4 Steps To Cultivate A Collaborative Learning Environment
In our eBook, How Collaborative Learning Boosts Engagement Rates To Over 90%, we cover how useful Collaborative Learning can be for companies making the switch to remote working environments. But how exactly can you create the right Collaborative Learning environment to help engage every one of your teams? And who needs to be involved, exactly? Is this a project just for your L&D team, your Instructional Designers, or other internal trainers? And how should you involve stakeholders in this process?
This might sound tricky, but we’re here to make it simple.
1. Embrace Decentralized Learning
In traditional centralized learning, training flows out from a single point: instructors teach and employees learn. But now, many businesses are shifting towards a more decentralized approach, making this system obsolete. More employees are working remotely and asynchronously, and they need to break learning into small chunks that fit into their daily work schedule, no matter where they are in the world.
The first step in decentralizing learning is to shift to online classes that can be completed in micro-sessions throughout the week. This should start with your L&D team, but it also requires encouragement and support from management and company leadership. This is a key part of what remote learning looks like today, whether it’s employee onboarding or sales enablement training.
But decentralized learning is more than just the switch to micro-sessions: in a decentralized, Collaborative Learning environment, each team member participates in the learning process. They can identify their learning needs, request courses, give feedback on existing courses, and create courses themselves. We call this a bottom-up approach.
In traditional learning, executives or a company’s Learning and Development department will make educated guesses about employees’ knowledge gaps and either create or outsource courses to correct those gaps. Courses are expensive to produce and can take months to create. Knowledge flows downward without input from the people receiving it. In short, learning is just a one-way street, with little room for engagement.
With a bottom-up, democratic approach to learning, employees use Collaborative Learning tools to make requests for learning opportunities. Everyone can vote on which courses would be most useful, and anyone can offer to teach a course. Courses can be created and updated much more quickly, which helps the company keep their workforce up-to-date on important skills. This is a key characteristic of Collaborative Learning environments.
Decentralized learning democratizes knowledge, letting everyone share in the benefits of information. Perhaps, most importantly, decentralized learning is more agile and adaptable than old-school, centralized learning systems, and helps to create the right learning community.
According to our research, among companies that use 360Learning, non-L&D members create 85% of the courses. When the process is democratized, everyone is both accountable for their own learning and empowered to take control of their goals. While L&D teams do have a key role to play in this process, they can focus on the things that matter most, like helping others to share their subject-matter expertise, rather than chasing people to complete courses.
2. Emphasize Self-Directed Learning
The second key element to any great Collaborative Learning environment? A workplace culture that emphasizes self-directed learning.
No one knows their own learning needs like your employees do. When you enable self-directed learning, you support your employees’ growth and also maximize the benefits for your company. Self-directed learning gives your team the most autonomy and flexibility: they can complete courses on their own schedule and work toward their targets independently.
They can fit courses around other work, because they’re empowered to manage their own responsibilities. This is more than just cooperative learning where learners work alongside each other: instead, learners are truly self-reliant.
But despite the name, self-directed learning isn’t a solo activity. For self-directed learning to be effective, the entire company needs to be on board. Team managers and the L&D department collaborate to act as facilitators that help set learning targets, suggest courses, facilitate the flow of learning content, and create a schedule. Employees identify their own learning needs, and executives promote learning within the company and also lead by example by sharing their own learning goals.
This self-directed approach aligns with what learners themselves want: according to LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report, 74% of learners want the freedom to take courses at their own pace. At the same time, 75% say they would take a course their manager recommended. Delivering learning experiences that match these preferences is a key part of building a Collaborative Learning environment.
Here’s an example of self-directed learning in practice: Instead of instituting a corporate reskilling initiative for 1,000 engineers, a company could encourage each employee to set their own learning goals based on their specific aspirations and priorities for development.
3. Promote Knowledge-Sharing
The next stress-free step to creating a Collaborative Learning environment might sound obvious, but a lot of companies still have a hard time with it. We’re talking about promoting knowledge-sharing between subject-matter experts.
When you hire a talented team, your employees are your greatest resource. They have the skills, the smarts, and the expertise to help your company succeed—after all, that’s why you hired them. By promoting knowledge sharing within your company, you can tap into that resource and set your subject-matter experts free.
Old-school, top-down learning also runs the risk of creating information silos. In this scenario, sales teams are only told about sales goals, and marketing departments lack insight into product development. Everyone is working on their own niche, with no way to lift their heads and see where the company is going.
In a Collaborative Learning environment, employees can teach each other about their work and gain valuable visibility into other departments, which helps them stay aligned on global strategy and promotes collaboration across teams, even when working remotely. Employees become more invested in the company as a whole, and being part of a learning community and sharing knowledge leads to higher employee satisfaction.
Another valuable benefit of promoting knowledge sharing within your company? You can reduce the risk of brain drain.
In a top-down environment, employees amass institutional knowledge—a client’s likes and dislikes, the specifics of a technical process—and use that knowledge to do their jobs well. But when they leave, all that valuable information goes with them. When a company promotes knowledge sharing, institutional information can be shared and accessed even after an employee moves on, helping to future-proof learning against movements in personnel.
4. Choosing The Right Learning Tools For Collaborative Learning Environments
The final step in this process? Finding the right learning tool to help your teams.
To create an effective Collaborative Learning environment, your most important tool is the right Collaborative Learning platform. The 360Learning Collaborative Learning platform allows companies to easily and inexpensively create courses that are targeted to their employees’ needs and answer the most important questions.
Collaborative Learning platforms offer several key advantages over traditional Learning Management Platforms and Learning Experience Platforms. For one, they make it faster, easier, and cheaper to create courses, since courses are created by employees as needs arise. They also make it a lot easier to keep course material fresh and relevant by using peer feedback and continuous improvement to identify out-of-date information and remedy these errors.
L&D departments no longer need to waste time building and sourcing learning content—tasks that take up 29% of an L&D team’s time. Instead, they become learning facilitators and have more time to meet with key stakeholders, facilitate the flow of learning content, and strategize.
Because courses on our Collaborative Learning platform are created internally, they’re specific to your company’s needs and targeted to your team, meaning no more generic, one-size-fits-all lessons. Any skills gaps in the company can be addressed immediately, and outdated courses can quickly be flagged and corrected. This helps your company stay competitive and reactive to rapid market changes.
Finally, by using our Collaborative Learning platform, you can put the focus on training ROI. Traditionally, the success of a company’s learning initiative is measured by course completions or minutes of learning per month. This gives a good idea of how much coursework is being completed, but it doesn’t tell us how the learning is actually benefiting the company. Collaborative Learning platforms are tailored to your company’s own needs and skills gaps. As team members progress, you can measure improvements in their outcomes and gauge the overall success of each learning initiative.
Creating the right Collaborative Learning environment doesn’t have to be stressful. With these 4 steps, you can give your teams all the elements they need to grow and thrive. Even better, you can avoid some of the frequent obstacles associated with traditional learning approaches. Let’s dig into these obstacles in more detail.
Looking for insider secrets to change mindsets about online training and get employees actively involved in the process? Download the eBook How Collaborative Learning Boosts Engagement Rates To Over 90% to discover how the collaborative approach breaks down barriers and maximizes your organization’s L&D potential. Also, join the webinar to learn how to hit 90%+ learner course completion with collaborative learning.