The power of eLearning as a social and collaborative tool

The power of eLearning as a social and collaborative tool     Much of the reason why eLearning is so effective at enhancing the learning process for so many users is the collaborative aspect of this powerful learning device. In this post I’ll:
  • Prescribe how to get the most out of your eLearning program by using it as a social and collaborative tool.
  • Explain why adapting your eLearning program to be more collaborative and social can have such a positive impact on learning outcomes.
Stimulate interest with interactive comparable learning devices Competitiveness in learning isn’t so healthy. However, integrating certain comparable learning devices into your training program can have a positive, inspirational effect on your trainees. Here are some ideas for creating a memorable and motivational experience between trainees:
  • Quizzes with accompanying publicly viewable results
This first one is a simple one, but it’s one that I’m sure some eLearning programs don’t include in its entirety! Create an online quiz for your trainees to take and then publicly release the answers – this makes collaboration, problem solving and the cultivation of a social learning environment instantly achievable. Discussion between trainees is so much more likely as trainees feel compelled to compare results and communicate with one another about the areas in which they struggled. It’s a learning enhancer and moreover it’s a no brainer!
  • Polls with auto-generated tailored messages
Release a poll on your LMS with auto-generated messages setup for each option. You could write a personalised message to tie up with each possible answer of the poll, which explains the type of people who tend to select that option, for example. What this almost guarantees is an influx of discussion as peers share their results with one another – and your trainees will begin to understand the training in more depth as they open their mind to other perspectives. It’s quite a clever tool to utilise really, and it has an element of fun too.
  • Scoring systems with accompanying leader boards
This can be worth trialling, but it’s a technique a little more sensitive depending on your specific audience. Implement a points system across all eLearning exercises, and then allow your trainees to access this information in full to assess their performance and compare with their peers. For some trainees, this will enhance and inspire their learning performance, whilst for others this device could discourage learning and deter progress. There is certainly a degree of risk involved in the implementation of this technique. Used sparingly, these techniques can enjoy significant success in continually encouraging trainee self-motivation. Integrate platforms for community discussion Discussion amongst peers raises the level of shared knowledge possessed by a collection of trainees, and is such a vital learning process as it is what ensures that important issues are dealt with. Trainees can inspire growth and an enhancement of the education that they are collectively receiving and benefiting from by being involved in regular discussions. However, in order for these discussions to exist and persist, it is your responsibility to implement certain measures:
  • Forums for the sharing of information, submission of support questions etc. (both publicly and privately).
  • Regular new discussion threads scheduled to publish straight after a pre-determined accompanying offline training session.
  • User profiles for interaction, direct messaging and for the ease of group collaboration and strengthening of personal connections.
If done correctly, these platforms for discussion will enable increased levels of intuitive problem solving, progress sharing and a highly valuable ongoing refinement of the entire learning process. What’s best is that this aspect of eLearning can be initiated mostly by your trainees themselves, effectively empowering trainees with their own learning initiative. Encourage circulation of further resources Most training programs and teaching syllabus’ are limited in the sense that they must include the same essential information. There is a relative degree of differentiation between distinct programs and syllabus’ too of course, but again, this is confined, due to time restrictions, and the significance placed on content that thoroughly delivers an understanding of the most fundamental basics. In order to drive knowledge leadership and distinction, complementary learning around the program/syllabus – but outside what has been prescribed, covered and taught – is required. eLearning really lends itself to this idea. There can be a certain embarrassment around publicly displaying that you are the individual to take that step beyond your peers by sharing the additional research you have undertaken on your own initiative. But with your help, eLearning can be used very simply to alleviate this pressure felt by your trainees. Encourage your trainees to take the time to engage in additional research; challenge them to find helpful further resources, and actually ask your trainees to get involved in rating each other’s resources. This is regularly attempted in traditional learning environments – but is not always met with such great reception. Using eLearning, you’ll most likely enjoy greater success. Implement a system in which all trainees can comment and even ‘Like’ their peers research – this welcoming social environment will prove so valuable to your organisation’s standard of in-house expertise in the long term. This process enables the ongoing fostering of value-adding extra-curricular learning, all facilitated by you establishing and maintaining a non-intimidating environment for your trainees to collaborate in, with the help of eLearning. Summary The three suggestions in this post are only a few ways in which eLearning can be used to enhance the social and collaborative aspects of learning, the value of which to learning I have discussed throughout. However we must remember that whilst eLearning can certainly enhance learning and training in general, it should not be used as a complete substitute for training. So many conventional training and learning practices remain vital to the overall learning process for most disciplines – eLearning must be used wisely then, rather than relied upon as a singular solution to learning. Author’s bio: Jordan Bradley works for High Speed Training (HST), a fully accredited specialist eLearning course provider based in the UK. He enjoys his responsibility of managing HST’s Hub – a blog which posts weekly insightful articles on a range of topics related to their array of online courses. Jordan spends the rest of his time running around the countryside, travelling on weekends to visit friends he wished lived closer, and fighting hard in the battle against laziness, amongst other things.