Considering a move from face-to-face to online learning but concerned about losing that personal touch? Social and collaborative learning is not only extremely powerful, but is probably also the way most of us naturally learn in the workplace.
In this article, discover 10 ways you can retain the richness of social learning as you make the move to online.
The magic of people in learning
Well-designed face-to-face learning has some great features going for it:
- Stories and example sharing: rich sources of learning that tend to stick in people’s minds
- Observations: people can practice a skill and be observed by peers or an expert, who provide feedback
- Collaborative learning: where people work together on a task and learn from one another
- Expert guidance: facilitators who provide knowledge, demos, and feedback
- Competition: there might be some competitive elements that encourage learning to take place. Whether it’s formal or informal, people often try to perform well in front of peers, especially when given tasks to complete and share with others
- Informal learning: never underestimate the power of the ‘downtime’ chats and the networking that inevitably take place—these all work toward the learning goals
How can you bottle this and bring it into your online offering?
Here are five ideas on how you can re-create this magic inside your elearning.
1. Capture stories
Play the journalist and record or capture example stories and tips from facilitators, experts, and colleagues that will build up context and expand your students’ learning. Try asking questions to prompt students, such as “What does good look like to you?”; “What advice would you give a new starter?”; and “Can you remember a time when it all went wrong?”. Capture these in writing, as audio, or as video. Keep down costs by using something like Skype or your phone.
2. Quote stories and tips directly
Build these rich stories, examples, and tips into your elearning in creative ways. E.g. as attention grabbers, feedback to questions, a bank of quick tips, a video wall showing various opinions. Or bring about personal reflection by accompanying these stories and tips with questions.
3. Create case studies or scenarios
You may find some gems you can develop into visual or interactive case studies, or branching scenarios where learners can decide what action or response should be taken and drive the narrative.
4. Use interactive polls
Enable learners to discover and learn from what their peers think by including social polling, like the Elucidat poll function. Great for grey area content; such as views on leadership skills; body language; sales skills; ethics in the workplace; or myth busting, where you ask people what they think about X, only to surprise them with the real answer.
5. Gamify the experience
Use gamification techniques and leaderboards to tap into that competitive nature. Build in fun game play, levels, points, achievements, and shout about successes on a social platform for all involved to see. If you set up teams of learners for collaboration exercises, perhaps there’s an award for the team with the collective highest score in the elearning games?
And here are five ideas for how you can create a social environment alongside your elearning, not just within it. Create a blended package by combining your elearning with one or more external social learning methods such as these:
6. Run virtual classroom sessions
For facilitated sessions that don’t need a physical classroom, try going virtual. VC technology enables multi-media presentation, discussion, questioning, polls, surveys, interactive whiteboard, and collaborative group work in virtual breakout rooms.
7. Get chatting—formally
Set up scheduled (synchronous) online discussions on a given topic, perhaps as follow-up to an introductory elearning topic. Tap into any digital chat channels already being used, or try Skype, Google Hangouts, discussion forums, Yammer, or one of the other many options. Check out #chat2lrn on Twitter for inspiration on facilitating a concise but rich online chat via social media.
8. Enable chatting—informally
Provide or tap into an online space where learners can share and talk more freely, at any time (asynchronous). You can encourage people to go here off the back of an elearning topic or two. This could be an LMS, portal, intranet, Facebook, a wiki—be sure to research what’s already being used by your audience before setting up something from scratch.
9. Hold drop-ins
Provide an online ask the expert session, either synchronously, as a drop-in Q&A session via a chat room or conference call, or asynchronously, using a forum where past threads can be read at any time.
10. Enable coaching, mentoring, & action learning
Just because you’ve taken the classroom out of your learning doesn’t mean learners can’t meet up. Encourage and/or manage the set-up of coaching or mentoring within an organization. Or try action learning, where groups get together, say, monthly, to discuss their challenges in a given area, and together help find solutions. Meetings can be done face-to-face or virtually. You can consider tech like Google Hangouts or Skype, or just the good ol’ fashioned phone. If learners will benefit from observation, e.g. on a mechanical engineering course, sports coaching techniques, or conversation skills, video conferencing or face-to-face work best.
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The key to making the best of social, collaborative, and informal learning techniques for your learning goals is to acknowledge that you’ll need to put some effort into marketing the sessions, encouraging participation, facilitating where required, and driving traffic between the different elements in your blend. This all pays off, of course, when you consider you’ll now have a wide reaching, global learning package that can be rolled out or accessed at any time.
For more inspiration, you can see how we used some of these social learning methods alongside elearning in our four example blends.
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