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Essay

Invest in Collaborative Learning to Foster Engagement

When it comes to learning technology, the right system can make all the difference when it comes to engaging learners and ensuring learning is easily accessible, shareable and contextually valuable.

Business People Working with TechnologyType “collaborative learning platforms for business” into a search engine, and numerous pages with countless links leading to different collaborative learning solutions will pop up. Each solution was created to streamline the way people discover new information and work with their peers.

With all the options out there, it’s easy to become overwhelmed when searching for the right system to best fit an organization’s needs. But one of the most important elements to consider when determining which platform or set of tools to adopt for employees is weighing its overall engagement factor: What system will continuously attract and retain employees’ attention? Which tool will increase engagement in learning programs across the company?

In April, Brandon Hall Group released its 2016 “Learning Technology Study,” which indicated that 48 percent of companies expressed a desire to find a new learning technology. Perhaps the reasoning behind companies wanting to switch solutions is that older technologies only deliver specific content through courses. Or, maybe the systems don’t provide popular avenues for informal learning and collaboration.

Whatever the reason, statistics like that one from Brandon Hall allude to the need for innovation in the learning and development space. A significant number of learning professionals promote learning through search and peer-to-peer collaboration. Learning solutions and systems need to adapt to support these preferences, especially if we want to increase L&D program engagement — and engagement with the systems we spend so much money on.

Deloitte’s 2016 “Global Human Capital Trends” report discusses employees’ demand for continuous learning opportunities through innovative platforms. The platforms that will have the most success supporting L&D programs provide 24/7 access to quality, custom content, and they are paired with professional network and collaborative tools. Incorporating these three key features enables a well-rounded, self-directed learning experience that encourages open engagement within the platform.

The following points on combining expert content, professional network and collaborative tools can help increase employee engagement in L&D programs and with learning systems, thus eliminating the need for CLOs to re-evaluate methods and technologies every few years:

  • Right from the beginning, employees can engage with each other in groups by creating their own profiles and becoming a member of the network. By pinpointing topics of interest to receive relevant content recommendations, and joining groups related to their areas of expertise — which can be recommended by the CLO — employees will see more long-term value in the learning experience.
  • Along with having access to expert content in multiple formats, employees have the ability to upload their own content, comment on it, and share it with others for open feedback. This is a great way to gain reactions to early-stage projects, to collaborate with colleagues and to develop new business ideas together. Employees also can collaborate with clients or industry experts who are part of the professional network. These types of activities help CLOs identify employees who are emerging as thought leaders.
  • Lastly, as employees gain more experience, they can build their own lean learning modules to help others grow by uploading personal content and pairing it with snippets of expert content already hosted inside the platform. By creating lean, focused, customized learning modules, employees will not only emerge as thought leaders in their organizations, they’ll benefit others by sharing knowledge for bite-sized consumption.

In the learning industry, there are many solutions that only provide content, and some that only provide collaborative tools. To set learning programs up for success, CLOs may want to consider a platform that provides content pre-installed in the platform, combined with collaborative tools and a professional network. With this type of setup, employees will have access to content with context. When individuals can actively participate in the overall learning process — to develop themselves and help others grow through collaboration — learning program engagement grows stronger.

Mike Conner is chief evangelist for BlueBottleBiz, a collaborative learning platform for business professionals.

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