Collaborative Learning in the Workplace

• 8 min read

Collaborative Learning in the Workplace: Benefits and How toLet’s talk collabs — no, not your Nikes (but yeah, they’re probably pretty fresh). What we are drawing on here is the collabing that makes the biggest impact on your business. It’s the collaboration between your workforce and their peers.

This generation of learners is more social than they’ve ever been before. You can find anyone, especially more public figures, just about anywhere on the internet. Social media, and namely YouTube, have changed the game and made everyone more accessible.

We use sites like YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook not only to connect with each other, but to learn from one another. Our favorite influencers and brand ambassadors are plastered on every social channel available, and we continually show up for it.

Whether it’s learning how to give yourself a fade at home during COVID-19 from your favorite local barber (we don’t encourage this), or learning to bake bread (this is probably fine), one thing has become clear: social and collaborative learning are what we’re used to.

The good news for you? There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when we already know what works.

What is Collaborative Learning?

You might be familiar with techstacks like Slack, Asana, Google Docs, Basecamp, and Wrike. What all of these have in common is that they promote productivity through social and collaborative experiences.

Group members all contribute to projects together to achieve common goals. They’re able to comment, ask questions, and give instantaneous feedback. Collaborative learning strategies mirror this concept.

Similar to being back in school classrooms when we participated in cooperative learning, we’re often engaged in peer to peer social interactions. When audiences learn with a social component, there’s individual accountability to learn, married with a more interactive learning experience. Being in grade school or at University, you’d see this when students would work on group projects together.

Collaborative corporate learning can take place in person (think of your Sales Kickoff or team building exercises), or it can happen while elearning (similar to how you search Google or YouTube to learn a new skill, and you’ll usually skim the comments section to understand others’ experiences with learning).

By putting different heads and skill sets together, you’re able to more interactively accomplish a task. Different people tackle challenges from unique angles, and it’s those differences in approach that contribute new, unique ways of understanding something.

Related: From The 70:20:10 Institute: Engagement Through Workplace Learning

Corporate Training vs. Collaborative Learning

When looking at corporate training vs. collaborative learning, it’s clear that you definitely need a mixture of both to conduct effective training.

In the past, most training has been conducted as top down, formal course offerings. This approach gave learners very little control about how, what, and when they consumed learning materials.

As HR Technologist points out, we know now according to the 70:20:10 model that formal top down training only accounts for 10% of the way people learn and retain new skills for their job. 70% of that happens doing the job, and the other bulky 20% percent happens through informal learning from peers.

What this tells us is that we can continue using formal training, but expecting that top down approach to land and expand on our learner’s knowledge, beyond very basic understanding, is simply unrealistic.

Related: What is Social Learning (And How to Adopt it)

Collaborative Learning Benefits

The idea behind creating a collaborative learning environment is to make learning less formal for your learners. Instead of letting admins and HR sit in the driver’s seat, you’re able to let your learners go for a spin. Giving them the freedom to contribute content and suggest materials helps them to further supplement their learning.

Your learners are also able to help each other by answering questions, providing feedback, and engaging with peers so that this responsibility does not solely live on your admins to-do list.

With your learners engaged in their learning communities, they can seek out their own training, feedback, and professional development. The best position to be in is to give your learners control over their individual learning and learning experiences as a whole.

Here are some positions we take on the benefits of collaborative learning.

  • SME’s? More Like MVP’s

We all have those employees who, given just about any job, come in and absolutely crush whatever it is they’ve been tasked with. Some members of our own Docebo family come to mind (if you’re ever wanting to chat with an HR boss, Francessca Bossi (CHRO) over here is your person). Their energy is infectious, and their passion and drive to outdo themselves again and again makes others want to do the same. These are your subject matter experts (SME’s).

The only challenge we really face with these professionals are their calendars; we all want time with them, but it’s just plain impossible to come by. Despite the fact that they are usually not just 9-5 type folks, you’re still lucky if you’re able to buy them coffee and capture some of their knowledge over a quick 15 minutes.

The right technology, however, makes leaders like Francessca easier to train with and capture knowledge from, without having 50 different people take places on her calendar. Despite the fact that she is in Italy and Docebo has offices all over the globe, other members of the HR team are able to hop into a platform in the flow of work, and dive into pieces of content that she has produced.

Mentorship and coaching are an intimate part of learning, and with our SME’s being the gold standard, it gives learners something to strive towards. Being taught and coached by the best in our field makes us feel esteemed, which incentivizes learners to keep showing up for you.

