Planes in aerobatic formation representing collaborative learning
Training & Learning

Online Collaborative Learning: Meaning, Importance & Tools

The 1905 Wright glider is a product of one of the most impactful collaborations in human history between brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright, which changed the course of transportation forever.

So, it should come as no surprise that collaborative learning is one of the most effective enterprise or corporate learning approaches. In fact, collaborative learning experiences have a 91% average course completion rate.

In this article, we break down what collaborative learning is, why it is important for a successful learning strategy, and list six online collaborative tools you should consider to upskill your workforce.

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What is collaborative learning?

In 2012, Linda Harasim developed Online Collaborative Learning Theory (OCL), a form of constructivist teaching (or active learning) that encourages learners to problem-solve collaboratively through group discussion. 

As a training methodology, collaborative learning is an effective approach that empowers employees to share their knowledge and expertise while simultaneously teaching and learning from each other. 

Today, collaborative learning is a learning strategy that ramps up the learning experience by elevating each employee’s ability to share their skills and institutional knowledge above what is typically achieved in a traditional classroom setting. 

The approach leverages social interactions in learning activities to encourage higher-level thinking, problem-solving, and teamwork while being easy to scale across teams. In today’s market, collaborative learning is an efficient way to leverage the knowledge and experience of your employees to upskill your workforce from within. 

Crucially, collaborative learning applies a bottom-up approach (as opposed to the traditional top-down L&D strategy) based on a low-authority, high-accountability model that relies more on peer feedback and group work to achieve a more significant impact.

Importance of collaborative learning

Because collaborative learning is human-centric, leveraging the approach is important for building a culture of continuous learning within your company.

With collaborative learning, both your experts and learners shape the training agenda and course content, meaning that your upskilling initiatives are fast and continuous, meeting the labor market demands of today and tomorrow. 

Moreover, online collaborative learning empowers you and your team to develop an L&D strategy optimized for relevance, speed, and engagement. Leveraging this learning process, you can take advantage of 95% course relevancy ratings and upskill employees in weeks.

Here are some significant reasons why a collaborative learning environment will drive meaningful change within your L&D practice. 

1. Collaborative learning is decentralized: Employees can identify learning needs in real-time and request learning experiences as needed in the flow of work, boosting upskilling efforts at pace and helping drive employee career development. This is especially important in today’s asynchronous working environments. 

2. Relevant learning experiences: Because learning outcomes and course content are defined and designed by peers with in-house expertise, you can deploy learning experiences that are contextualized by your organization and learners’ needs.

3. Collaborative learning is fast: The above learning experiences can be created and shipped within hours, even minutes! And because team members can comment and make suggestions on content, training can be continually improved to remain relevant and impactful. 

4. Collaborative learning promotes knowledge sharing: When you empower knowledge sharing within your organization, you’re breaking down silos and connecting employees across the organization, promoting critical thinking across team members in different departments. 

However, you’ll need the right tools to build an effective collaborative learning strategy, so we’ve listed a few here to help start your brainstorming process.

1. 360Learning

360Learning is the pioneer learning platform for collaborative learning, combining the best features of an LMS, LXP, and collaborative learning Academies to help you upskill your employees from within.

Collaborative learning Academies enable you to turn your internal experts into knowledge-sharing superstars to deliver learning experiences that boost internal mobility and help your company solve the talent shortage. These courses also ensure that critical organizational knowledge is shared company-wide across all team members.

Leveraging 360Learning’s comprehensive LXP and LMS features, you can onboard faster than before, deliver upskilling initiatives within hours, train your customer-facing teams, and more—all from an easy-to-use online technology. 

360Learning’s AI-powered authoring tool enables you to streamline and automate content creation, enabling L&D and subject-matter experts alike to create courses in a matter of minutes. With features like AI-generated courses in one click and flexible customization through user-controlled prompts, you can finally create personalized learning programs at scale. 

Pros: User-friendly AI-powered course builder; high integration; the power of an LMS, LXP, Academies, and collaborative learning combined to supercharge upskilling.

Cons: Not ideal for companies with a low appetite for bottom-up and centralized learning.

Pricing: Free trial available. The team plan is $8 per registered user per month (up to 100 users). You can also request a live demo to see how the platform can work for you.

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2. Zoom

Zoom is the most famous online video conferencing app and has robust collaboration features.

The app’s virtual meetings are perfect for those face-to-face experiences where people can meet, connect, and collaborate. The Zoom Huddles functionality empowers team members to leverage virtual working spaces and get quick answers to questions outside of meetings.

