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Collaborative Learning in 2024 (19 Tips for Employee Training)

If you want to make big strides forward in your corporate training and professional development, collaborative learning is your answer.

Employees constantly have to deal with changing information and solve new problems.

This requires lifelong learning and flexible skills, so why not make this process even better?

Collaborative learning is a big concept.

This post will help you unpack what it is, how it differs from cooperative learning, benefits, pitfalls to avoid, examples, and practical tips for implementation.

What is Collaborative Learning?

Collaborative learning is when learners work together in a small group of two or more to solve problems, explore different concepts, and complete an assignment.

This learning approach creates a more effective learning experience through social interaction.

The Difference Between Collaborative and Cooperative Learning

A related learning tool is cooperative learning, but there are some differences between the dynamics of each and the settings most suited to each.

In cooperative learning groups, each participant is responsible for their section of the work and its success, as well as the success of the group.

Learners must ensure each group member understands the content to be learned and applied to achieve their goal.

Before work begins, each participant's role and tasks are predefined, and the process is supervised and guided by a leader or supervisor.

Collaborative learning approaches are more flexible in which group members determine their own roles and tasks while also helping each other learn and apply the learning material.

No supervisor sets the rules, and the group learning is self-directed.

Benefits of Collaborative Learning

collaborative learning - benefits of collaborative learning infographic

Collaborative learning techniques hold a buffet of organizational and individual benefits.

The following points describe what you, your organization, and its members can gain.

1. Learners develop leadership skills

Learners who are required to collaborate to achieve a goal get the opportunity to manage themselves and their workload and organize, teach, and productively lead others.

2. Enhanced employee knowledge and skills

Employees engage in a stimulating exchange during online collaborative learning activities where they strengthen their current knowledge and skillset while gaining new knowledge and skills from other employees.

This makes expanding collaborative skills more interesting and lessens the need for (often more time-consuming) formal instruction.

3. Improves employee retention

The group interaction that takes place in collaborative learning helps employees retain the information better because they have to apply and explore it in a more stimulating setting than if they were learning alone.

4. Improved team relationships

A collaborative learning environment helps employees establish and build new connections with each other, making it easier for them to work as a team.

The interaction helps them figure out how to lean on each other's strengths and bridge their weaknesses.

5. Collaborative learning is active learning

The concept of active learning involves movement, testing, and turning knowledge over and around like a puzzle to apply it in different ways and solve problems instead of simply absorbing information by reading or watching a video in a non-active way.

6. Learners benefit from different viewpoints

Learners benefit from expanding their perspective when participating in a collaborative activity because they see and hear the different viewpoints of others.

It is an interesting merger of different ways to look at and process information and solve problems.

7. Promotes critical thinking

Collaborative learning requires critical thinking because while learning from the viewpoints of others, learners must weigh them up against their own viewpoints and adjust their approach where necessary.

It's constantly weighing new ideas against old ones, asking questions, and adjusting answers.

8. Learners learn to take criticism

Collaborative learning helps learners listen to constructive criticism and advice as the group discusses each other's ideas and debates the pros and cons of different viewpoints on a topic.

9. Facilitates public speaking and active listening

Collaborative learning facilitates public speaking and active listening because learners must develop the ability to speak up, present their ideas and viewpoints while engaging with the different responses of the group.

It is an important social skill for work and personal relationships.

10. Encourages cooperation

collaborative learning - group of multi-racial people doing a "hands in"

Collaborative learning encourages cooperation among team members to achieve the same goal.

To be successful, they have to combine the best viewpoints, suggestions, knowledge, and skills of each member and share the effort as well as the credit.

11. Collaborative learning is democratic

Collaborative learning is democratic, i.e., the learning process is a joint intellectual effort. There is room for everyone to participate and be heard.

This creates a sense of morale and student engagement instead of feeling controlled when learning is only dictated from top to bottom.

12. Specific to company needs

Collaborative learning can be customized to your company's specific needs, as employees and employers can discuss the learning gaps that need to be addressed and what solutions would work best.

This custom approach is also more time- and cost-efficient.

13. Speeds up the learning process

Collaborative learning speeds up the learning process because it gets to the action almost immediately.

Learners must engage with and apply information almost simultaneously, which is made easier by the group's support.

14. Collaborative learning is measurable

Collaborative learning can be measured by employee feedback because they play an active role in shaping how learning takes place and setting goals.

