Learning implies interaction.
In a traditional learning environment, we learn through exchanges with our mentors and other students. But when it comes to online training—the dominant model in many organizations—the learning experience is often reduced to a trainee and his or her computer.
Instead of being encouraged to actively share thoughts, ideas, and experiences with their peers, most learning in a corporate environment is done in isolation. But for many organizations, relying only on face-to-face training isn’t an option; eLearning simply boasts too many benefits.
Luckily, there is a way to have the best of both worlds. Here are 7 techniques to make your virtual classroom more social:
1) Recreate the Traditional Classroom
The “chalk and talk” teaching model has been replaced with more interactive methods; a professor’s monologue is now often interrupted by students’ questions, thoughts, and ideas. They learn through dialogue.
With today’s technology, there’s no reason why the same kind of interaction couldn’t be achieved in an online environment. The best eLearning platforms include either built-in or integrated video-conferencing features that allow you to recreate this scenario, although it shouldn’t be overused. If it is, some major benefits of online training can be lost. Live webinars should always be used in combination with personalized online courses that enable self-paced learning. That way, the social element enhances trainees’ engagement.
2) Use eLearning Software with Social Functionalities
Online training wouldn’t be possible without good eLearning software.
In addition to tried-and-tested features such as video conferencing and live streaming, a few cutting-edge eLearning platforms also include special functionalities for social learning. The most popular of these features are discussion boards and gamification. For now, we’ll focus on discussion boards.
To battle learner isolation, chatbots have been introduced to many online platforms. A discussion board is an inexpensive way to add a social, interactive aspect to the learning.
Discussion boards offer a range of possibilities for trainees and mentors alike:
- Seek help from their peers during solo learning sessions
- Post engaging questions to encourage debate
- Expand their knowledge by exchanging perspectives
3) Invite the Student to Become the Teacher
Using live-streaming technology, you can “turn the table” on the trainees. In this scenario, trainees would be encouraged to prepare and deliver a lesson in a way that engages other trainees and invites them to participate. It’s only then that the social component is achieved. This is one of the most difficult exercises, but it’s also one of the most powerful.
This approach to online learning is an effective method for boosting engagement and also helps learneers overcome any fear they have of public speaking. This skill is very important in the corporate environment and vital for certain career paths.
4) Plan & Organize a Real-Time Collaboration Session
There are many free online tools for real-time collaboration.
To give you an example, assign a small group of trainees (5 or fewer) to complete a task as a group. Depending on the nature of their jobs, this could be as simple as a brainstorming task.
Using Google Drive (or something comparable), the team could create a document and work on it together. Many similar tools enable real-time teamwork and offer video calls and group chat, allowing trainees to exchange ideas during the session. It’s a fun, creative, and extremely effective way to drive interaction.
5) Plan & Organize a Real-Time Social Learning Contest
Gamification is currently one of the most popular trends in eLearning, but this technique isn’t new. Gamification is simply learning through play. Elementary school teachers have been using it for centuries to develop essential social and other skills in children, and it’s now been extended to adult learning. Any type of gaming element added to learning counts as gamification.
In the context of our virtual classroom for corporate trainees, gamification would usually imply some kind of learning contest. To employ this technique, you can do as little as using a certain scoring system or rewarding trainees who complete the course first.
Gamification is a smart way to add a social element to your virtual classroom because it doesn’t require you to create a group-learning scenario. Trainees can study in isolation but still be motivated by friendly competition with their peers.
6) Invest in Educational “Mixed Reality” Simulations
Virtual Reality (VR) technology takes gamification up another level.
If your organization can afford to invest in “mixed reality” simulations and it makes sense to incorporate VR learning in your business environment, the ROI of your online-training program will reap many benefits. VR headsets can make learning contests feel more real and exciting. More importantly, trainees learn through experience.
VR simulations are especially effective in group exercises that require authenticity. For example, VR-based medical training allows new physicians to practice teamwork under realistic conditions, but without any real-life risks. The same applies to many other vocations.
For example, pitching a new idea to a high-value client can feel like a high-risk situation. VR technology could be used to recreate the pressure of losing a client, teaching the trainees how to solve problems and make decisions on the spot without any real risk to the business.
7) Host an Event on WhatsApp with a Subject-Matter Expert
Many live-streaming and video-conferencing tools make it easy to invite a subject-matter expert into your virtual classroom. To make the event more social, you can include a short introductory lesson with a Q&A panel where all trainees can ask questions.
A discussion-based class is another great idea. This would give your trainees a unique opportunity to learn from top experts in their field while engaging in social learning. The only thing you need is a reliable live streaming service. For a real-time Q&A, you don’t even need video.
Social learning makes a huge impact on the retention of knowledge. In learning environments of all kinds, social learning encourages learners to develop new skills through collaboration and motivates them to enhance their skills, both of which are crucial in the corporate world.
Adding social elements to your virtual classroom has never been easier and there are only two things you need to begin using it in your organization: reliable technology with features for real-time teamwork and some creativity. To learn more about highly interactive approaches to adult learning and skills development, contact CMOE.
Author Bio: Angela White
Angela White is an ed-tech enthusiast with a passion for writing for the consumer market in the areas of product research and marketing using quizzes and surveys. Having a knack for writing and an editorial mindset, she is an expert researcher at a brand that’s known for creating delightfully smart tools such as ProProfs Quiz Maker.