Riding the Social Wave: What we can Learn from Cognitive Theory

Self-regulated learning (SRL) as a cognitive theory explains how individuals approach learning through a recursive cycle of: (1) planning; (2) engagement; and (3) evaluation & reflection.

SRL has been shown to mediate our use of learning technologies such that learners who self-regulate tend to report more positive expectations of technologies but make less use of them (Greene, 2015). An immediate implication is that usage reports should make adjustments for high technology use that is a result of poor planning rather than productive learning. SRL is also correlated with aspects of motivation and will complement organisational efforts to increase motivation. This post will explore what we can learn about social learning from self-regulation theories and in particular how this can be used to increase the uptake of blended learning opportunities.

Self-Regulation and the Social Wave 

An individual’s approach to self-regulation involves planning and monitoring their own learning. In their recent workplace study, Siadaty, Gašević, and Hatala (2016) explore six common interventions and their relation to self-regulated learning (figure 1)

  1. Usage information,
  2. Social wave;
  3. User goals;
  4. Progress meters;
  5. Knowledge profiles; and
  6. Organisational goals.

Their findings conclude that the 'Social Wave' accounts for 68% of variance in users’ total frequency of performing SRL processes. This carries potential implications for where to invest effort and resources in creating learning interventions. The Social Wave brings waves of the latest updates to workers about their learning goals, plus updates from the learning activities of their colleagues.

Riding the Social Wave 

At Kineo Pacific we have implemented Social Waves with several clients as part of recent upgrades to their learning platforms. Drawing ideas from social media we have implemented key extensions to our LMS platforms that include learning timelines, social ratings, badges, course adverts and social media feed integrations.

In Vodafone Australia's platform, 'Vodafone Learning', the “What’s happening” timeline shows learning activity by colleagues filtered by team or users being followed. Rather than a list of things to do, the site instead presents what other people are doing. The intended message is simple, yet profound: learning is something that everyone is involved in, why not join in?

Advertising banners further help direct new users to what’s hot and where to get started. Compliance and pathway training still exists, but are presented in different ways. Vodafone Learning won the 2015 eLearning Association Australia Excellence Award for Systems and Application and the team at Vodafone were subsequently invited to appear in HRD magazine’s Innovative HR Teams 2016. 



Connecting to social media 

For ASADA the use of social media feeds connects learning to current trends and latest news. Keeping learning topical and situated in practice is achieved, for example, through pulling in latest news around the Rio Olympics in the build up to the games, and celebrating the wider impact of the programme in the real world. The ASADA content and platform won Platinum Award for Best Bespoke eLearning Design and a Gold Award for Best Deployment of a Learning Management System (LMS).

Social Learning

Social learning can be distinguished from the social wave through models of cognitive regulation. The social wave may promote individual or social learning opportunities, however social learning starts to evolve in one of two ways: (1) through co-regulation; and (2) through socially shared regulation (Hadwin & Oshige, 2011).

Co-regulation is an important aspect of professional development aligning closely to goal-based interventions in the above model. Co-regulation requires a scaffolded approach to learning, such as that provided by a manager or mentor, where goals are negotiated based on performance expectations and personal motivations. This is commonly seen in the appraisal and performance review processes where prompts and workflows scaffold discussions. Goals, learning plans and appraisals in Totara LMS are examples of how Kineo embed this within technology providing benefits for reporting and creating further connections to learning opportunities.

Socially shared regulation occurs in teams or groups where organisational learning is greater the sum of the parts. This important and often overlooked part of professional development when it comes to learning technologies may require thinking outside of traditional system boundaries. This aspect of learning can be modelled as distributed cognition, which will be the theme of my next blog and we are currently planning to pilot an integration with Tin Can xAPI to explore how analytics may unlock our understanding of these relationships.

Contact us to find out more about implementing social learning into your organisation. Alternatively, see our case study Vodafone Learning



Greene, B. a. (2015). Measuring Cognitive Engagement With Self-Report Scales: Reflections From Over 20 Years of Research. Educational Psychologist, 50(1), 14–30. http://doi.org/10.1080/00461520.2014.989230

Hadwin, A., & Oshige, M. (2011). Socially Shared Regulation: Exploring Perspectives of Social in Self-Regulated Learning Theory. Teachers College Record, 113(2), 240–264.

 Siadaty, M., Gašević, D., & Hatala, M. (2016). Trace-Based Microanalytic Measurement of Self-Regulated Learning Processes. Journal of Learning Analytics, 3, 183–214. http://doi.org/10.18608/jla.2016.31.11