Collaborative Learning – Is it changing the face of e-learning?

The training industry, especially the e-learning industry has evolved from ILT, online courses, blended courses to rapid e-learning, audio/video and a range of instructional simulations and interactivities. Earlier, companies would convert manuals and instructor materials into slideshows for training purposes. Now, e-learning programs offer engaging, interactive and virtual experiences. A year or two ago, when recession affected industries, people focused on learning to retain their jobs.

Recent times have seen learning happen through social media tools. From YouTube to blogging, podcasts to micro-blogs, social news and bookmarking to wikis, social media tools have taken e-learning to another level.

The shift towards social learning is mainly because organizations have started recognizing the tremendous need to build, manage and formalize their social and collaborative learning programs.

Organizations are rethinking their training strategies and models to accommodate learning programs under ‘learning environments’ that offer collaborative learning and built in social media tools. According to Wikipedia, collaborative learning refers to various methodologies and environments where learners engage and actively interact to learn or attempt to learn something together.

A collaborative learning environment in an organization enables learners to converse with contemporaries, present as well as defend ideas and perspectives, exchange diverse beliefs, question other conceptual frameworks and get actively engaged. Learning in a collaborative environment can take place at any time. It can happen when individuals are in discussion in a group or over the Internet.

Some organizations may offer ILT training on a need basis, but over 70% of learning happens while reading, watching and listening or simply by talking with one another.

There are many new tools and platforms similar to LMS to manage, track and facilitate people to learn and work together. It’s a matter of time when collaborative learning will happen on the move through mobile phones, Blackberry phones and related mobile devices.

While Google has Google Wave, Microsoft’ SharePoint and Live Services, Adobe’s Connect, a few companies such as Saba, Plateau and Taleo are creating new tools and platforms to facilitate communication and knowledge-sharing.

What are your thoughts on Collaborative Learning? Will organizations be able to create learning environments to enhance informal and collaborative learning? Please comment and share your knowledge.


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