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Virtual Collaboration: Engaging Learning Through Technology
Virtual collaboration, which uses technology to bring people together, can help people achieve their goals. Learning and development leaders should use virtual collaboration to help people learn, practice and apply new knowledge and skills.
Virtual collaboration is a phrase that is both explanatory and confusing. In one company, virtual collaboration can be as simple as e-mail and document sharing. In another company, it can be the combined use of asynchronous tools, such as calendars, links and bulletin boards, with synchronous tools such as Web, audio or video conferencing. They might even incorporate learning content such as courseware, streaming media and narrated slideshows into any of these online tools. Virtual collaboration, no matter how you look at it, is any process that employs the use of technology to bring people together to achieve their goals.
Do people collaborating virtually also achieve learning goals? Yes, because people process information by seeing (visual modes) and hearing (auditory modes). Virtual exchanges allow for both learning modalities. They also allow people to manipulate the images or text as discussions and presentations proceed in real time. Seems powerful? Sure. Is it easy? Maybe by the way it sounds, but hold on. For learning and development purposes, the trickiest part of this increasingly important strategy is understanding the elements that engage people to learn, practice and apply their new knowledge and skills. Understanding what goes on in the learner's head is only the first part. Understanding how learning happens throughout the organization is equally important.
All good solutions start with a series of questions.
- How do you define virtual collaboration in your organization? Are multiple approaches and layers of complexity necessary?
- When you analyze your current programs, are their approach, delivery and measurements still relevant to both your learners' requirements and your organizations' financial and competency goals?
- Are the programs timely and user-friendly? Do they provide rich experiential learning or relationship-building opportunities for the learner? Do they drive requests for continued growth and development of new programs that support the organization's strategic goals?
With four generations of workers in the workplace, learning and development professionals are challenged more than ever not only to create learning technology solutions that address different learning styles and values, but also to build learner competencies that are aligned with current and future organizational needs. When preparing for this challenge, consider:
- What is the overall benefit to the learner? The "What's In It For Me" rule still applies, technology or otherwise. If you can't demonstrate why it's good for them, you'll have apathetic learners. And your learners have more diverse interests and values than ever before. For instance, generation X and Y employees enjoy learning from colleagues they respect. They will find greater value in technology that gives them an opportunity to interact with experts or higher-ups. Integrating an element of relationship building or mentorship into the learning process will increase the probability of these employees remaining engaged. Keep in mind, though, that individuals will have different ideas of what it means to be responsive while working online. For instance, speed-of-response time is defined differently for different learners. Quick replies via e-mail might be the norm for some as they try to communicate in real time, whereas others might wait to respond until a solution is ready at hand. This difference in perspectives, however, can be managed from the onset by discussing expectations for group work and performance prior to and during the team's work cycle.
The Next Generation of HR: What’s Wrong? What’s Right?
May 23rd 1:00pm - 2:00pm CT
2013 CLO Breakfast Club, Boston
September 12th - 12th, 2013The Westin Copley Place
Fall 2013 CLO Symposium
September 30th - October 2nd, 2013Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa
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