Currently reading this book and hit the following definition:
"Social learning can be fiendishly difficult to define but has - when applied to humans-two important features that together make the entirety of our cultural achievements possible and effectively open up an unbridgeable gulf between ourselves and all other animals. One is that we are capable of sophisticated copying and imitation of new or novel behaviors merely by watching or observing others, and without the need for specific training or rewards. We can then transmit these new behaviors faithfully to others. The second feature is that humans act as if they know what they are copying and why, and so they can chose to copy the best from among a number of alternatives, and even attempt to improve on it."
"The complexity of this definition poses some problems for our us, right? With the imitation and improvement concept in mind, how can we include social learning in virtual setting? I'd be curious to find case studies supporting this definition in the virtual learning world. In the classroom, I could see this being done very elegantly with an Action Learning curriculum."
Then I wrote this awesome response and LinkedIn was kind enough to lose it so now I'm re-creating a short answer just in longer form.
I agree with Ben that given how the vast majority of training is currently constructed, this definition poses serious challenges for us. Not so much due to technology challenges but to methodological challenges. If we continue to think of the course (in much the same way as we view the classroom - Gary Woodill, I'm looking for your presentation on the classroom as technology) as some sort of gold standard by which we impart knowledge, then we continue to ignore this basic human dynamic and do a disservice to our learners and our craft.
I do think though that there are ways we can leverage this dynamic at scale - mentorship, apprenticeship, simulations all offer ways to leverage our innate ability to imitate, copy and improve.
If you read further in the passage, the author goes on to contrast true social learning with "stimulus enhancement." The clearest difference there being that those who practice the latter, never show any increase in sophistication or demonstrate any refinement over time. That sounds an awfully lot like some of our corporate training - or at least the level that we're satisfied with - we're more interested in successful delivery than positive outcomes. It also means that we're ignoring that really powerful aspect of social learning - the ability to pass on what we've learned. This is the true deficit that we create every time we teach someone something and don't give them a transparent way to practice that knowledge or demonstrate a refinement to the rest of the org. In that sense, we really are failing at social learning.