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5 Keys To More Successful Collaborative Learning

Originally posted: March 28, 2012 on TrishMcFarlane.com

My junior year of college I became interested in the ways adults learn.  I was inspired by a professor who believed that the traditional method of learning was not enough.  This was back before computers and smart phones were everywhere, in fact, the only place you could find a computer at the university was in a lab.

What I learned was that there are so many ways to engage the senses of learners and that you can add in components that make the environment one that spurs questions and brings about more complete learning.  Now, some twenty years later, I find myself still thinking about adult learning and how we can incorporate new techniques using technology to bolster the learning of participants.  Here are 5 keys to gaining more success with your organization’s collaborative learning:

  1. Live demonstration-  One of the most effective approaches to adult learning is that of the instructor demonstrating the task, or idea, at hand.  People are able to learn visually while also hearing the instructor talk through the steps.  The more senses that are used as the idea or task is learned, the more likely the participant is to remember.
  2. Panel of advisors/ Subject Matter Experts–  We have all been through demonstration learning, but how often have you had a panel of experts there as well to talk through various questions and ideas that are raised during the demonstration?  Not many.  By adding in a few panelists, you increase the odds that the participant will not only be able to recall the information but may have a greater context for applying the information they learned.
  3. Participant interactive component–  Traditional teaching offers an instructor lecturing with participants taking notes.  Amp up the learning by providing a way for even your remote participants to live chat.
  4. Technology-  All the other components will not work well without having the proper technology aligned to bring it all together.  Work with your organization’s IT leader to ensure that you have the tools you need to share live feed of the demonstration, the audio to support the panel of advisors and a way for participants to interact with the advisors via live chat.
  5. Social platform incorporation-  By adding in social platforms, the instructor can encourage the learning and conversation to continue via social media.  This extends the reach of the instructor’s lesson and brings about opportunities for advanced ideas or ideas that challenge the norm.

Have you used a collaborative approach to learning in your organization?  What have you found that works well?  What methods do you like to have in place if you are in the “student” role?  Be sure to share in the comments.

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