What's so special about Collaborative Learning?

The features disrupting the LMS industry

Collaborative learning movement

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Baby boomers are retiring. 

The talent war is intensifying. 

Your competitors are leveraging new technologies.

For these reasons and many more, companies are faced with a time-sensitive imperative: build the skills they and their teams need for the future

This is a challenging task, since the tools most organizations rely on are woefully inadequate: sluggish reskilling plans, decades-long career paths that fail to motivate the post-COVID workforce, and expensive, outdated skill matrix analyses will not help employers reach their goals.

Instead, you need a workforce able to learn constantly and develop the new skills they desperately require. You need Collaborative Learning.

1. The movement at a glance

At 360Learning, we're pioneering the Collaborative Learning movement to help companies face this cultural shift we’re collectively experiencing, and to prepare them for the realities of the post-COVID world.

The 3 pillars of Collaborative Learning are:

Speed 

Shipping new courses, new cohort programs, and new academies should happen at the speed of business. L&D teams should be speaking in terms of hours—if not minutes—and certainly not in weeks or months. Speed is also dramatically increased when: 

  • everyone starts contributing and is rewarded for it
  • internal experts are identified publicly and in real-time based on their Collaborative Learning contributions
  • everyone can contribute in the way that suits them best, from the dedicated course author seeking recognition, to the occasional contributor sharing their detailed knowledge on a given topic.

Speed is also provided when the right insight is pushed to the right person exactly when and where it’s needed

Peers

Top-down learning experiences have never been engaging for anyone, no matter their age. Learning experiences that draw people in rely on interpersonal interactions.

Humans learn from person-to-person communication. The challenge of Collaborative Learning is to move these interactions online with the right workflows, to leverage technologies to augment these interactions, and to speed them up. 

However, most modern LMSs aren’t designed to do this—they’re built to industrialize top-down elearning. While this might sound appealing to some, these tools’ analytics tell a different story: top-down elearning doesn’t engage people

The industry needs a better approach. That’s why we’ve created dozens of collaborative features on our platform that not only drive completion rates above 90%, but also create value both for learners and L&D teams. This approach also lays the groundwork for further innovation: all of these collaborative interactions create huge datasets that AI technology can leverage to automatically find out what needs to be improved in your courses and programs, giving L&D teams the assurance to launch courses that will get completed.

Distributed ownership 

Old learning software had a centralized structure. It was built for a small team of 1, 2, or 5 people to handle the administrative needs of hundreds of thousands of employees. That was the IT dream of the 2000’s that failed to engage end users. 

What went wrong? First, learning should be individualized, and happen at the team level: a team of thirty, even within a company of three hundred thousand, should be able to design its own learning environment. 

Collaborative Learning allows for this, unlike both old and modern LMS software, by relying on group roles, content access rights by group, and group-based reports that enable small teams in large divisions to design their own learning environments. 

This can all happen without any setup or ongoing management for global administrators. This unique and proprietary fractal architecture developed by 360Learning is almost invisible: yet it enables small teams to set up their learning environment, while still providing total visibility and control to the central L&D team. Goodbye admin tasks, hello empowerment. 

CL movement

2. The features of Collaborative Learning 

Let’s get to the beating heart of the Collaborative Learning movement: all the novel features that are propelling it forward. Collectively, these features enable:

Speed

It takes an average of just 17 minutes to create a new course on 360Learning.

How is this possible, when the industry standard is multiples of this? First, because 360Learning is incredibly easy to use. When platforms are intuitive, it becomes much easier to speed up their output. This is the north star we’ve set for our product and design teams: to immerse themselves in the user experience, studying every click and anticipating every user need. Our end product is a platform that’s radically intuitive to use.  

But there’s another reason our clients create content at the speed of light: our co-authoring feature. As the old adage goes, two brains are better than one. By enabling each contributor to share their most relevant knowledge, the process of co-authoring drastically accelerates course creation. The high-quality courses built using co-authoring also enable teams to implement various validation workflows, without being weighed down by administrative tasks. 

The ability of co-authors to comment and debate every granular aspect of a course, just like you would do in real-time on a Google document—including the ability to resolve and upvote these behind-the-scenes internal comments—also drastically increases the speed with which courses can be published, harnessing the power of collective intelligence. 

Let’s not forget that templates are also there to accelerate course creation. Based on common use cases, they guide authors to implement the most effective and advanced best practices. They’re supported by data from millions of courses played on 360Learning that are displayed next to each of these templates, so you can base your choices on facts—not feelings.

In addition, 360Learning includes powerful editing options that eclipse those of modern LMSs. If you use the latter, you’ll inevitably end up creating an extremely labor-intensive version of a SCORM course, requiring an astonishing one year of training to produce, and using a more complex version of Adobe Photoshop. And all of that for poor results: top-down elearning clip art that nobody likes to engage with, and that either ate up months to launch, or took a $20-50k bite out of your freelancer budget. 

