Learners are fatigued and “too tired to learn.” Learning and development (L&D) professionals are also feeling stretched and dissatisfied, according to the 800 L&D professionals surveyed for Blanchard’s 2022 Learning Trends Survey.

The survey revealed that:

  • 59% of L&D professionals want more learner engagement in their designs.
  • 54% want more social interaction.
  • 53% believe their virtual and digital offerings are less effective than face-to-face versions.

The old ways and methods of L&D created for the in-person classroom aren’t translating to the needs of today’s remote learners. We need to create solutions with higher engagement and social quotients. A collaborative online approach is a possible solution.

Collaborative online learning experiences provide the opportunity to learn, apply, reflect and refine in a remote learning environment — exactly what today’s learner wants. Collaborative online learning experiences are ideal for onboarding new hires, sales training, leadership development and customer care.

Collaborative online learning experiences are not a cure-all for every challenge of the moment, but in the right application, they can successfully address learner and L&D concerns about engagement and social interaction.

Designing Engaging Collaborative Online Solutions

Here are seven overall design tips to guide you in your remote learning journey:

1. Infuse the 30/70 model (30% learning, 70% application) into your designs. It can help your learners to create their own relevance and put their new learning to work quickly and often.

2. Ensure that learners have numerous opportunities to learn, apply, reflect and refine. Stimulating social interaction is a powerful way to increase engagement. Learners publish their answers to assignments, and their colleagues provide insightful commentary on what they’ve learned. Along the way, you’ll want to teach participants how to be good social learners and provide some solid rules in terms of social learning etiquette. This ensures that interactions are frequent, positive and productive.

3. Create weekly reflection videos to provide reinforcement. Enhance engagement in collaborative online solutions with a weekly reflection video from leadership experts. Experts can create videos that recap poignant learning moments from the previous week and share what’s coming next.

These videos serve as a bridge between formal learning sessions, showing key discussions that led to new ways of thinking, “aha” moments revealed in the prior week and how those will propel learners into our next module of content. This again helps learners create their own relevance and anticipation for what is to come. The videos are easy to create, so you don’t need lots of in-house expertise to make them.

4. Design the experience pages so they are easy to navigate, welcoming and engaging. Ensure that your collaborative online experiences are built using a specific online learning platform. This is ideal for creating learning experiences that provide engagement, social interaction, knowledge acquisition and integration into the flow of work.

For example, Blanchard’s Self Leadership learning program originally existed as an eight-hour face-to-face class that was also offered in a virtual instructor-led training (VILT) format and an eLearning format. To transform this offering into collaborative online learning experience, we used the existing modalities, pulled them apart into 139 discrete learning objects and re-storyboarded the content to create something new. It’s now a collaborative learning experience that unfolds in six one-hour sessions over six weeks. Each week includes foundational content and a live virtual session where people come together — we call them INSPIRE sessions.

5. Create a compelling communications campaign that wraps around the entire experience. Design communication that announces the start of the program, reminder messages for participants to begin each new module or content area, nudges for those who haven’t engaged and messages that celebrate a learner’s progress as well as their completion of the program.

Have an executive sponsor or key stakeholder set the stage. The support of an organizational leader is essential to the success of an important training initiative. It shows that your company places a high priority on the experience and has expectations for all learners.

A welcome video from a key sponsor can easily be incorporated into the collaborative online solution. It can serve to set the tone and goals. It can also tell participants how what they’ll be learning supports the strategic pillars of the company: its mission, values and goals. The production doesn’t have to be perfect. Senior executives can create powerful, compelling messages on their mobile devices. If there is one thing we’ve learned in the last two years, it’s that substance over style enables us to do a lot more a lot quicker.

6. Design a badging strategy and a digital credential at program completion. Learners can display it on their LinkedIn profile, or other social media, and in their email signature line. The skills you are investing in your people are largely portable — they have value outside of your organization. Why not let them share their skills and capability with the world? Digital credentials enable you to give the gift (learning and credentialing) that engages, incentivizes and keeps giving long after the formal learning is done.

7. Incorporate social learning opportunities. This can mean discussion threads and assignments with social learning constructs that wrap around and small group work. One of the incredible benefits to adding social learning elements is that people can get to know one another.

It’s special work to allow people to meet others they may never have met if it weren’t for a development opportunity that purposefully made introductions across the business. One of the greatest gifts we can give learners now is a sense of connectedness. These opportunities also help break down silos when we’re talking about cross-functional skill development using global cohorts.

Engage and Support Today’s Learner

Today’s remote and hybrid worker needs something more out of their learning experiences. They need something that engages, is relevant to the work issues they are facing and provides an opportunity to work together with colleagues again — an essential human need.

By using the techniques described above, you can create a memorable collaborative online experience for your people that not only teaches them new skills but does it in a way that is fun and socially rewarding.