Collaborative learning is an approach based on the teamwork of the employees’ group to achieve a joint purpose. Such an approach allows one to learn from the experience of others, helps to generate more ideas, as well as establishes a solid rapport within a company.
This approach is designed to correctly correspond to the needs of employees along with business and used to provide a smooth onboarding process in the company. This method allows people to ask only necessary questions for performing the task. Without wasting time on learning excess information, the employee can increase the work rate applying recently acquired skills, thereby bringing additional profit to the company.
As reported by ATD research only 38% of managers are convinced their learning programs are suitable for learner’s needs, while remained 62% of managers suppose their learning programs are ineffective. If most managers are not satisfied with training programs, then it is not difficult to imagine the discontent of employees. This tendency may cause loss of people interest in the work, which will have a negative impact on their productivity.
How does the approach work?
Let’s take a closer look at how collaborative learning can be implemented in practice using the example of Mike, who is a newcomer in Sodexo. He didn’t have enough experience, so his work began with the probation that includes a training program.
When he came to the company, Mike was right away added to the project, where he could receive new tasks from the team starting with the simple to more complex. If the questions arise during completing the work or if the newbie needs help, he may turn to teammates for assistance.
Assistance may be provided in a variety of ways:
- Group discussion. The team comes together to discuss and find a solution for a challenging issue;
- Coaching. A skilled employee helps a newcomer overcome difficulties giving advice and sharing experience to prevent possible mistakes;
- Additional materials. Colleagues may send the materials, in the form of videos, graphics etc., which explain not completely understandable topics.
Summarising all the above it is possible to say that collaborative learning helps new employees to cross the communication barriers and move to perform real cases, as a consequence bringing benefit to the company faster.
How collaborative learning can help your employees to work more efficiently?
The possibility to save a company’s money on designing, updating the training program and the opportunity for employees to gain new professional knowledge through the assistance for each other are not the only reasons for using collaborative learning. This approach also contributes to facilitating business processes. It occurs because of:
Understanding the boundaries of their tasks
All employees who work on the same project get different specific tasks according to their knowledge area and level of training.
Learning by doing
Collaborative learning lets the fellow workers get to know the important information for performing their works and then right away apply acquired knowledge on practice.
Gaining experience from colleagues
Everyone can talk over the possible solutions for colleague’s problems and study from the background of others, avoiding the same mistakes in own practice and saving time on resolving issues that have already been solved by the rest.
Opportunity to work and study remotely
Collaborative learning tools provide the opportunity for team members to always stay in touch and solve complicated issues even if somebody works from other location. It is very beneficial for a company in case it can’t replace an experienced employee, who always assists junior ones.
Because of the constant need for interaction, employee quickly establishes friendly relationships that help to create a relaxed atmosphere. As a result of such communication, people get rid of embarrassment and straining when the need to ask for assistance from the colleague arises, so interaction occurs much faster.
Challenges of collaborative learning
There are not many challenges connected with collaborative learning, but nevertheless, they still exist. Let’s take a closer look at how these challenges can be solved or improved with the help of special employee training and development software.
Remote work of key staff. Occasionally employees work beyond the office and it can be tough for them to settle workflow, especially in a team. It, in turn, may lead to downtimes in the performance of teammates who need assistance. Specialised software solves this issue by providing “urgent” messages feature to get quick replies from the coaches.
The need to distract colleagues from the work. Frequent and persistent requests for support from the newbies contributes to scattering the attention and decrease in productivity of more experienced employees. As a consequence, it may lead to delays in the work of the whole team. The software solves this issue dividing the project by tasks and assigning them to trainees considering their competences to avoid daft questions.
The need to train several people simultaneously. The more experienced employees have to explain the same information several times for different newbies. Collaborative learning allows resolving this problem by creating a variety of communities dedicated to different themes. Each of them has own leader who will support the members and send materials as needed.