Instead of that, we believe you need an online authoring tool that is both fast and powerful, and that empowers you to create all sorts of rich, interactive content with fun assessment questions and collaborative experiences. Integrating third-party content should be at your fingertips–from the open web, not from an outdated desktop application. The world’s most creative and powerful tools are on the web. Now, with 360Learning, they can power your courses.

You can learn more here about all the authoring features dedicated to accelerating course creation and reducing friction in the publication workflow, such as instant video recording. 

The ability to declare and upvote Learning Needs in every academy also leads to a dramatic increase in speed. But it’s not only about crowdsourcing needs; 360Learning will also make sure you find the right expert to create desired courses, and will help you follow-up on the progress with a project management tool. L&D teams can distribute and monitor their workload across departments and within their own team.

Another unique feature of Collaborative Learning is the ability to leverage collaborative contribution data to reward experts with badges. This goes above and beyond what most top-down LMSs do, which is sporadically award badges for certain milestones. 

In contrast, 360Learning combines Collaborative Learning data with gamification practices to create expert leaderboards for every academy based on peer recognition and community contributions. That means that every team community (Eg.: the sales academy), every reskilling initiative (Eg.: understanding electric cars), every learning community (Eg.: DE&I community support) that a company has launched will have its own expert leaderboard, based on the interactions and contributions these experts are making on the academy and the value the community sees in these contributions. 

Leaderboard and gamification illustration | 360Learning

These leaderboards have a very specific function: they are here so that any employee can find help and expertise from people, and not just from content. The homepage and homepage of each academy help guide them. It’s also where experts can display their marketable achievements internally and even leverage this to gain internal visibility and promotion.

All these aspects of Collaborative Learning play a pivotal role in engaging everyone in designing a global learning environment. Because it’s happening at the academy level, for every job, every reskilling initiative, every learning community that the company launches, it makes learners’ experiences completely customized to their needs, their job, their communities, and their own preferences. 

The goal of all that is speed: how fast can you launch courses, programs, and academies to reskill your workforce? It should be so fast that you won’t see it as a reskilling plan anymore, but as a cultural shift across your workforce. 

What’s next?  How are we doubling down on speed to increase the power and the impact of learning teams? So much is coming. We are doubling down on Collaborative Learning and how it can be enhanced by Artificial Intelligence. Keep up with product news here, 2022 is going to be a Collaborative Learning revolution. 

Peers

Our product and design teams are constantly imagining, testing and releasing features to enable people to learn together, while fixing L&D teams’ real-life problems. Here are a few examples: 

A. The outdated Reaction 

One of the many problems modern LMSs face is that they are full of outdated content. But the problem is when business processes evolve, nobody is going to call the L&D team and tell them to update their training content. The result?

  • all the content in the LMS is soon outdated
  • employees learn outdated practices
  • managers find out employees have learned the wrong things
  • managers circulate the idea that the LMS platform doesn’t work
  • the idea is spread that the L&D team is slow and launches outdated content becomes the common belief in the company

This has to stop.

To help L&D teams reclaim their power, we created the outdated Reaction. The idea is quite simple: learners can spot outdated content, and even suggest improvements. Authors and L&D teams get a notification and can accept the suggestions or write their own update. 

Problem solved with collaboration. And not only does collaboration solve real-life L&D problems, it’s also instrumental in creating engagement and fostering the habit of working together horizontally across a company. This is a great example of where collaboration achieves things that couldn’t happen otherwise. Fun fact: learners find courses that are updated regularly 27% more useful. 

B. Reactions and engagement 

95% of the Reactions posted by learners are positive feedback that trigger notifications for authors and L&D professionals. What happens then? We all know the feeling: it’s affirming to get positive reactions, such as likes on Instagram—and additionally, your followers want to see more of your content. As a result, authors in your company feel good about their course creation work. And they want to do more! 

reactions

So what about the other 5% of Reactions—the constructive feedback? We believe it’s also great that L&D teams and course authors can quickly identify what needs to be improved. In the end, it’s their image and the L&D team’s work that is assessed by the learner: better spot what isn’t so great before too many people are trained on it. 

C. Relevance Score

As mentioned above, 95% of courses are said to be relevant when learners are asked to assess how useful a course will be to their work. Why ask this question? Because we realized that after 20 years of top-down eLearning, most employees in the corporate world held a grudge against so-called “Modern LMSs”—they found the courses they hosted were irrelevant to them. 

To make this stop, we decided to measure that relevance: is this course going to help you perform better? That is the key question we wanted to answer. 

Obviously, showing these figures to authors and L&D professionals (and to the recommendation algorithm) can actually help them select the right courses! It might seem like magic, but it’s only Collaborative Learning in action.

D. Forums

What you will find in most LMSs is a timeline, like the one that made Facebook so successful in 2009. The problem? It’s disconnected from actual learning experiences, so learners can’t ask questions while they are learning. 

Can that work? We don’t think so. 

