3 types of events to support Social Learning

Social learning:Social learning refers to the acquisition of social competence that happens exclusively or primarily in a social group.”

Social learning excels in topics that are too new, too complex or too fast-changing, nailing them down in written form is difficult. You’ve come across it: the knowledge is developed right there, in person, with others. It happens at a conference, in a group meeting, in a task force.

Something I learned while studying education was that you can improve group learning by effectively segmenting your groups. Groups that are better aligned to the topic, learn better. I’ll give an example.

Say you have a whole bunch of people who want to learn about wikis. The most direct way to organising the event would be to maybe schedule 3 classes, and fill them up. A more effective way would be to organise an event for 3 segmented groups: beginner, advanced and expert. Not only is there something there for everybody, but people learn with others, with more targeted content, more relevant questions, better help from others.

In the field of social learning and facilitated learning, there are many ways to hold social learning “camp” events. For the past year I’ve experimented with various social learning formats for big groups. I’ve found ways to structure social learning events for 3 levels of learners.

Level 1: BootCamp

The BootCamp event is about practitioners and experts on a topic sharing their knowledge with others. As a participant, you’re not learning doctrine or truth, you’re learning from another’s experience, gaining insight into experience and examples.

A BootCamp event has the following components: Basic knowledge, Context, Getting Started, Case studies.

Level 2: DemoCamp

At a DemoCamp, advanced participants are sharing their experiences on the topic. As a whole, the experiences cut across the wide range of the spectrum, comprising a holistic perspective on the topic. The challenges and failures are as important as the insights and successes.

A DemoCamp event would have higher participation in the direction of the presentations. Participants would best benefit from multi-track sessions, where they can choose their relevant demos.

Level 3: ChangeCamp

A ChangeCamp event is for the experts at the boundaries of learning on the topic. They know everything they need to know, but to anticipate changes and be more familiar with uncertainty, it helps to share insights with other experts at the limits.

A ChangeCamp event is participant-driven. Following an Unconference-style, participants submit discussion topics for table discussions, or join other topics. Knowledge is pooled and shared, forming a compendium of expert insight on the topic. For the event to be high-value, care needs to be dedicated to ensure a significant number of  participants at the expert practitioner level.


There you have it. Each one has value for different levels of practitioners. I’ve had much fun organising these events at all levels, from small (15) to big (200). They certainly differ from traditional educational events, in that the events are largely unpredictable, as the experience is shaped by the participants themselves. Try them out, and get in touch if you need guidance.

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