Collaboration requires clear regulations. Discussing the topic people at some point begin to deviate from it and move to chat about diverse topics. To prevent spamming and off-topic discussions it is better to apply collaborative learning using technology tools. They suppose thinking through certain rules and introducing them, as required by the company, so you may personally set a relevant code of practice for the personnel.
Features for achieving the greatest results
The decision on which features have to be implemented in the custom software depends on various factors, such as the company’s business goals, approach to employee training, etc. To obtain the desired result, we suggest applying the features listed below, but it is also possible to create any others following the client’s business requirements.
When the novices face the complicated task, they will likely need the assistance. To quickly get it from colleagues, it is recommended to implement problem-solving sessions. Such sessions are necessary for cooperation: asking urgent questions, turning for advice, holding consultations. As soon as somebody creates the discussion, every teammate receives the notification. In this way, interaction speed between co-workers increases, thereby ensuring a continuous work process.
Supervise learning process
When learning new skills it is essential to track the results. The best way is to monitor the progress of skills in order to understand which one should be improved. Knowing their weaknesses employees will be able to enhance competencies so the company will get more proficient workers, raising the quality of work done. Skills tracker should be settled in the user profile and reflect several scales dedicated to necessary skills. Every scale will be filled up in the course of projects implementation. When a scale is completely filled, the person will be able to become a mentor in a particular field.
Fulfilling a big amount of tasks it is easy to randomly miss some of them. So as not to let an employee loose any vital issue, it is suggested introducing the opportunity to set reminders. This feature will minimise the delays in projects’ deadlines, as all the assignments are supposed to be done in time. Reminders are assigned immediately in the task control panel and imply setting a new start date and the deadline for the task. When the day for a recall comes, the user gets a notification, and the assignment will automatically go to the “current” category.
Integration with messengers
Some issues require to be done as soon as possible, so it is essential to provide employees with the ability to stay in touch even if somebody is not in the workplace. Such integration doesn’t allow missing any important data so all the work will be delivered as correct as possible. This feature ensures receiving the notification not only by the collaborative learning software but also via the email or messengers with the possibility to reply from there. The sender will get the report every time interlocutor reads a message.
When it comes to explaining complex patterns, there are situations when it is difficult to correctly convey information in words. Implemented in every chat DrawBoard should serve to ease the perception and assist in the comfortable learning process. Visual submission of information promotes better assimilation of information, thus ensuring faster learning of employees. Resort to the DrawBoard is possible wherever there is an opportunity for interpersonal communication: in chats, communities as well as problem-solving sessions. When a user sends drawings, they automatically will be saved and available in the storage, so every user will be able to find them as needed.
Feedback about the task
To estimate achievements and gained skills of the employees during performing the task of the employees it is recommended to implement task feedback. Before moving the task to the “resolved” category, every user has to live in the pop-up feedback field the opinion about obtained competencies and collaboration with colleagues upon completion of the task. Based on received response managers will understand what kind of assignments is necessary to set to the exact employees for assisting them in developing their skills without prejudice to the project. It will also allow building a more effective learning process.
These features are a small part of those that can be applied. Collaborative learning solution may consist of the peculiarities suitable exactly to the needs of the definite company. The only especially vital distinctive feature of such software is the focus on learning through the constant communication with colleagues and their experience.
Collaborative learning is no longer a new approach. Actually, people constantly try to get benefit from the experience and mistakes of others. Based on these observations, top managers of large companies have already begun to apply this approach in their businesses. The CEO of the Nomadic company affirms that nothing develops a learning culture more than groups of people activated to learn together.
There are not many digital solutions for collaborative learning and thus they may be valuable assets, in the form of letting people share their challenges and ideas and creating alignment toward strategic solutions. However, they can cause problems connected with unstable work and non-extensible functionality. To achieve exact business purposes the most appropriate decision is to design custom software, which will include features necessary for a certain business.
Custom collaborative learning solution lets you estimate and prioritise tasks, supervise learning process, get feedback from more skilled colleagues as well as give access to the repository of learning materials. As a business develops and goals refine, custom software features can also be expanded. So, the solution will never lose its relevance to the company.