How social learning is keeping remote teams connected

Ewa Jaremka|May 28, 2020

There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 lockdowns have made our day-to-day lives unrecognisable compared with how they were pre-pandemic. Not least the way we interact and how we work. Millions of employees across the globe find themselves working remotely for the first time in their careers.

It’s clear that employees have a natural appetite to connect, collaborate and share knowledge. That’s especially true when they’re dispersed many kilometres from their colleagues with whom they used to be desk neighbours.

We naturally gravitate towards social learning

The evidence is there that staff already want to connect and collaborate, whether working from home or not. This is seen by the soaring use of communication apps in the face of the lockdowns and move to remote working, such as the infamous “Zoom boom”. The video conferencing platform reported that its number daily user numbers spiked from 10 million in December 2019, to 200 million in March 2020.

Meanwhile, social learning hubs have sprung up organically on professional social media platforms such as LinkedIn, where users have been freely exchanging content, ideas, experiences and knowledge and work-from-home tips amid the pandemic.

Also in March 2020, Facebook reported that messaging was up by more than 50% on Instagram, Facebook Messenger and Instagram combined. People were spending 70% more time across all these apps, while group calls were up 1,000% on the previous month.

If your L&D team wasn’t looking at how to harness these social learning behaviour patterns before, it’s hard to ignore them now. With the COVID-19 lockdowns reshaping the way companies work, and as employees have more time and space for professional development, it’s worth revisiting the multiple benefits of having a social learning LMS in your learning ecosystem.

Why collaborative learning?

Collaborative learning is based upon the principle that learners enrich their learning experiences by interacting with and benefiting from one another’s strengths. It’s widely accepted that learning is much more efficient in a social environment, when knowledge is gained and retained organically through interaction and without a structured approach. In other words, what starts out as formal learning becomes a dynamic, informal and memorable exercise.

Social learning boosts morale and motivation

Not only does informal and social learning ensure employee buy-in for your LMS, it keeps your team’s morale up during these challenging times. While they’re in full remote mode, your employees will appreciate any opportunity that helps them stay connected to and feel a sense of purpose within your organisation.

There’s an abundance of proof that social and informal learning boosts motivation. After Harvard Business School introduced social learning functionality on its online education platform HBX, its completion rates, usually in single digits, rose to 85 per cent. And within six months of financial group Suncorp launching its social learning platform, it enjoyed a 95 per cent take-up rate among its 13,000 staff.

Discussion boards that encourage collaboration

Discussion boards and forums are the most common social media-type tools that LMSs leverage for social learning. They allow learners to interact and compare; like, share and comment; ask questions of their co-workers; post open queries; get responses; and generally start new discussions and topics or respond to existing ones. Learners who have particularly enjoyed a module can let their colleagues know. Discussion tools also spark ideas and opportunities for learners to further their learning experiences – ideas they may not have had if learning solo.

User-generated content: learners sharing their expertise

A central feature of a social learning LMS is user-generated content functionality. In any company or business, there will be staff who are subject matter experts. A social learning solution allows you to tap into their wealth of knowledge where it really counts. For example, if you’re keen to improve your team’s sales skills, giving a platform to allow a successful sales veteran in your team to create and share his or her knowledge is more powerful and relevant than even the most expertly crafted off-the-shelf course. Your subject matter experts know your business, the challenges your team is likely to face, and the best strategies and solutions. It makes sense to give them visibility through tools such as Add & Share.

Some organisations have created visibility for thousands of such internal “experts” to generate content on their LMS. These distributed authorship tools give your company the ability to formalise the knowledge that exists within your ranks into a shared repository. This social learning process boosts engagement by encouraging more knowledge sharing, ultimately elevating your already skilled workforce and improving the overall performance of your business.

What’s more, at a time when your team are working at great physical distances from one another during COVID-19, it’s highly engaging and motivating to hear from one of their co-workers on, for example, a particular work challenge and how they overcame it.

Gamification spurs on learning

A social learning LMS’s gamification tools tap into the way we all enjoy sharing our achievements and successes with peers and colleagues on social media platforms. For example, you could offer a prize to your team for whoever completes learning pathway first. Seeing our colleagues benefiting from learning experiences and being rewarded for them encourages a healthy appetite for competition and inclusion. If one team member sees that their colleague has picked up an award for completing, for example, a “Customer Service” learning pathway, they’re going to be much more keen and likely to dive into the content themselves.

In conclusion

As COVID-19 lockdowns physically separate your employees, they’re naturally seeking out a way to connect with their colleagues as well as different ways of learning.

With fewer distractions, no daily commute and effective time management, an employee working from home who leverages social learning can effortlessly adopt continuous learning into their new professional lifestyle.

Discover how you can support your team’s learning from home journey during COVID-19 with the latest social learning solutions. Find out more or contact us today.

About the author

Ewa Jaremka


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