Collaborative learning at work

by | Mar 28, 2008 | Articles

The collaborative properties of that web 2.0 offers to learning have great potential for learning and many learning practitioners are talking about it but how many are doing it and what do learners think?

In the Towards Maturity research earlier last year we asked learners ‘aside from formal learning programmes, how else do you go about learning things in relation to your work?’ And found that :

  • 98% searched the web , which 85% found either helpful or very helpful
  • 79% have access to online reference materials (63% of which find helpful)
  • 36% also used online communities and discussion groups

In addition 4 out of 5 learners were either currently using technology to share their own knowledge with others or were interested in doing so if the opportunity arose.

Only  17% were not interested in using technology to share their own expertise – 10% because of  lack of time and 7% were uncomfortable in doing so.

From an implementors perspective whilst the top 3 learning services offered through technology in the workplace are  traditional offerings  such as earning materials, assessment and administration,they were closely followed by informal and collaborative learning resources. This included access to relevant online resources, online access to company expertise and online collaboration between learners

Over the next 3 years employers reported an expected a certain level of growth in the use of the collaborative properties of the web:

  • 32% use moderated chat rooms / discussion groups (rising to 49% by 2010)
  • 40% use e-tutor support to learners ( rising to 51%)
  • 24% growth in online collaboration between learners
  • 49% provide online access to in house expertise (but only rising to 52% by 2010)
  • 43% provide collaborative learning via mentors & coaches ( rising to 47%)
  • 19% use blogs and wiki’s (rising to 34% by 2010)

Overall, those who are more mature in their use of learning technologies are more likely to be using these new technologies but their use is not widespread as yet ( nor is it planned to be)

Examples of Collaborative learning and learning communities in practice

On the Towards Maturity site, we have Examples of companies using collaborative technologies include Bae Systems & the BBC who both connecting staff with experts and each other .The Frontline programme in the library sector (where learning communities support both the learners and the learning facilitators). Royal Caribean Cruise Line  who used communities to sustain interest in learning  and London Gifted and Talented who provide some practical tips.

 Making learning communities work at work

Like all learning technologies, the potential of collaborative communities is extensive and so is the hype!! When they are applied appropriately ( as in the examples above) they have the opportunity to lift traditional learning ( both e and face to face) to another level.

There are lessons to learn from others who have implemented them. I also came across an article called Neighbors in Cyberspace by Amber Krieger  ( posted on ASTD’s Learning Circuit as far back as 2006 that provides sound advice that still stands today:

  • Use a phased approach to community building
    – Start anonymously and encourage engagement  through things such as  winner announcements, participant rankings, user polls, super user programmes
    – Move to 2 way communication  when you start to share knowledge through a filter
    – Encourage an active community through blogs , message boards etc

 

  •  Krieiger’s Principles for success include:
    – Leave room for the voice of the local community.
    – Keep your behavioral goals in sight. – support not distract from core objectives of learning intervention
    – Follow through on your promises. ( consider risks)
    – Make sure your organization is prepared.

Find out more:

e-learning Network are organising a 1 day event on Building Learning Communities on the 18th of April that is open to non members and members – click here for more details


This article was originally created by the Work based e-learning project at e-skills UK and is reproduced with kind permission.

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