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Social Learning and What Buzz Words Can Teach Us about Revolutionizing Learning

Wednesday, November 29, 2017 2:52 PM | Kevin Smith

by Kimberly Bellefeuille

You’ve heard it a hundred times. Continuous learning is critical to your talent management strategy—and your organization’s bottom line. To that end, an essential investment is a powerful learning management system (LMS) and social tools, not to mention great content. But, 66% of learning and development (L&D) professionals say they still have trouble getting employees to engage with corporate learning, and the problem is even more pervasive for virtual teams.

So how can an LMS and eLearning experiences enhance the tools needed to support virtual teams and help these employees learn in collaborative and informal ways?

The world of work has changed. Until recently, workplace learning was an isolated event.  Job training experiences took place in a classroom, outside the normal work environment. Today, with so many virtual teams, companies like Cornerstone are offering employees simple, sleek user interfaces and experience that enables learning to be easy and available on demand. In deploying eLearning to virtual teams, content is most effective - and retention the highest - when it is engaging, bite-sized, and addresses both soft and hard skill sets. Social learning focuses on employees engaging in learning modules, i.e. watching a video, then discussing via dedicated online learning forums. Collaborative learning can be driven by virtual employees sharing critical insights and knowledge with their colleagues.

The current learning trend is around “social” learning. Yet outside of the technology designed to facilitate it, social learning isn’t that revolutionary. Useful, yes, but it’s only used in the context of traditional L&D methods. Any new developments in corporate learning have been simply about adding new techniques to the existing paradigm. Collaborative learning enhances previous learning methods. Collaborative learning shifts learning and development’s foundation from being leadership-driven to employee-driven—though leaders retain a crucial guidance role. Collaborative learning contributes to the effectiveness of the organization in a holistic, symbiotic way. Ultimately, collaborative learning allows virtual learning and work to be not just interdependent, but unified. “Collaborative learning (helps) to build a virtual workforce that can survive in the new world of work.”

Traditional learning methodologies may not always blend with the speed of business, the global nature of our workforce, or the new generation of employees. Collaborative Learning is based on the premise that individuals learn more through sharing and social interactions than they would alone. Employees not only learn from each other; they also experience deeper learning through the exchange of information and the varied perspectives of their peers. Critical thinking skills are also heightened and deeper relationships are built between virtual team members.

By extending learning into daily interactions, learners can share experiences, stories, and tacit knowledge that is otherwise difficult to capture and deliver through formal learning programs.  A collaborative learning program creates the conditions necessary for innovation among virtual teams: connection, feedback, and inspiration.  Employees are capable of—and asking for—more from their employers. Studies show they want to be engaged, they want to feel an intimate connection with the workplace.

Success today for any organization, in any industry, depends on a new breed of employee. Employees need to be independent and inter-dependent, self-directed virtual team players, eager to lead and to listen. Yet developing the “modern” worker requires more than traditional—or even social—learning methods. Instead, organizations must begin using collaborative learning strategies, learning that unifies work and learning to harness employee knowledge, engage the entire workforce, and solve challenges faster. While creating a successful collaborative learning strategy starts with smart planning, its longevity relies on smart technology. Tools that unify learning, technology, communication, content and social networks, are crucial to both making a strategy operational and ensuring ROI. With the right technology, organizations can drive innovation, improve agility, and establish a culture that values both profit and purpose.


By Kimberly Bellefeuille, VP – Professional Development

 In addition to leading Professional Development at American Family, Kimberly designs and delivers a variety of training experiences related to unconscious bias, conflict resolution, team communication, change management, and strategic thinking. People describe her training sessions as high energy, relevant and engaging. 

She’s been involved in this type of work in the Madison community for over 20 years. She is a certified administrator of Myers Briggs and a trained mediator. She looks forward to the opportunity to be a part of the ATD-MAC Board

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