  • We’re All In This Together

A lot of us are working from home, especially during the current pandemic. Even before home offices became the new normal, organizations were feeling the strains that come with being a scattered or global workforce. It’s challenging to streamline communication, training, and branded messaging.

In these cases, communication tools are a fantastic way to get in touch with someone quickly, but a lot of the information we share on these platforms is quickly lost or siloed. Documents, PDF’s, videos, etc. are all easy to share and sometimes even easier to misplace.

Learning communities where admins can assign different teams and channels transition us from simply communicating to learning. These strategies give you more visibility to ensure that all of the information being shared is accurate and streamlined. As a result, your global teams on every coast and across every time zone are receiving the right content, so that no matter where business is taking place, it’s consistent with your brand’s expectations.

In addition, what’s better than all of your top performers being able to share best practices and coach your workforce, despite geography? Answer: basically nothing! You can use your learning method to break barriers and create mentorships amongst employees across the globe, without having to pay top dollar for face to face promotional interaction. This is as cutting edge as it gets.

Related: How Docebo Discover, Coach & Share Could Help you Uncover Learning Gold

Lest We Forget: The Forgetting Curve

Most learning and development (L&D) gurus know the work of Ebbinghaus and his studies on The Forgetting Curve.

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) helps us understand this in layman’s terms. Hermann Ebbinghaus was a psychologist who devoted his studies to unpacking why we forget and just how quickly it happens. He came to the conclusion that thirty days after learning something, if we have not reinforced that knowledge, it is likely to be totally forgotten.

ATD goes on to say that “the natural conclusion to the Forgetting Curve is the Spacing Effect.” The Spacing Effect is almost exactly as it sounds: the goal is to make learning more digestible by spanning it over time. This way, the learner is able to internalize what they’ve learned to retain it long term. I’m sure anyone who attended University can attest to cramming as a last ditch effort as opposed to an effective learning process (though, let’s be honest, we probably all regrettably tried it once or twice).

So, how does all of this affect your learning management system or learning technology?

Social and collaborative learning in the workplace are where you reinforce training. By having peers interact and teach each other through coaching, training, and questionnaires, everyone gets the repetition that they need. When learners actively participate in cooperative learning, they constantly bump into the same best practices being echoed in your channels, which helps make them stick.

Collaboration helps us reiterate what we’ve learned once or twice already, and hearing that third person say it is what makes it cement. These bite size reinforcements help your learners to garner a better grip onto what you’ve taught them so they can then teach others too.

Related: 3 Shocking Facts About Knowledge Retention

But Wait, There’s More: Collaborative Learning Strategies

With collaborative learning, you can unlock your learners’ expertise, encourage them to exchange best practices, reinforce them with peer-review, and have them share knowledge across teams.

Some of the ways to bring this to life can be to record demos, lectures, webinars, and calls directly within your platform that can then be shared across your learning communities.

You should also quickly pull pre-built reports that show you who your most engaged employees are, identify internal subject-matter experts, and how much user-generated content (UGC) is spreading knowledge company-wide. This data will help you celebrate the work of your learners and show you how effective your program is overall.

Here are some areas where you can plug and play these strategies:

  • Customer Enablement: Foster a sense of community with your customers by creating curated content channels focused on their interests and giving them a place to ask questions and get the expert insight they need.
  • Sales Enablement: Unlock sales expertise beyond just formal sales training to drive revenue and open new partner channels. Share recorded demos, sales calls, success stories, strategies, and more, directly in the platform to share with your entire salesforce and deliver the business numbers.
  • Employee Development & Retention: Give thousands of users a single place to uncover content from inside and outside of your learning platform, ask questions to internal experts and receive answers, then house and publish the conversations for all, boosting employee engagement and developing them into business champions.

Related: How efficient Customer Training enables scalable, rapid growth for Appian


Collaboration is where the best work comes to life. There’s a reason why the best song writers, fashion icons, and brands advertise their own collaborations! Two, three, and four heads are always better than one. Learning and Development is no different. The more knowledge and expertise that we have flowing between our learners, the better the outcomes.

From breaking silos and reinforcing best practices, to distributing C-Suite knowledge to your newest employees, collaboration is the way to stretch your talent’s knowledge further. And the best part? It’s really not that hard *mic drop*.

It’s time to close the loop between L&D and the core objectives of your organization and prove the value of learning. Download our whitepaper, Close The Learning Loop.