Online training is usually perceived as a sole endeavor. However, there are ways to cultivate a thriving online learning community and facilitate peer-based feedback with social learning activities.
How to Incorporate Social Learning into Online Training
In traditional training sessions, social learning is a given. Employees ask each other questions, participate in group collaboration projects, and mingle during coffee breaks. Conversely, online learners are restricted to their computers or mobile devices. Huddling around a shared PC to engage in group collaboration online training activities isn’t really an option. Fortunately, there are ways to incorporate social interaction into your online training program. This allows colleagues to learn from each other and expand their experience. But how can eLearning course designers invite online learners to collaborate with their peers remotely? And how can this approach be tailored for online training sessions? Here are eight top tips to incorporate social learning activities into your online training course.
1. Host a Live Webinar
Traditional training courses have set systems that allow learners to engage with one another, as well as their instructors. Generally, learners are quiet while the instructor is addressing them. When they are given a chance to speak, they take turns. The general spirit is one of collaboration and mutual benefit. Host a live webinar o recreate this scenario in online training sessions. Invite a select group of employees to the online training event. The online facilitator leads the discussion and covers the key takeaways. Then attendees have the power to ask questions and interact with their peers.
2. Stick to Small Groups
The idea behind social learning is for trainees to learn from one another. For this to happen, the group needs to be small enough to facilitate effective interaction. If the class is too big, some employees will fly under the proverbial radar, while others can be inadvertently overlooked. Keep groups small, ideally 15 to 20 trainees per session. It will allow each online learner to receive personal attention and interact in a more constructive manner. They can also get to know each other as peers. This rule applies to any online training event or online group collaboration activity that you add to your online training program.
3. Turn The Tables
Passive class sessions quickly get boring. Trainees may zone out and miss important online training content. Once in a while, invite a trainee to take over the teaching role. Give the online learner a topic and adequate time to prepare. They should then teach this online training material to their classmates using a video-conferencing platform like Skype or Google Hangouts. Give every trainee a chance to run the class, even if it’s only for a few minutes. For best results, create a schedule in advance so everyone knows when it’s their turn. This also gives them more time to compile a list of complementary online training resources their peers may find useful.
4. Online Group Collaboration Projects
Collaborative documents are a good way to incorporate social learning activities. Invite trainees to work together on a particular task. They should engage in the session ‘live’ so they can see what their classmates are doing. Google Docs and similar tools can be used to make real-time changes. As the work progresses, all team members have to agree. They should jointly make decisions about the structure, format, style, and content of the final document.
5. Assign Social Media Collaboration Tasks
Documents are not the only way online learners can work together. Divide your trainees into smaller subsets of 3, or maybe 5. Assign each group a task they must complete in competition with other groups. The task should be light and playful but related to the online training material. Direct trainees to use social media tools in carrying out their task. This fosters teamwork and teaches effective communication. They can also create closed social media groups to collaborate long after the online training project has been completed.
6. Initiate A YouTube Q&A
Video-clips are good online training tool, especially for visual learners. If some trainees feel too shy or intimidated to speak out in class, they can discuss a video. Select a relevant clip and play it for the class. Now ask open-ended questions from the clip. Use it to initiate online discussions ranging from the deeply philosophical to the mundane. The idea is to get employees talking to each other. They can even use online discussions and social media pages to share their opinions.
7. Host A Subject Matter Expert Event
Another tactic to get trainees engaged is to bring in a well-known expert. For example, a Subject Matter Expert who is known for their compliance expertise. Or even someone within your organization who has unique skill sets or experiences. Get the guest-host to engage your team by answering questions and giving advice. The questions should be vetted in advance to avoid any curve balls or awkward situations.
8. Schedule One-On-One Sessions
When trainees are learning in a group, they may not know how they are performing individually. Even if the online instructor isn’t physically present, they can still give personalized eLearning feedback. Schedule individual sessions between the online instructor and each trainee. It will allow them to ask sensitive questions and review their overall progress. Another option is to start a mentoring program where employees can pair up with more experienced peers.
Asynchronous online training doesn’t have to be in isolation. There are plenty of opportunities to incorporate social learning activities and allow employees to interact with their co-workers and benefit from each other’s experience. The key is to keep group sizes small and let online learners take turns teaching an online training topic. Issue group assignments through Google docs and other social media platforms, and always make time for one-on-one sessions with your trainees. With these 8 tips in mind, online learners can benefit from both individual study and virtual group work.