Collaboration: A Strategy for Effective Learning

Collaboration: A Strategy for Effective Learning - Dr. Jim Guilkey

I have no doubt that if you were to give me a tour of your company’s offices, we would encounter countless examples of team members engaged in collaborative pursuits. And we would both fully recognize the many benefits that emerge from such collaboration: spread workload, greater innovation, built-in quality control and accountability, flexibility, and, of course, the energy and motivation that arises from team enterprise. Doesn’t it make sense that your employee learning should apply collaboration as well?

Educational research continues to demonstrate the advantages of collaborative learning. In developing the instructional design principles featured in M-Pact Learning, I purposefully included highly collaborative processes that involve a variety of interactions between peers, coaches, mentors, and facilitators. This differs from the traditional method in which the lecturer is seen as the holder of knowledge and producer of learning.

Collaboration fits the modern workplace

Collaboration is a great learning tool for all your employees, but in an environment where millennials now make up a majority of your workforce, it is an essential component of layered, multi-faceted approaches to learning.  Millennials don’t just love to collaborate, it’s been built into the way they have interacted all their lives with others: online, through social media, in gaming, and within their classrooms. Collaboration is something they actively need. It helps all learners master content, as well as teaching them to develop social skills, learn from peers, build trust, engage in learning, and grow in confidence.

Collaboration in a live classroom is fairly easy. But M-Pact Learning also allows you to create collaborative environments in digital, self-paced modules. Instead of relying on real-time collaboration (which is highly effective), we can also simulate collaboration. For example, in an online module, you can have a learner type their solution to a problem in a box provided for the exercise. Then they click a “compare” button to compare their answer to that of an expert or to other learners who could then use a comment feature to discuss their solutions. The participants’ problem-solving skills and their discussions could then be reviewed by an expert, who would not only provide analysis on responses but add additional layers of knowledge. You can see from this example how such collaboration is inherently engaging and builds a much deeper interaction with the material than traditional learning methods. Given the possibilities with such a simple distanced learning approach, you can begin to imagine what can be accomplished when applying collaborative learning in a live classroom setting.

This example suggests not only collaboration with an expert, which is an entirely different approach than having the expert simply be a dispensary of information, it includes a peer-to-peer collaboration as well. When learners are tasked with the responsibility of learning material well enough to teach their peers, they digest material in entirely new ways and retain it. This is just one aspect of why collaboration can enhance how deeply learners interact with the materials they will be expected to master on the job. Just as together we can accomplish more at work, together we can improve our learning.