Why collaboration is critical to post-pandemic learning

Social learning will be crucial in delivering the skills needed for the new normal, says Nomadic Learning’s Tim Sarchet.

The demand for training has risen, as job roles, business processes and work situations are being reinvented almost daily as organisations deal with the pandemic. In fact, in the time of COVID, digital learning has almost replaced traditional in-person training entirely.

While the online content libraries most companies now use can meet some of these learning needs, their effectiveness is limited and typically confined to static subject areas. And frankly, many online resources are not sufficiently engaging, especially now when so many employees are already spending hours staring at screens. 

Fortunately, there is as effective alternative: collaborative online learning, which is perfectly suited for today’s disrupted business conditions and widely-dispersed workforces.

Diverse groups

An effective collaborative learning solution incorporates a number of key elements. Social groups, known as cohorts, typically progress through digital learning programmes in sequence, together. Learners interact with each other in debates, challenges, and other types of thought-provoking exercises.

Soft skills such as managing remote workforces, clear communication, teamwork and agility are among the most critical skills for today’s business world. 

Well-designed collaborative learning programmes are well-suited for aligning and transforming teams or even entire business functions, such as sales or HR. Such programmes are an effective way to establish a common vocabulary and knowledge base to enable groups to make change together.

Collaborative online learning can also introduce employees to topics that are still evolving or emerging, but will be important to the business in the immediate future, such as AI.

Team-based collaborative learning works best for topics that require critical, outside-of-the-box thinking. Soft skills such as managing remote workforces, clear communication, teamwork and agility are among the most critical skills for today’s business world.

Well-designed collaborative solutions help hone these ‘power skills’ at all levels of the organisation.

Improving engagement

What do collaborative learning solutions look like in practice? All cohort members see comments from other cohort members and are encouraged to engage in further conversations. 


Multi-national organisations benefit from creating cohorts that also include employees from different geographies. Such heterogenous cohorts give participants different perspectives to work-related challenges and topics.

Collaborative is also highly effective at promoting learner engagement. Today’s learners are used to high-quality, well-produced digital content throughout their daily personal lives, so well-designed collaborative learning solutions must echo this experience by incorporating a rich variety of content, along with social and collaborative activities.

Debates, learner challenges, thought-provoking questions, suggestions for work-related applications are just a few of the activities that can keep learners interested. Gamification definitely adds an element of gentle competition among individuals in each cohort and between cohort teams.

Some social learning platforms allow learners to vote on comments, which translate to points. These points, along with other factors such as completion rates and quiz scores, can determine a learner’s position within the cohort. .

To maximise content ‘stickiness,’ designing the learning content so that the learner touches the screen or a key every three to four minutes will also help keep individuals using mobile devices engaged.

And video content should be bite-sized and professionally produced, while incorporating real-world case studies creates a relevant learning context. Meanwhile, curated resources can add supplemental learning elements for those wanting to dive deeper into a topic.

A learning approach suited to COVID

Organisations have increasingly been looking to team-based collaborative learning to understand the job roles, business processes and work situations that Josh Bersin’s Big Reset demands.

Collaborative and social is ideally suited to tackle subjects where there aren’t fixed remedies or protocols in place and that require critical, but more lateral ways of thinking, such as developing new leadership and communication skills for remote working.

One HR leader benefitting from team-based collaborative learning is Johnathon Atwood, a senior leader and global talent rewards manager for an American technology company, Medidata Solutions. Johnathon says he and his team have profited from resources and conversations relating to COVID-19 in the content.

“These have helped us make sure we’re not missing anything and they give us assurance that we’re on the right track with what we’re doing,” he confirms.

As we adapt to ever-changing business conditions where remote learning becomes the new normal and we upskill for a very different post-pandemic world, effective collaborative learning will rapidly become a crucial component of corporate training strategies.


About the author

Tim Sarchet is COO and co-founder of Nomadic Learning.



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