Facilitating collaborative learning: a recipe for success

During 2012 Harold Jarche and I have been running a series of online workshops at the Social Learning Centre; these have proved to be very popular. In a recent article to be published in the September edition of e.learning age magazine, I describe how we have been doing this, and what I think are  the key ingredients for success.  Here is the introduction to the article. You can read the full article HERE.

In the “e-learning era” the focus of training moved to designing and developing sophisticated, self-paced, online course content, and then managing access to it in a LMS. With the emergence of the “networked learning era” training departments have begun to think about how they can add “social” into the mix.

One approach has simply been to bolt social approaches onto existing courses, e.g. by creating a supplementary learning community for course discussions. However, this has tended to mean that the two elements – content and community – are seen as quite separate by learners, and as they often find it annoying having to move back and forth from the content to the community, they usually end up ignoring the community altogether.

A more effective social approach, however, is where the content is well-integrated within the community, and in fact co-created by the community, and where the emphasis is placed much more on the interactions, knowledge sharing and conversations of the participants – than on the content per se.

In other words the focus is not on creating lots of very stylish content and pushing it down to people, but on promoting social and collaborative learning, such that the learners fully participate in the learning experience. In pedagogical terms, it uses a social constructivist, learner-centric, “guide on the side” approach – where the learners are equal partners in the process).

Harold Jarche and I have been using such an approach in the online workshops we have been running at the Social Learning Centre  (SLC) – and we have received lots of encouraging feedback. Here’s just one comment:

“When facilitators/moderators help make connections in conversation threads, add content without getting in the way and encourage collaboration – as Jane and Harold are doing here – the conversation and learning can be far greater and more satisfying than a f2f conversation. “ 

How did we do it?  Well, here is our recipe for success showing 10 key success factors.

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