That’s why we designed our platform to have a forum directly adjacent to the learning experience. And it’s not just a forum where all questions and answers are mixed up together. When this happens, fifty learners will ask the same question, the answer will be given in the middle of the discussion and promptly get lost, and everyone receives a flood of notifications, which creates more confusion than anything else. 

To tackle this issue, we created a 2-level forum. So that there are questions and answers. Conversations regarding one specific question are grouped together, and you get notifications only on the topics you are interested in. 

In addition, these answers are upvoted so that the most useful ones are highlighted by learners. All that data also helps identify the most relevant contributors—the ones who get all the upvotes!

Forum

E. Coaching 

Because LMSs are 100% top-down and were built to scale poor quality content at a time when IT teams dreamt of putting people in boxes, and figures on these boxes, they don’t provide any meaningful coaching possibilities. In these LMSs, all assessment questions are closed, so that they can be corrected automatically. 

We believe the opposite—that some situations require open questions. For instance, when you want to assess the pitching skills of a sales rep, you actually want their manager to watch them pitch on video and assess their pitch. We let managers take ownership of these assessments in many ways, like defining the assessment criteria on which learners are graded. 

F. Trainer’s inbox

All the Collaborative Learning features mentioned above create huge datasets. 

Leveraging these data sets with AI enables us to spot what needs to be improved in the learner’s experience, and to notify authors and L&D teams so that they can act on this precious information. 

This is probably one of the most valuable innovations that has happened in online learning in decades: it ensures that the learning environment is clear, efficient and engaging. It was permitted by the latest progress in the field of AI and by the huge and unique data sets generated by all the Collaborative Learning activities on 360Learning.

It relies on data as diverse as Reactions and Relevance Scores, natural language processing of all forum conversations and of the learning activity content, engagement rates of all activities (if an activity causes learners to drop and never come back it’s probably not great!), level of expertise of each learner making this feedback, etc. 

Distributed

Modern software has a centralized architecture: the typical admin role is usually assigned to only a few people. 

In an LMS for instance, these administrators are often the ones who get to curate courses, define program access rights, or launch a new academy because a business unit is requesting it. 

But having only a centralized small group of L&Ds administering learning for all employees won’t work in our post-COVID world. In a company of ten thousand employees, small teams of two hundred people need to have their own evolving learning environment. They need to be able to administer that environment themselves, at the team level, while learners need to see only the courses that are relevant to them on the homepage, depending on the learning communities they are part of. And this needs to happen automatically, and it needs to be painless. 

The key feature here is to be able to replicate the company’s org chart with a hierarchical structure of groups and the ability to define roles like sales enablement, L&D, or manager at every group level. They would have the exact admin rights that they need–no more, no less–at the team level. They will also then receive the engagement metrics they are interested in, for that specific group, and they will be able to curate in the group relevant courses and programs, etc. They are empowered, at the team level.

Well, most “modern LMSs” only have 2 levels of groups. Can you imagine the mess? 

  • You end up creating hundreds of groups at the same level with no hierarchy, on the fly, with no structure. They are unable to replicate the company’s org chart in the group structure they use.
  • And this has many consequences: for instance, you will need to update the people in a lot of groups, when this could easily be inferred automatically. This wastes a lot of time for the admin team.
  • Another example: managers of the smaller team B will not receive emails and access to engagement metrics of their team if courses are sent to the broader team A—because team B is not a subteam of team A. Same for the L&D, same for the trainers, etc. None of this logical behavior will happen.
  • Central admins will keep receiving requests to do things manually at the group level for each new learning initiative, because only they are empowered with the rights to do them. 

The result of only having 2 levels of groups is a centralized architecture where the central L&D team is actually the administrator. Their role becomes to run administration, to manage content access rights, to add and remove users, to set notifications, etc. Because not having replicated the org chart in the LMS leads to that centralized bureaucratic organization. 

With that software architecture, It will be impossible to scale and still empower local L&Ds and managers to take initiatives. They will always have to ask permission and set up actions to the central L&D team who will end up dedicating the majority of their time to that administrative nightmare.

Instead, with 360Learning, we’ve worked hard to create a platform that works plug-and-play from our customers’ org chart. Once the org chart is in place, everything happens automatically: local teams are empowered and the central L&D professional can still view everything that’s happening across the company, but they don’t need to invest all their time running administration on the platform. 

We believe that a decentralized structure is required in the post-COVID world to empower teams and employees who want to own their impact and hate having to ask for permission or deal with complexity—what we call bureaucracy.

3. The time is now for Collaborative Learning

Companies can’t afford to wait and see when it comes to training their workforce. We’re at a pivotal moment, where people want to feel empowered to be at the center of their one learning journey. Organizations that understand the potential for Collaborative Learning to deliver exceptional business outcomes will get ahead of the competition. The potential is ready and waiting—all you have to do is join the movement.

Want to see 360Learning in action? We'd be happy to show you all these features during a free demo:

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