan?” In addition to getting concrete answers to questions, other employees can pitch in with their own experience with similar problems. For example: I used form HR-145 but found it was easier to use form HR-782.
    • “Ask IT” Forum. With an IT forum employees can ask IT or technology related questions. Such questions could include: “Is it against company policy to use my iPhone at work?” Or “How can I read my email outside of the hospital?”
    • Physician Forum. With a secure physician forum, physicians and affiliated medical staff can exchange ideas and information. One such question could be: “Are there any state mandated continuing education requirements for internal medicine practitioners in this state?” Once again, while they will get an official concrete answer, they’ll also get to share real life experiences with medical staff inside their organization.
  • Contrary to your traditional blog post on a public forum, internal blog posts are secured in an internal social network platform that is secured and can be configured with the appropriate rights to allow designated staff to easily publish announcements, relevant information, and various topics relevant to their organization. Because the platform is secure, information can not be shared outside the organization.
  • Decentralized content management. Tools such as HospitalPORTAL CMS (Content Management System) allows an organization to distribute content management responsibilities throughout the hospital so that various departments can manage their own content. This allows for a less restricted (yet moderated) and spontaneous dissemination of information. Not only can departments publish content on topics that are important to them, but they also have 24/7 access to their information.


To see the HospitalPORTAL Intranet and Policy Management solution in action, schedule your demo here. For more information on how our products can assist your healthcare organization, check out our healthcare features here or read one of our many helpful blogs.

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