Networking and supporting adult learners in expanding social networks provide access to additional resources and Social Supports, which can impact their trajectory and Motivation. Knowledge and utilization of existing informal and formal social networks to raise awareness of local learning opportunities can improve persistence and feelings of Safety. This can have a significant impact on vulnerable populations, especially adults who have been negatively impacted by Adverse Experiences, Socioeconomic Status, language barriers, and physical or cognitive limitations. When it comes to getting a job, networks are especially important to low-skilled workers and immigrants.
Proactive networking behaviors have been associated with increased productivity, hope, and a more positive view of one's future work self. Access to peers, expertise, and learning networks are strong predictors of opportunities to engage in workplace learning. Across the adult work lifespan, the informal learning that takes place in personal and social networks is important across many contexts such as hearing about job opportunities, gaining initial entry, connecting with potential employers, and gaining access to choices about different ways of updating skills, knowledge and experience. Encouragement from influential people is a key behavioral influencer.
Social media is increasingly being used by adults to learn, including for searching for information, seeking multiple perspectives, and finding ideas for both personal and academic projects. Educational entities and companies support learners when there is consistent, purposeful use of hashtags enabling efficient searches. Creating learning groups within online platforms supports networking as people have the opportunity to interact across workstreams, projects, experiences, beliefs, and cultures. Adults can be heavily influenced by social networks, so the quality is important and overuse should be discouraged to minimize the risks of social media addiction. Helping adult learners from marginalized populations expand their networks is especially important. For academically vulnerable groups, the network approach becomes highly significant and valuable for teaching relational social capital (planning, development and evaluation of socio-educational activities that affect and modulate the organization of social networks).
Workforce training programs, micro-courses, and edtech platforms can help support the building and maintenance of networking by intentionally designing methods of communication, collaboration, curation of resources, and ongoing connections into their products and services. Networking groups meeting face-to-face can practice inclusive design, intentionally expand focusing on diversity, encourage open discourse, and curate shared resources. Asynchronous networking can involve online bulletin boards, discussion boards, or polls. Synchronous online networking can involve group challenges or projects, interactive experiences, guided lessons, immersive activities, and both verbal and chat discussions to support Oral Communication Skills.
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