Without collaboration, learning is incomplete, as it is an inherently social process. Most specifically in remote settings, online collaborative learning can do wonders. Why is that?
Instructors can become overwhelmed when it comes to engaging course participants. And with each batch of learners being more unique, challenging, and intellectually advanced than the previous one, instructors can run out of strategies to engage them.
But with online collaborative learning, learners can enrich their learning experiences by interacting with others and benefiting from one another’s strengths.
What is online collaborative learning?
Collaborative learning is an eLearning approach where learners are able to socially interact with other learners, as well as instructors. In essence, people work together in order to expand their knowledge of a particular subject or skill. In eLearning and remote work environments, this is typically done through live chats, message boards, video conferencing rooms, or instant messaging.
This online method of learning can be conducted also offline, this is why it can be done both asynchronously or synchronously. It allows people to learn from the ideas, skill sets, and experience of others enrolled in the course. By engaging in a shared task (whether it be a project or lesson) learners gain the opportunity to discover a variety of skills, such as group analysis and collaborative teamwork building skills.
In addition, even remote learners who are unable to attend a live event can always participate in online collaborative learning, thanks to online forums, message boards, and other tools that don’t rely on real-time interaction.
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What are the benefits of collaborative learning–for companies and employees?
Besides having the opportunity to see things from a different perspective through collaborative learning, this eLearning approach can greatly benefit both your employees and your organization as a whole. Fostering a learning culture in which employees can also build their social skills really does wonders for your business.
Let’s see in detail some of the advantages of online collaborative learning for companies and employees.
1. Soft skill development
It goes without saying that online collaborative learning involves teamwork. Learners need to work together towards a common goal through online discussions, problem-solving projects, and group assessments. This results in enriching essential skills like communication, conflict resolution, and even leadership abilities.
At the same time, collaborative learning sharpens project management skills while learners delegate responsibilities and rely on time management. Thus, without spending too much time and effort, you nurture future managers and supervisors that have boosted their skills right from the start.
2. Faster project completion
Time is money, and what’s better than completing projects in a shorter period of time? Online collaboration fosters a culture of teamwork which leads to finalizing tasks and projects faster. Employees learn through collaboration to organize online meetings on video conferencing software, and learn how to connect within their team but also with other team members from other departments, communicate, share ideas, knowledge, expertise, and, as a result, come up with innovative solutions and ideas.
3. Better engagement and participation
Humans are extremely social and value interaction. In the remote workplace, social interaction is important so that people don’t feel isolated. Online collaborative learning gives the opportunity to people to communicate and share life experiences which can lead to improving engagement and participation. Imagine how closed social media groups can help form stronger bonds between learners and really engage them in training.
4. Limiting beliefs control
Sometimes, personal beliefs can hinder the learning process. When people learn on their own they achieve development only up to a certain level based on what they understand, their culture, or previous experiences and assumptions. On the contrary, by collaborating with peers they learn together as they share ideas and opinions. Online collaborative learning brings people together and allows them to re-evaluate their limiting beliefs. They look at every interaction as an opportunity to discover more about their team members and get them thinking to overcome any preconceived notions.
How to use an LMS to deliver online collaborative learning
Sharing knowledge through collaborative learning must be scaled so that it’s as effective as possible. An LMS can facilitate peer-to-peer learning with integrations like gamification, online training libraries, videos, webinars, or documents and discussion forums.
But how is this possible in further detail?
1. Provide discussion opportunities
With an LMS that hosts discussion boards, you can facilitate effective communication among employees. Whether they’re remote team members or not, they can post their thoughts or questions on a discussion board and then have them answered by others. Instructors can monitor these discussions and make sure they are focused on the right direction but also discover areas where employees could use some extra training.
Also, you can leverage your LMS video conferencing integrations to set up group meetings where employees can have their fair share of discussing their ideas, brainstorming, or simply exchanging viewpoints, no matter where they are located. No one should be left behind!
2. Engage teamwork through game-based learning
Gamification is one of the best ways to engage learners and, at the same time, encourage them to form stronger relationships through healthy competition. By using the gamification feature on your LMS (awarding badges, displaying points/leaderboards, tracking scores), you can help people collaborate in a fun environment. A great way to achieve this is by dividing your learners into different groups that compete against each other.