It's easier to ask employees engaged in a collaborative learning strategy for feedback and get a constructive response than to ask for feedback based on simply reading a coursebook.

Some Problems Collaborative Learning Can Fix

Organizations change fast; L&D teams are slow

Organizations are busy, and change is constant, so L&D teams struggle to cover new gaps in their resources to train people.

By the time they address it, it's late in the game, and the impact is not what it could have been.

With collaborative learning strategies, everyone involved has a chance to speak up about their learning needs and to share their current skills and expertise with those who need it.

This means eLearning content can be created quickly to address pressing needs, and organizations can more effectively adapt for growth.

Boring, irrelevant training curriculums

Most organizations implement training in a top-down, one-way-street method, simply handing material to employees and ticking the box.

collaborative learning - Bored Season 1 GIF by The Office

But this is ineffective because there is no conversation or team-based learning.

A collaborative approach is peer-driven-everyone has a say in the learning needs and what type of content or course design would best meet those needs.

The team gets to collaborate in creating the learning material needed, tailoring it to the organization and team's needs, and working with genuine feedback.

🎮 And if you really want to blow their minds, incorporate gamification in your corporate training. 🎲

One size does not fit all

Employees are not robots, and they also do not all learn the same way.

Everyone has different learning styles and needs and different methods of problem-solving.

It is a positive tool for helping empowered employees learn.

Each one's voice and needs matter to the organization as a whole, boosting morale, participation, and, best of all, the results.

🎯You might want to share our guide on how to be a better learner with your employees.

Some Examples of Collaborative Learning

1. Assess flaws in training systems

Collaborative learning enables employees at different levels of seniority to work together, combining their perspectives to assess current training material systems.

This can result in a much more holistic report of the flaws and how to update or change the training to address them.

2. Problem-solving across teams

Collaborative learning brings about much better problem-solving as team members combine their unique perspectives, methods of approach, skills, and knowledge.

Shared responsibility also accelerates the process of arriving at a workable solution. As the saying goes, "Two minds are better than one."

3. New product development

There is nothing more exciting than putting multiple minds together to develop a new product and come up with a new idea.

Instead of only one or two employees tackling it alone, a group can quickly work through all the tasks involved in the development, such as doing educational research, brainstorming product concepts, testing and refining them, and finalizing a solid proposal or prototype.

4. Interdepartmental training

Departments in organizations often become islands on their own, operating in isolation from others.

This creates communication issues when problems affect more than one department.

Collaborative learning is a great solutionlet a team from one department teach another department about their work, what they do, how they do it, and why.

Presentations and question-and-answer sessions help everyone understand how all the departments fit and work together.

5. Foster a collaborative learning community

Collaborative learning creates a professional learning community where everyone solves problems together and communicates openly.

It helps employees learn from and teach each other, lets them explore new concepts, and grows in leadership.

Everyone participates in the learning process with genuine interest because they know they are a valued part of the process.

Collaborative Learning Tips & Tricks

1. Create crystal clear group goals

Get clear on what goals and learning objectives the group should achieve and let them assign individual accountability for the steps to get there.

Clarity brings a sense of purpose and saves time.

Conducting a training needs analysis can help to crystalize your goals.

2. Groups should be midsized

Four to five group members are ideal for collaborative activities because bigger groups can allow a few members to withdraw from participating.

Groups of three or fewer are too small and lack diversity and creative thinking.

3. Be flexible with group norms

Effective collaborative learning is all about the quality of the interactions taking place.

If you notice any issues, you can swap group members with other groups, contribute new information to the group, or set a few guidelines in place (applicable to younger students especially).

Keep it as flexible as possible, changing with different situations and challenges for the best results.

4. Facilitate trust and open communication

For a group to be successful, interpersonal communication and trust-building are essential.

Create room to deal with any emotional issues or interpersonal problems as soon as possible.

Facilitate and require team members to explain their work in the group thoroughly and keep communication open.

5. Establish group roles for larger tasks

When you have a complex group task, it can be helpful to assist the group in assigning members different roles and tasks or to determine the roles and tasks and let them decide who does what on their own.

Next time, they can change it up.

6. Use a pre-and post-test

Try a pre-and post-test if you'd like to make sure a group learns well together. Assess the team's effectiveness after one assignment and make changes where necessary before giving the next assignment.

