Learning and development is no longer just a way to get new hires up to speed or to teach employees an improved process or program. L&D helps define the culture of a workplace. Instilling both the belief and practice of lifelong learning is the ultimate goal.
To begin, employers must recognize that collaborative learning is a more effective way to both train new hires and upskill existing employees, said Dean Saunders, vice president of Product Development at Open LMS during a session that was part of the recent HR Exchange Live: Employee Engagement & Experience APAC online event.
A lecture doesn’t cut it anymore. Now, successful organisations are using technology to ensure transfer of skills, performance evaluations, and employee engagement.
“Learning should be creative, innovative, and most importantly enjoyable,” said Saunders.
Learning at the Workplace
Participants were split down the middle – more or less – about whether they had an effective content strategy for eLearning. This is not surprising. Many organizations, said Saunders, are reactive and fail to have an end game in sight.
When strategizing, he suggests first understanding why people need learning programs at work. There are three distinct reasons:
- To introduce or build a skill, such as when employees need to move to a new platform
- To change behavior, such as when you educate employees on sexual harassment policy
- To build or enhance awareness
Learning outcomes will vary when people are left entirely on their own because everyone starts from a different place. Collaboration, however, is the key to maximizing results, said Saunders.
“In my experience, learners can thrive in a collaborative environment, where they can hear objective thinking, they can question the facilitator, they can learn on the go, and they can learn more through doing or more practical application versus the one-way push model,” he said.
How to Overcome Challenges
Still, there are challenges that organisations have to overcome to create effective learning and development plans that emphasize collaborative learning. Teachers or facilitators might lack the necessary digital skills. There are tools that can make the process more accessible and feasible. You need ways to share group feedback, for example. But you also should have a method for one-on-one learning.
Another key to success is offering mastery learning, where you keep doing something until you do it right. This kind of program lends itself to including more opportunities for mentoring, tutoring, and peer-to-peer training. Videos can prove useful, too.
In the wake of the COVID-19 lockdowns, YouTube experienced a 120% increase in the average daily views of videos with “homeschool” or “home school” in the title, according to statistics from Google and as reported by Saunders. There was a 260% increase in daily views of videos for making sourdough. In fact, 86% of U.S. viewers use YouTube to learn new things. Seven in 10 YouTube viewers use the platform to get help with a problem they’re having with their work or hobbies.
“It’s not uncommon in the workplace for employees to obviously use it as a go-to mechanism to discover new knowledge and apply that knowledge to their roles inside the workforce,” said Saunders.
New L&D for the New Normal
Indeed, short videos and programs can have a big impact. Udacity, for example, is offering nanodegrees. These are programs in which participants walk away with a skill that is recognizable and transplantable but does not take four years to acquire, said Saunders.
“One of the big reasons that people don’t engage much with institutionally born content is that there’s no real recognition of that skill,” added Saunders.
For a time, universities and companies were turning to MOOCs, massive open online courses. There was much enthusiasm in the beginning. But quickly people began to realize that MOOCs never closed the skills gap and failed to provide any sort of credential.
“More doesn’t mean greater,” said Saunders. “So, having access to 50,000 courses in your LMS doesn’t make great sense unless that translates into more engagement and therefore better learning outcomes.”
Since the dawn of MOOCs, learning and development has evolved. It still includes asynchronous work, videos, and self-based, on-demand content. But there is more interaction built into the system.
“Students engage with teammates over the content,” said Saunders. “Interactive processing is the single most powerful approach to comprehension and retention.”
Mentorship and on-the-job training have also become more commonplace. For example, Amazon has a senior engineer and a junior engineer on site together whenever a major outage happens. The idea is for the junior engineer to bring in fresh thinking and a senior engineer to share his or her experience. This is another example of collaborative learning that has proven effective, said Saunders.
The Call for Collaborative Learning
The bottom line is that cohort-based learning works. The pandemic proved the need for more dynamic, interactive, digital learning. Before 2020, the learning management system was often a second or third thought for organisations. Today, things are quite different.
“Now, though, we have found incredible growth in the use of the learning management systems,” said Saunders. “It has now become almost like a social platform of sorts, where people can answer and ask questions, where people are submitting videos to their staff, and where they are bringing them up to speed.”
Employers who want to succeed in recruiting and retaining top talent should focus on their learning and development opportunities. They must invest in the right kind of learning systems, which are efficient, allow remote workers to form cohorts, and make communication with peers, leaders, and teachers possible. Most importantly, the highlight of the program should be collaboration because it is the most effective teaching tool.
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