3. Build soft skills through an online training library
Collaborative learning can be challenging to people who are a bit more introverted than others. By hosting an online training library on your LMS with courses on communication skills, project or time management, and other soft skills, you give your introverted employees the chance to step up their game, build stronger collaborative skills and jump into online collaborative learning with more confidence.
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4. Assist with asynchronous learning
Take your online collaborative learning on the go by opting for an LMS that provides a mobile version. In that way, you encourage employees to participate in teamwork no matter where they are, no matter what time it is. They will never feel the pressure of being online at a given time just because they should join a group. Instead, they will log on to the LMS through their portable devices and get the discussion going even while commuting from and to work.
12 Questions to ask before using collaborative learning
The best eLearning courses are usually the ones that have been improved in iterations. The answers to these questions are one of the fastest methods to achieve higher quality courses. Here are a few questions to further aid in the online collaborative learning improvement.
1. What is the content of this course?
What areas of this content encourage collaborative learning? What areas are surplus? Some pieces of content may need to go, no matter how important they seem. There is a place for the surplus (and seemingly worthwhile) content, and that is the “Resources and Extra Reading” section. Have learners review this section by providing direct links from the main content. But try not to clutter your course.
2. What are the goals of the small group activities already established for this course?
Do they lead to rich collaboration environments? The best way to ensure that collaboration will be successful is to merge the course goals with your current registered learners’ goals.
3. What are the team sizes for these activities for efficient eLearning collaboration?
Based on the age groups of your learners and their competency level, create appropriate team sizes and composition to ensure that collaboration actually happens in the desired manner and is an improvement.
4. How are groups or teams formed?
Are they formed by the trainer or by the learners themselves? Are they formed based on interests or strengths? Responding to these questions will yield better and more satisfying learning experiences.
5. Should teams be homogeneous or heterogeneous?
Research indicates a JIGSAW-style group formation in which high-capability individuals are mixed with lower-capability ones. This creates a culture of helping, caring, and inspiration, and helps all learners learn better.
6. Do the groups remain the same throughout the course?
Or does each activity require different groups? If the course is short, try maintaining the teams throughout the course. Longer courses can benefit from team member shifts. It will help instill better team spirit and leadership skills.
7. How will activities be structured to ensure participation?
Everyone needs a chance to express themselves. When learners submit their ideas and opinions on discussion boards, try to analyze the strengths of each. Create activities that everybody can relate to, identify with, and contribute towards.
8. Do the group dynamics lend themselves to labeling groups or individuals with roles?
Identify strong characteristics of your learners and provide roles to them. This way, the peers are more likely to benefit from each other and actually learn more efficiently.
9. Are there any rewards and motivations built into the course?
Think of adding gamification techniques, like points or badges awarded to all members of a group that succeed in a given task.
10. Is there accountability built into the course?
Have learners contribute towards rule-making activities. Let them brainstorm and decide how assignments X,Z will be scored, for example. Give them choices and responsibilities. This will engage them even more in the course, and facilitate active learning.
11. How will the evaluation of individuals and groups take place?
Is the evaluation completed by the trainer or by the learners? You can either have both learners and instructors evaluate progress for a more well-rounded approach. For example, learners can evaluate their peers by giving feedback while working on a group project or assignment. Instructors can then add in this feedback session and evaluate the final results of a project or an assignment. Or, make it clear from the beginning that only learners or instructors will be evaluating the learners’ progress.
12. How will feedback on performance be provided?
Will it be completed by peers or by the trainer? Or perhaps by both? The importance of feedback in eLearning is indisputable, as it helps the learners improve their performance, whether provided by their peers or the instructor.
Collaborative online learning does wonders
Establishing collaboration is an explicit and deliberate effort. It needs prior planning. Sometimes, collaboration plans need to change according to the group responses. Have a meeting with the eLearning development team to discuss your answers and those of your learners to these questions. You will be surprised at how much easier it becomes to have learners engage and communicate with each other on a regular basis.
Originally published on: 10 Oct 2016 | Tags: Online Training,Social Learning,Virtual Teams