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Collaborative learning

Collaborative learning

Table of Contents

    There may be an “I” in learning, but that doesn’t mean doing it alone is the best approach.

    Humans are a collaborative species by nature, and science has proven that we learn better together too. 

    So, why do so many businesses put so much emphasis on individual learning? 

    Higher education institutions have long leveraged the benefits of collaborative learning, including knowledge retention and enhanced communication skills. 

    And we think it’s about time organizations got on board.

    Our guide explores how collaborative learning helps organizations optimize their learning experiences. 

    You’ll discover

    • What collaborative learning is
    • The benefits of collaborative learning
    • How to create effective collaborative learning programs 

    Get ready to redefine your organization’s learning strategy with us!


    What is collaborative learning?

    Collaborative learning is an umbrella term for various learning approaches that involve a joint intellectual effort by learners and instructors. 

    Usually, it means that learners work in groups to:

    • Solve problems
    • Complete tasks
    • Learn new concepts

    Collaborative learning approaches still have instructors and learners, as well as traditional classroom elements such as note-taking and lectures. However, they prioritize giving learners opportunities for group learning and teamwork. 

    Essentially, collaborative learning works on the premise that learning is an inherently social process. As such, students will understand the course material better if they can discuss it among themselves, connecting it to real-world situations and taking in diverse viewpoints. 

    In addition, collaborative learning is an active and constructive process that encourages problem-solving and critical thinking. 

    Students master new skills better when they engage in collaborative learning, compared to passively listening to lectures and robot-like memorization.

    You heard it here first. Collaborative learning isn’t just for educational institutions—businesses can benefit too.

    Whether through face-to-face or online training, featuring group discussion, problem-solving, and mentoring sessions empowers employees to learn together. 

    Not to mention, by doing this, you enable social learning in your company and foster a learning culture too. 

    In the next part of our guide, we explore how collaborative learning can elevate your organization’s training programs.


    Seven benefits of collaborative learning

    All this talk about communication, diversity, and understanding is nice. But what about the tangible benefits of collaborative learning?

    Well, don’t worry, because there are plenty.

    We don’t want to give away any spoilers, but increased productivity and employee benefits are just a few of the highlights.

    The same goes for collaborative learning’s younger cousin, cooperative learning, which focuses on peer-to-peer learning.

    Without further ado, it’s time to take a deep dive into the benefits of collaborative learning.


    1. Increased productivity

    Increasing productivity is a major priority for almost every business. And investing in L&D is a good way to achieve it.

    This is because employees with more knowledge and skills perform their jobs better.

    How does fostering a collaborative learning environment factor into this? 

    Well, through collaborative work in a training program, employees learn to recognize work through differences. These are fundamental skills for working in any team.

    Put simply, collaborative working environments foster teamwork and community building, creating a positive interdependence between people. 

    All of these things impact productivity. Employees who are happy with their team dynamics and can communicate with each other well are more likely to be engaged.

    As research shows, engagement direct impacts productivity. This Gallup meta-survey found that work units in the top 25% in employee engagement show a 21% increase in productivity. 

    Research from McKinsey found that by using social technologies, companies can increase productivity by 20 to 25%.

    With figures like those, it’s hard to argue against embracing social and collaborative learning. So we won’t.


    2. Development of leadership skills

    Collaborative learning encourages employees to work together to achieve a common goal. In the process, they develop leadership skills, such as decision-making.

    Group projects will naturally end up with one or a few learners emerging as leaders. This helps your organization identify future leaders.

    Leaders need to be able to see a problem from different perspectives, respect the diversity of their subordinates, and receive feedback. By working together and sharing knowledge, opinions, and viewpoints, social collaborative learning hones these soft skills.


    3. Development of task management skills and responsibilities

    In life, as well as in business, self-management is an important skill. 

    It’s the ability to regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations. 

    Procrastination, for instance, is a common failure of self-management. 

    Learning theorists and development experts point to collective learning as the main way in which people pick up skills for self-management. We need social interaction to tell us what’s appropriate and what isn’t and what the expectations of a group we belong to are. 

    Learners that participate in collaborative learning activities get to practice these skills in a safe environment. Through group discussions, employees can learn how to voice their opinions respectfully.

    Similarly, group projects require learners to take responsibility for their learning. It’s an excellent way to practice task management and self-management. 

    Of course, with so many people working remotely, task management skills are more important than ever. 

    Engaging students in collaborative learning techniques gives them space to practice all this in a safe environment. Later, they can apply what they learned to real-life situations and workplaces.


    4. Learning retention

    If you’ve been exploring our glossary, then you may already know about the forgetting curve.

    To sum it up quickly: it’s the nemesis of learning experience designers everywhere. 

    According to the forgetting curve, we tend to forget up to half of what we’ve learned during a learning experience, such as a webinar, mere days after we’re done. 

    The best antidote to the forgetting curve is learner engagement. The more engaged we are, the more a learning experience resonates with us. And the more useful we find it, the less likely we are to forget it. 

    Educational research has shown that collaborative learning affects learning retention— retention rates improved in groups that learned collaboratively compared to the control group. 

