As a former high school teacher, I see big differences between strategies used for pedagogy and those used for andragogy (adult learning). While most of the techniques are transferable between the two types of teaching, one thing I noticed that does not carry over is the social element of learning that is second nature in grade school all the way to university. It is more likely that adult training will be an isolated affair, either an employee completing a training module alone on their computer or, even when in a filled classroom, learners will be working by themselves on directed exercises administered by the trainer. Learners in a training environment do not often have the opportunity, whether it be because of time, commitment level, or resources, to collaborate with their coworkers on a project or be able to voice their thoughts and build on their knowledge in a community setting.

A couple weeks ago, I had the chance to break that trend in adult training while administering training for utility design software for a regional provider of gas and electricity. My colleague and I were able to facilitate three full classes of AutoCAD designers as they familiarized themselves with a new program. As they worked through exercises on the software, and we circulated around the class, we saw an element of teamwork and socialization begin to emerge. Learners would talk over tables and share knowledge with each other; people who caught on to the content quicker were assisting those who were a little behind in picking it up. The cooperation on display led me to think of other ways that social learning can be facilitated in the adult training setting.

According to psychologist Albert Bandura, learners best absorb information through observing and imitating those around them. In truth, it’s not so much the trainer who is often the best teacher, but rather those people who are sitting right next to the learner. But how can we foster a culture of social learning in the modern training setting, when so many companies have employees working remotely? To best ensure that social learning can be effectively implemented in eLearning, here are 5 methods to consider and implement:

1. Chat platforms for knowledge exchange and discussion

Since many companies and workplaces are now entirely remote, online chat groups (using social media or a work conference platform like MS Teams) specifically tailored to sharing knowledge with one another can replace one of the most important mainstays of classroom learning, working with your peers in a team environment. The chat feature can also be used in online breakout rooms after an instructor-led facilitation. Mimicking the group work that would take place at a table in a classroom or conference room in a training exercise, a group could be assigned a situation or a case study and then use video conferencing chat groups to share their opinions and work on the assignment together.

2. Gamify the learning content

An excellent way to encourage buy-in and investment with training is to gamify the content, introducing a competitive aspect to what employees are learning. By assigning things like badges to signify learning milestones or team leaderboards, employees will be further motivated to achieve directed learning results. Workers can be rewarded for completing modules or engage in challenge activities that test their knowledge of the subject matter. When gamification is introduced into a training atmosphere, it widens the world of the learner. It is no longer just them interfacing with the content, instead they are among a community of fellow learners and friendly rivals.

3. Listen to your employees

One of the best methods to guarantee employee investment is ensuring that they have an active voice in the types of trainings they go through. By capturing learner feedback for a course, activity, facilitation, etc. through a simple survey, questionnaire, or rating system, you can not only effectively tailor content to best suit your audience, you can also reinforce the notion that they have a role in determining how they are learning. In this way, the idea of the learning community can be reinforced, as the training now assumes a reciprocal give and take aspect between instructor and learner.

4. Mentoring and coaching assignments

By assigning a more senior colleague to a junior colleague for an informal mentorship, you can effectively replicate online the time-tested practice of asking someone more knowledgeable than you for help. Companies can pair up employees or create expert-led chat groups that workers can rely upon should they need help. Our company, Evolve, introduced voluntary virtual office hours once a week, a forum that I find to be particularly helpful when I need to talk through a project I am currently working on or ask one of my colleagues for their advice and insight. Employees too could certainly benefit from a relaxed weekly or monthly check-in with a senior coworker or team to share ideas, ask questions, or even vent.

5. Facilitate a place for blogging and user-generated content

I discussed in a previous article a platform ideally suited to the implementation of user-generated content, but most companies do not require an LXP to host and promote learning materials created and curated by employees. Building again on the idea of informal social learning, creating a space where users can post blogs or additional content they have found to dive deeper into certain content will allow learners the ability to digest what they are learning in a more meaningful way. Employees can reflect on what they learned in a forum post or recommend information from outside sources to further supplement training. This gives other learners the opportunity to comment on these posts and facilitate a dialogue or offer constructive criticism and feedback. In this way, learning is fostered among the group and becomes entirely self-directed.

eLearning done right IS social learning

Despite many companies having moved to a partially or almost entirely remote working environment, this does not mean that employees have to be learning by themselves. With the strategies listed above, learning can once again be made social in the online eLearning space. By having colleagues interact, engage, and learn from one another, training can be taken to the next level.

If your organization could use an eLearning consult to facilitate effective remote training, schedule a consultation with us!