Giving out surveys can also provide helpful feedback on the group's learning and functioning.

7. The learning process should be considered part of the assessment

What a student gains from the learning process is as important as the learning and student achievement of set goals.

It's worth grading group members on learner engagement, quality of discussion, and adhering to group norms to show that these aspects are also valuable.

In the beginning, this may require more specific instruction.

8. Try out the Jigsaw technique

collaborative learning - picture of wooden jigsaw puzzle pieces

The jigsaw strategy is about breaking each group assignment into subtasks that are assigned to different members.

Each member then researches their part, becoming an expert on it.

Then, students who researched the same task from different groups can meet to discuss their findings with others.

9. Use the group as a stress-reducing strategy

Collaborative learning groups are effective in supporting members of the group when working on challenging tasks or concepts.

Members can encourage each other, reduce anxiety, and help keep them moving forward in a positive atmosphere.

10. Smooth the way for group interactions

If the discussions and interactions in the group are good, it will immediately impact the group's results.

Use shared leadership to demonstrate and encourage successful group function.

This includes subtle facilitation of things like initiating discussions, summarizing main points, guiding the group towards a consensus, supporting the overall harmony of the group with encouragement, breaking tensions, etc.

11. Focus on real-world problems

Use open-ended questions and draw inspiration from problems in daily life for assignments.

Real-world problems are more engaging to solve and useful for project-based learning and collaborative learning activities.

12. Enhance problem-solving and critical-thinking skills

collaborative learning - "problems", "thinking" "idea"

Use an assignment that allows for a different learning outcome.

Assignments that allow for tasks such as categorizing, researching, planning, or devising different solutions are all useful for encouraging members to solve problems step-by-step.

13. Embrace diversity

Diverse perspectives are a huge asset in collaborative learning settings.

The more varied the talents, backgrounds, styles, skills, experiences, and ideas in the group, the better.

Students learn more from each other and perform better in more collaborative groups.

14. Be aware of different learning styles

Learning styles differ between men and women and between people in general.

For this reason, it's well worth setting up groups with an equal gender balance wherever possible.

15. Increase the responsibility of the group

It's natural to give a little more guidance at the start of a group project but step back and facilitate as the group progresses.

Allow the group to find their own way, taking on and dividing responsibilities independently. This is one of the key goals of collaborative learning.

16. Incorporate different learning scenarios

Challenge the group with different learning scenarios, such as lab work, writing projects, and research projects that require active exploration, problem-solving, and collaboration beyond their usual scope.

This creates a more stimulating online learning experience.

17. Use technology

collaborative learning - picture of human hand and robot hand on laptop keyboard

Technology is a handy resource in computer-supported collaborative learning and virtual training team members to share and discuss results on the same project in real-time online.

Use a learning management system and online training software to create and deliver your training quickly and effectively.

🤓 Psst. To really get ahead of your corporate training materials, don't miss our guide on how to create an online course! 😉

Just make sure group members take the time to get to know each other (and the LMS software) a bit before engaging in the project planning and execution, as this will help avoid unnecessary misunderstandings.

(Pro Tip: For the latest trends in eLearning, check out our awesome posts on microlearning and mobile learning!)

18. Use a balanced approach

Every argument has two sides, as do problem-solving and project work processes.

Creating a balanced approach and avoiding "bad group work" where only one thought or perspective is dominant gives group members a chance to jot down their own thoughts and ideas before discussions.

Individual ideas are an important part of the process and should contribute to the overall result without taking over and creating a "group think" scenario.

19. Value different viewpoints

Collaborative learning, by default, means different viewpoints and ideas will be combined. Students need to appreciate and respect them to make it work.

Create a learning environment where independent, lateral thinking is valued as part of developing complex solutions to challenging problems.

Using different methods and approaches is helpfulcombining books, peer review, and technology to explore ideas and varied perspectives.

How to start implementing collaborative learning in your organization

Now that you have an extensive overview of collaborative learning theories ask your team where the skill gaps are.

Let them tell you how best to address it and plan solutions together.

You're off to a great start by simply opening the conversation.

Well done!

Heideli Loubser is a wellness and education copywriter and a content marketing strategist helping you grow your business. She is also a solo homeschool blogging mom of two kiddos. When she’s not wielding her powerful pen to help businesses and other parents, she enjoys gardening, painting, caffeine, and dark chocolate in large amounts.