Zoom also has an AI companion to help draft emails, summarize meetings, and generate ideas or categorize content for the whiteboard feature. The whiteboard functionality is also great for synchronous online teaching in a virtual classroom and for brainstorming quickly with sticky notes, fast connectors, and comments. 

Pros: Capacity for up to 300 attendees per meeting.

 Cons: Not specifically designed for eLearning; basic plan limited to 40 minutes and 100 attendees per meeting. 

Pricing: Free basic plan, Pro ($149.90 per year per user), Business ($199.80), Business Plus (custom quote).

3. Padlet

Padlet is a content creation platform for collaborative classrooms, ranging from schools to higher education.

Leveraging virtual bulletin boards called ‘padlets,’ users can upload, organize, and share content in real time and create collaborative learning experiences. The app lets facilitators control learner permission and control settings, including automated content moderation. 

Other online collaboration tools include functionality for learners to create and engage with content using text, audio, images, or video on any device. Padlet has Chromebook, Mac, PC, Android, and web apps and supports 45 languages. Moreover, the app can integrate with your LMS and other apps, like Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams.

Pros: High integration across operating systems and other applications to ramp up collaborative learning activities. 

Cons: As a standalone tool, it is not well-suited for use cases such as compliance or customer support training. 

Pricing: Free (1 user and 3 padlets), Team at $99.99 per year (unlimited padlets and up to 50 users), Classroom at $199 per year (Unlimited padlets with 2 teachers and up to 50 students), and School starting at $1,000 per year (unlimited padlets and up to 10 or more teachers and unlimited students).

4. Slack

Slack is a cloud-based cross-platform instant messaging service that helps keep learners engaged and connected in one learning community. 

As an online collaboration tool, the platform enables you to set up student-centered channels where learners can ask questions and keep up to date. Collaboration is made easy with the Channels feature, which works like a discussion board, so employees know exactly where to get the information they need in their workflow. 

Meanwhile, the Huddles feature is an excellent space for small groups to gather virtually to collaborate and create together. The face-to-face experience of the video functionality can be elevated as learners discover emoji reactions. At the same time, anything shared in a huddle is automatically saved so team members can easily retrieve it later. 

Pros: Over 2,600 apps available for integration with your other online tools. 

Cons: The Huddles feature is 1:1 in the Free plan.

Pricing: Free plan, Pro plan ($7.25 per active user per month), Business+ ($12.50 per active user per month), and Enterprise Grid (request a quote).

5. Kahoot!

Kahoot! is an online learning platform based on gamification elements to make content creation easy and learning more impactful.

The platform leverages gamification features to create engaging learning experiences or ‘kahoots.’ You can start your content from scratch or use templates to get you started. Functionalities include quizzes, polls, word clouds, puzzles, and brainstorming to boost group discussions between team members. 

Kahoot! empowers you to present a kahoot in person, on a shared screen, or virtually. You can encourage learners to complete self-paced and asynchronous learning experiences anywhere through active learning, which is especially helpful for keeping those on-the-ground teams up to date. 

Pros: Integrates with Microsoft Teams, Slack, Google Hangouts, and Zoom.

Cons: May not be well-suited for organizations with an appetite for more formal collaborative learning.

Pricing: Enterprise pricing is available via custom quote.

6. Docebo

Next, Docebo Learn is a learning management system powered by AI with functionalities well-suited for various organizations.

The platform enables you to set up group-specific pages to deploy your learning experiences at pace using drag-and-drop tools. Then, you can use features such as gamification, certifications, and automation to target your specific use cases, such as compliance or customer support training. 

Docebo helps drive your upskilling learning activities while leveraging social learning to get the most out of your courses. The platform also has a mobile app for delivering blended learning, or you can even publish your own company-branded app that integrates with Docebo Learn.

Pros: Over 400 integrations; mobile app publisher. 

Cons: Pricing could be more transparent.

Start collaborating today

Along with the scientifically-proven benefits of collaborative learning, the approach can significantly impact your learning strategy.

With the right solution for your L&D practice, employees, and organizational needs, you can get your upskilling and reskilling training programs running. You’ll also be able to prove your return on investment, making those stakeholder conversations less stressful. 

As you shop around, test your chosen learning systems to ensure they work for your use cases. Most competitive collaborative learning solutions will offer a demo so you can check if they’re the right fit!