In this blog I want readers to understand what 360Learning’s Collaborative Learning really looks like and why I’m calling this blog “Welcome to Instagram of Learning!” Four billion people with no particular photography skills use Instagram today to share their pictures. They learn from others’ feedback - likes, reactions, and comments – and the result is that they create engaging pictures. 360Learning uses these same Instagram techniques to create an engaging and collaborative learning experience.
During the past six months of my association with 360Learning, I have become acutely aware of the team’s absolute commitment to collaborative learning and the technology to support it. Therefore, the main part of this blog gives actual examples of results when L&D organizes learning around collaboration and workers are given the freedom to use their own expertise in content creation.
The nature of corporate learning has changed dramatically. Why do we see this change? Today’s workers demand a different approach. See my blog, ”“Sage On-The-Stage Gives Way to Guide On-The-Side"[i] The learning courses of the past with their click-through content no longer engage workers. They want content that not only engages them but helps them retain the information. Research tells us that learning occurs only when learners have a mindset open to new information and then integrate this new information with what they already know about a topic.[ii]
Many learning leads have taken a big step toward change. These leads have been working to bring all kinds of content — courses, videos, appropriate consumer materials, documents — together in one place allowing learners to choose the most appropriate content. Vendors like Degreed and EdCast are doing this too. This curation of content is an important step and we liken it to Netflix. The learner has different genre and a rich array of material to choose from. While this approach is important, it doesn’t go far enough.
The next step is adding collaboration, user-generated content, reactions, peer challenges, and social hubs. Why? The lecture approach with a stream of new information coming rapid fire from the sage-on-the-stage without any human interaction or social component is not making it in today corporate learning world. What is gaining traction is learning in which the instructor shares information, presents challenges, and allows learners to learn from each other as they ask questions, challenge each other’s views on the topic, and share their own knowledge by becoming authors. Voila - Instagram of learning!
Here are some examples of how the Instagram approach works with 360Learning. It’s always easier to understand a process when you can picture in your mind what’s actually happening. These examples come from my experience working with L&D of large organizations.
Example 1: Professional services organization
Challenge: Creating a pipeline of new leaders at all levels of the organization was a goal of this company’s executive. HR leads were tasked with implementing a more collaborative learning experience to develop the leadership skills of these workers.
Process: In prework learners identified their expected personal outcomes from this leadership training. Learning and Development (L&D) used these outcomes as one component in curating materials - leadership modules (from the LMS), videos, simulation scenarios, documents to read, and other online materials. After completing a module, the learners used 360Learning collaboration to ask questions, challenge module material, and post materials related to the module content. Subject Matter Experts (SME) and the learning lead actively participated in these activities and online discussions. They were able to share additional content (SMEs) or ask thoughtful questions (Leads). Some learners became authors when they realized they had some knowledge around leadership that would add richness to the module. They created mini-courses (think microlearning) using the simple-to-use 360Learning authoring tool. They gave the “course” a title, wrote a description and loaded the videos, document, and resource links into the course authoring template. These short leadership learning experiences became part of the course package.
Results: Short assessments peppered throughout the course indicated that learners’ understanding of leadership concepts came primarily from the various online collaboration activities. Aside from discussing concepts to get a better understanding, their leadership ideas, beliefs, and misunderstandings were challenged through collaboration. This learning approach is dramatically different from attending online lectures covering the same topics, and taking a test and parroting back the lecture notes!
Example 2: Personal care and beauty company
Challenge: Keeping hair designers and beauticians up-to-date on new products and best practices in using them is an ongoing challenge for this worldwide company. Although courses were available for general product information, the company wanted its users to get immediate access to information to use in their work and learn about new products available and product updates. An important component for the company was to stimulate users to share product experiences with colleagues and discuss questions and best practices.
Process: 360Learning platform was the perfect fit. These users needed information in the moment, and they needed to get answers to their product questions quickly, if, for example, they were having challenges with a hair coloring product. The collaboration and authoring features of 360Learning grew quickly – these learners are natural users of social media. Stylists and beauticians shared experiences with products and made suggestions for product tweaks within the social hub. These users also became content authors when they found a new approach to using a product. i.e. “Try heating the product before applying. The color is much more intense.” With a few sentences’ description, before and after pictures, and a video on the application process, the learners created courses.
Result: The company was able to get product information out faster and more effectively and efficiently; they had tried traditional LMSes with no success. The collaboration features provided informal learning and became a favorite for sharing information. The authoring tool nurtured creativity and the company was able to reward those new author leaders for helping make better product and finding new ways to using products. For this company the collaborative sharing of information and finding out quickly about new products, services, and events made these learners much more loyal to the company’s product line.
Example 3: Handheld Tools Company
Challenge: Sales people have to sell a plethora of tools, many with which they were unfamiliar. It was an ongoing challenge to train everyone on all the tools. Each sales person was an expert on certain tools but that wasn’t enough; they had to sell all tools. Executives mandated an increase in tool sales. One sales team came up with the idea of creating short videos on tools they knew well for other salespeople to access and learn from. The sales learning lead gave the green light and the sales team went to work.
Process: Using mobile phones and working individually or in pairs, this sales team created over 100 “how to” videos as microlearning courses. Each focused on one tool. The courses contained video, descriptions, photos, best practices, and, in some cases, secrets to selling the tool. These sales people were subject matter experts on their tools and became very effective course authors. But it wasn’t just the microlearning component that made these courses successful – the collaboration component took the learning to a new level. Team members asked more in-depth questions and had discussions with these tool experts that provided valuable informal learning.
Result: These video-based courses are the most used of any sales training available on the learning platform. The sales team that developed the videos saw an increase in sales of all handheld tools by their team and attributed it to the microlearning courses. The pilot became a mainstay training experience for all sales people worldwide. An added benefit is that sales collaboration continues around selling tools and other aspects of sales that previously did not exist.
Why do these collaborative learning examples work? There are many reasons. [iii] Collaboration supports higher-level thinking, interpersonal communication skills, and a better understanding of colleagues’ diverse perspectives. Learning experiences that are social, contextual, engaging and related to learners’ experiences enable deeper learning. 360Learning’s architecture is built around collaboration and empowering learners. Instead of the passivity of a lecture, collaborative learning uses learner activities to teach course competencies. This means L&D leads must repurpose course content from a presentation format to an activity format driven by collaboration and become the “guide-on-the-side” rather than the “sage-on-the-stage.”
[i] In my blog Sage-on-the-Stage Gives Way to Guide-on-the-Side and my eBook (Reconnecting Learning and Business), I discuss why this kind of learning is demanded by today’s learners and how HR and Learning leads must rethink their roles.
[ii] “Memory and Recall,” UC Berkeley Center for Teaching and Learning, 2019 https://teaching.berkeley.edu/resources/learn/memory-and-recall
[iii] Chapter 2 of Collaboration, Communication and Critical Thinking, a book by Dennis Adams and Mary Hamm (2019) presents research on why collaborative learning works. See an excerpt: https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=ynKPDwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA43&dq=Research+on+Why+collaborative+learning+works&ots=bWEJ5K-_nm&sig=zxBUIKnMZNEi3JGHZ78F4hn_3PE#v=onepage&q=Research%20on%20Why%20collaborative%20learning%20works&f=false