    Another benefit of collaborative learning is that it appeals to more learning styles than traditional teaching methods. We retain more of what we learn when presented with  material that aligns with how we learn, be it the interpersonal learning style, linguistics, or another style.


    5. Employee retention

    Companies in the United States waste a lot of money each year on employee turnover. 

    How much? It’s about $1 trillion, according to Gallup. 

    Can you afford to burn all that cash?

    We didn’t think so!

    Thankfully, learning can have a beneficial effect on employee retention rates. Around 94% of employees stated that they’d stay in a company longer if it offered learning opportunities. 

    Using collaborative learning strategies in your training programs not only provides those opportunities but also makes them more meaningful and engaging. 

    Nobody likes training sessions that don’t engage and resonate. Sitting through a webinar or partner training that’s just one endless lecture isn’t anyone’s idea of an interesting time. 

    Engaged learners become engaged employees because they get the chance to learn new skills and apply that knowledge to their work. 

    This increases the chances of employee satisfaction, meaning they’ll be less likely to seek other opportunities elsewhere.


    6. Personal and professional development 

    Opportunities for professional development are becoming at least as important as remuneration for today’s employees.

    This is especially true for millennial workers. What millennials want isn’t more money but flexibility, a sense of purpose, and more learning opportunities. 

    Collaborative learning not only equips employees with relevant hard skills, it also develops essential soft skills. These are the skills that help people develop both personally and professionally. 

    Collaborative learning requires skills such as collaboration, critical thinking and effective communication.


    7. Improving relationships across teams and departments

    No matter the headcount in your organization, everyone needs to align with the same vision and mission. 

    Collaborative learning programs can help make this happen by bringing people together to work toward a common goal.

    Training programs that include a diverse mix of people from different teams and departments promote teamwork, communication, and collaboration. 

    This is useful when pursuing projects such as sales enablement that need team members across departments to work together. It’s also a must for remote organizations, where it can be hard to foster connectedness and teamwork. 

    We’ve seen the benefits. Are you ready to implement your own collaborative learning program?


    How to create effective collaborative learning programs

    With benefits like improved engagement, knowledge retention, and critical thinking, it’s no wonder collaborative learning is gaining popularity.

    And the best part? It’s easy to implement. 

    Don’t be intimidated by the academic jargon. At its core, collaborative learning is all about facilitating communication and social interaction.

    In this section, we’ll go over three steps to incorporate collaborative learning in to your learning and development initiatives.


    Step #1: Define your goals

    Before implementing collaborative learning in your organization, ask yourself what you want to achieve with it. 

    Start by defining clear learning objectives that align with your overall training program and business goals. 

    Once you know what your end goals are, you can design training activities and lesson plans that develop these competencies.

    When you’re designing a training program with collaborative learning in mind, you’ll want to do things that facilitate communication and knowledge sharing.

    One idea is to always feature group discussions. This is the simplest and cheapest way to enable collaborative learning. Having your learners discuss the subject matter among themselves will boost retention and understanding. 

    For a more immersive experience, consider including group projects that allow learners to tackle real-life problems in a safe environment while building practical skills.

    These are also great for promoting cross-department collaboration.


    Step #2: Create personalized collaborative learning programs

    Collaborative learning works best in mid-size, or even better, small groups, allowing you to cater to individual learners. To engage learners, the material needs to be relevant to their experiences and jobs. 

    When it comes to task complexity, you need to find the sweet spot. Tasks need to be challenging complex enough that learners need to work together to solve them, but not so complex that students can’t participate.

    Group composition is another thing to pay attention to. There are arguments for both homogeneous (students have similar abilities) and heterogeneous (learners have different backgrounds and knowledge levels) groups. 

    Homogeneous groups promote participation, while heterogeneous ones encourage communication and knowledge sharing.

    The key takeaway? To make the most of collaborative learning, you need to tailor the learning activities to your students—their experience, knowledge levels, and job roles. 


    Step #3: Use a powerful LMS

    Online learning has emerged as the go-to method for employee training 

    But just because the learning is online doesn’t mean it can’t be collaborative. 

    In fact, modern LMSs make it easier than ever to integrate collaboration and social learning into your organization’s training programs. 

    Top LMSs, such as Docebo, come with features like group discussions, forums, chat, and program tracking. These tools engage learners, encouraging participation and knowledge sharing. 

    Plus, LMS analytics and reporting allow you to track participation and performance in group projects.

    Microlearning content can also be used to facilitate collaborative learning and provide jumping-off points for discussions. Since it’s delivered in bite-sized chunks, it’s easy for learners to consume and engage with the content.

    By centralizing all your learning resources, an LMS ensures you’re delivering the right training content to the right person or group. 

    Up next, it’s time to recap what we’ve learned.


    Now over to you

    Collaborative learning promotes communication and sharing knowledge through group discussions and projects. As a result, it requires learners to work together to solve challenges, share skills, and gain a deeper understanding of complex concepts. 

    And the benefits go beyond better learning outcomes. Organizations that embrace collaborative learning enjoy enhanced productivity and higher employee retention.

    Are you looking for ways to use learning to drive business success? Take a look at our glossary for the latest L&D insights and best practices.