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5 Ways to Improve Your eLearning Courses With Social Learning

A look at 5 practical ways to improve the quality of your eLearning courses and increase employee engagement by implementing the power of (online) social learning.

We all learn a lot from the people around us. 

Whether they are our friends or family members, a lot of valuable knowledge transfer takes place between our minds. 

The premise that human beings learn better through observation, collaboration, and interactions with others has been studied for many years and has been established as widely-accepted practice. Several businesses have testified to the effectiveness of social learning in training their employees. A great example of this was displayed by HBX, the online training initiative led by Harvard Business Review. When social learning techniques were employed, HBX courses saw a completion rate of 90%.

Another example of the success driven by social learning was displayed by Jane Hart, a well-known name in L&D circles. Jane’s social learning initiatives and specialized social learning platform helped Pfizer India improve the engagement rates for their employee training initiative.

There’s also the classic example of how Xerox tackled the low effectiveness of classroom training with an enterprise social network. When John Seely Brown, a renowned researcher specializing in organizational studies and former chief scientist at Xerox organization, noticed that service reps called on their colleagues for help (instead of consulting the manual), he came up with the idea of keeping them connected through an internal company social network. 

illustration of bored xerox employees learning tech skills

Image source

The effectiveness of social learning hasn’t gone unnoticed, and as a result, it’s now finding applications in all sorts of training scenarios, including enterprise training for employees.

But does social learning success come that easy? With the current COVID-19 pandemic and compulsory home quarantine in most parts of the world, facilitating in-person peer-to-peer interactions isn’t possible.

Thankfully, technological advancements have enabled us to socialize even when we are working from home. However, despite having technological tools like video conferencing software and learning management systems, facilitating productive peer-to-peer interactions can turn out to be a challenge. 

To overcome this challenge, you (as the L&D manager, learning facilitator, or trainer) need to implement the right strategies in the right manner, and that’s what this blog post is about. Here are five tips and tricks to effectively implement online social learning in your eLearning courses to improve their quality and boost employee engagement.

5 Effective Ways to Implement (Online) Social Learning in Your Elearning Courses

1. Allow Interactions Like Traditional Classrooms

Many of us remember a time when our friends helped us with a difficult concept right before an important exam or after a confusing class. Such interactions among students often help them grasp concepts that they miss out on during a guided session.

Similarly, many times, students ‒  or in this case, employees ‒  have questions and doubts that they are not comfortable discussing in front of their peers and colleagues. In traditional classrooms, students would walk up to their teachers with such doubts. 

Whereas there is minimal to no effort involved in facilitating such interactions in a traditional classroom setting, the case is quite the contrary in online employee training. Most online training courses are self-paced in nature and involve very little interaction with fellow learners and instructors.

Hence, it’s important to provide tools like group chat rooms and group video conferences, which enable peer-to-peer interactions. Similarly, you should set some time aside for one-on-one interactions with your learners

2. Use Q&A Sessions

The interactive nature of Q&A sessions has made them one of the most popular social learning techniques. The best part is that these are extremely straightforward to carry out, regardless of whether you provide training in a traditional classroom setting or an online class.

All you need is a system through which your learners can ask their questions without causing a ruckus. Most modern computer-based training software has features that enable productive and confusion-free Q&A sessions.

Once you have conducted enough Q&A sessions, you can even identify a set of FAQs that you can answer in a written or video format and post for all future learners to refer to. By doing so, you can make sure commonly asked questions are eliminated from the Q&A session and in turn, use that time to answer complex questions in greater detail.

3. Organize Group Discussion Sessions

The scope of group discussions is enormous when it comes to aiding better learning. From acting out real-life scenarios to exploring different avenues related to a subject and holding debates, group discussions promote understanding and retention in an informal way.

Thanks to the availability of video conferencing tools, group discussions have long been part of online training scenarios, including employee training

Group discussions are a fun way to improve the engagement quotient of your employee training initiatives and must definitely be included as part of your social learning efforts.

With that being said, even with the most thoughtfully designed tools on your side, group discussions can quickly spiral into chaos, especially if you have large groups. If this happens during multiple group discussion sessions, your learners will start to feel disengaged and some might even start considering them a waste of time.

In such a scenario, the best solution is to break down the large group into smaller groups that can participate in discussions with you one by one. Sure, this way is more time consuming, but it also ensures that the group discussions you conduct serve their purpose and improve learner engagement.

woman sitting in front of computer drinking coffee and attending an online elearning course

4. Involve Celebrity Trainers 

Celebrity lectures or guest lectures are a great way to introduce some excitement within your training curriculum. For employee training, a celebrity instructor could be someone from upper management or even the owner of the business. 

The idea is to bring someone who is well-known (and possibly respected) among your trainees and has valuable expertise in the subject or module they will be teaching. 

Unlike regular trainers following a set teaching pattern, guest trainers share insights that they have gained while working in the field. They can share more relevant and sensible real-life examples along with secrets that help them carry out their tasks with efficiency. 

Such examples are a great way to communicate the relevance of the training to learners’ day-to-day tasks. Moreover, having the chance to learn through someone that has used the same training to excel in their career provides them with inspiration to give their best during the training and on the job. Not to forget, a guest lecture or celebrity lecture works as a delightful break from an otherwise mundane training routine.

Celebrity trainer interactions can also be turned into symposium discussions if you manage to rope in multiple well-known experts. Such sessions can be conveniently held online using webinar technology and can prove to be even more interactive and engaging than guest lecture interactions.

5. Using Projects and Presentations

Remember how we used to present our projects in front of a jury in schools and colleges? The objective of having graded presentations wasn’t just to evaluate the understanding of a concept or a lesson but also to promote it.

When multiple students (or learners) prepare similar presentations on the same subject in front of the same audience (aka their peers), it reinforces the knowledge shared in the training.

This happens in two ways: One, when an employee works on a project that uses the applications, their individual understanding of the concepts is improved, and two, when they sit through the presentations of their peers, they discover different approaches related to the concept in question while also learning many of the same lessons that they learned while preparing their own presentations.

Applying Social Learning Thoughtfully to Drive Positive Results

Poor interaction and engagement are two of the most significant challenges associated with online training of employees. Thankfully, social learning has the potential to alleviate these challenges to a great extent. 

With the availability of video conferencing tools, whiteboards, shared online documents, instant messaging apps, and other such tools, facilitating engaging interactions is easier than ever.

However, despite the abundant availability of tools, ensuring engagement has been a challenge. In other words, social learning works but only when applied thoughtfully. Not all social learning techniques will drive positive results. 

This is where your experience will count. You must identify the right social learning techniques that are aligned with your businesses’ unique training scenarios.

When it comes to software training and support, you can use a variety of methods, such as in-class training sessions, videos, handbooks, PDF documents, and relying on the IT department. However, these methods are asynchronous and time-consuming. The most effective way to train employees in new software is via a step-by-step interactive guidance solution such as Userlane. Curious to find out more? Then see Userlane in action and start your free trial!

Written by Costa Lamprou

Costa Lamprou is the head of PPC at The Elearning Industry Network. With experience ranging from product development and sales to training and PPC, Costa helps eLearning businesses reach their full lead gen potential. When he isn’t helping clients succeed, Costa likes to expand his marketing horizons with the help of eLearning courses.

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