How Collaborative Online Learning Improves Retention and Engagement

Living in a digital world means embracing digital tools. Fortunately, more and more organizations are taking the plunge into online learning to provide flexible, convenient training platforms for employees that encourage ongoing education and development.

While this is an important step to take, the real challenge lies in creating online learning content that engages participants. Engaged learners build their knowledge and skills much more successfully than apathetic learners. Organizations can use that learner enthusiasm to their advantage when planning for the future.

Read on to discover how organizations can enhance their corporate online learning and increase learner engagement with collaborative digital solutions.

What Is Collaborative Learning?

Collaborative learning is exactly what it sounds like—an instruction method that encourages participants to work together to help each other learn. Collaborative learning can happen in pairs, small groups, and full-class settings. Learners are typically presented with a problem and have meaningful discussions to find solutions.

These collaborative conversations require the participants to think on a more rigorous level. This leads to learners gaining a deeper understanding of the concepts, which in turn means that they’ll be more likely to retain the information.

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Why Collaborative Online Learning Matters

You likely want all your participants to reach the same learning outcomes. The reality is that some people will have a much easier time than others when it comes to learning, and people won’t reach goals at the same time. That’s because each individual starts a new course with a unique background and skillset that will impact their learning experience. Collaborative learning is a way to bridge some of the gaps between participants.

Collaborative learning means participants engage with each other using their prior knowledge and experiences to inform their collective learning experience. This tends to happen organically during in-person learning sessions. Instructors pose a question to the group, and a natural discourse follows. This can be difficult to emulate online, so it’s essential for digital platforms to actively facilitate collaborative learning—especially since this style of education often leads to the greatest learning outcomes.

Discussion boards are a common way to enable collaboration among learners, but there are a variety of options available to facilitate online interaction. The most important thing is to use digital tools that are user-friendly and allow every participant the chance to be involved. Participants generally see greater success in their online learning when they share and exchange ideas and feedback, regardless of their starting points.

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3 Reasons Why You Need Online Learning

It’s important to determine why your organization might need online training platforms for employees before you go all in. Online learning comes in a wide variety of formats. You should take some time to analyze your workforce. Consider any skills gaps among your employees, as well as any overarching organizational goals. It’s best to know these things ahead of time in order to choose the best online learning solution to meet your needs.

Below are three reasons why you might need to develop online learning material for your business:

1) Introduce or Improve Skills

Your organizational goals, along with the skills that already exist within your workforce, will impact when and how you use online learning. Your approach will likely depend on the skills gaps that exist within your organization and how wide those gaps are.

Individual employees will all bring different levels of knowledge and skills to the table. The skills you need your employees to develop or acquire will determine what kind of ongoing learning—and how much—is needed for each person.

2) Create Awareness Within Your Organization

Online learning can be a highly effective way to make people aware of new and updated things happening in your workplace. It’s vital to introduce employees to new or updated systems, processes, or company policies in a consistent manner in order to minimize confusion and frustration upon implementation.

It may not be feasible for larger organizations to deliver such news to their employees in person. Digital learning modules can provide a more flexible way to communicate important updates to employees.

This flexibility is also useful for organizations of all sizes when considering the individual needs and preferences of each employee. There are many reasons why your teams might prefer to receive organizational updates online instead of face to face, or even via video call.

For one thing, it’s just more convenient. Instead of interrupting your employees’ typical workflow with a lengthy meeting, you could provide the updates through an online learning module that they can access at a time that’s convenient for them. Your participants still get the content you need them to receive—without any frustrating interruptions to their workday.

Online learning also has many accessibility options to accommodate your participants who may need additional support. Self-directed online learning with features like screen readers and closed captions gives people the opportunity to absorb the content at their own pace.

3) Change Employee Behavior

You may find that at some point it’s necessary for your employees to change certain behaviors. It could be that they need to modify the way they interact with customers, or they might need to respond differently to each other. Whatever the reason, online learning can be used to teach and enforce new desired behaviors.

Your workforce can use scenario-based collaborative learning to practice the new desired behaviors, so you can be sure that they’ll interact appropriately with clients and each other in the future. As mentioned above, these digital lessons can be delivered with consistency and flexibility across your organization.

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A Powerful Approach to Learning Comprehension

Collaborative learning is much more than learners discussing the course content. Interactive information processing is one of the most effective ways for people to comprehend and retain information. In other words, when your employees are exchanging information and ideas about the course with each other, they’re also internalizing the information on a deeper level. This means they’ll be more likely to understand and remember what you need them to learn from your course.

This interactive processing happens when students engage with partners or teammates over the learning material. In-person courses typically facilitate these interactions through discussions or problem-solving activities. With online learning, it’s crucial to find ways for participants to interact with each other continually, so they can achieve the same level of interactive processing.

Scenario-based approaches are an effective way to encourage collaboration and active learning. Whether it’s through a live video conference or an asynchronous discussion board, incorporating real-life scenarios into your digital learning course will help your participants feel more connected to the material. It’s also a great way to challenge your employees to test new skills and procedures in an environment that lets them lean on each other for assistance if they need it.

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Corporate Learning is Evolving

We’re in the midst of a mindset shift when it comes to advanced corporate learning. Organizations are seeking employees with a wide variety of skills—and they’re needed now! As such, there’s more emphasis on getting people the specific skills they’ll need to perform their jobs, rather than focusing on earning degrees or other credentials. While these things still hold value, the increasing emphasis on skills training calls for organizations to enhance their online employee training platforms.

This means using the corporate learning management system in more innovative ways, including collaborative online learning. This type of interaction can provide a means for employees to learn from one another within their organizations. This can happen in the form of learning cohorts, mentorship opportunities, or other peer-to-peer interactions that deepen employee relationships and increase employee engagement.

However organizations choose to incorporate online learning into their overall strategies, one thing is certain: the most effective and innovative learning happens when people collaborate.

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Rebecca Potter
About the author

Rebecca Potter

Rebecca is a content writer for Learning Technologies Group plc. Prior to writing, she was an educator for seven years. She earned her Master’s of Education from Bowling Green State University and holds degrees in English and Spanish from The Ohio State University.

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