We first learned the importance of compromise, cooperation, and collaboration in grade school as we worked in harmony with our classmates to solve problems. It should come as no surprise that more and more decision-makers in the workplace are starting to realize the merits of collaborative learning.

Nearly all the members of an Eduflow survey responded that collaborative learning was either important or essential to their work, yet, surprisingly, only one in five learning specialists use it regularly. This means many organizations are missing out on the benefits that come with this type of learning experience.

In this article, we’ll explore what collaborative learning is, how it works, and how you can benefit from it as an instructional designer or other professional in the digital learning space. By the time you’re done, you’ll be ready to implement collaborative learning practices in your organization.

Let’s dive in!

What is collaborative learning?

At its most fundamental level, collaborative learning is a method of learning that takes place when two or more people interact with each other to exchange information, ideas, and opinions to solve a problem. 

This type of learning requires the participants to actively engage with one another in an effort to reach their common goal. Collaborative learning can take many forms such as group discussions, brainstorming sessions, team projects, or other activities that involve multiple individuals working together towards a shared objective.

The beauty of this learning method is it can take place through many different mediums, including face-to-face conversations, digital platforms, social media, and even through virtual reality.

At ELM, we understand how difficult it can be to pick the right training methods for your employees based on individual learning styles, but collaborative learning can be a fun, innovative, and creative approach to guide you in your mission and create a truly symbiotic work environment.

How collaborative learning works

At its core, collaborative learning involves multiple people working together on tasks or projects with the goal of achieving a common outcome. Rather than just staying in their lane, they can benefit from insights from each other while simultaneously growing their knowledge base. 

When done correctly, this type of team effort can be extremely powerful and beneficial for any organization or project. It encourages team members to think beyond their own experiences and perspectives and look for other solutions or ideas. Instructional designers can be especially well-positioned to benefit from collaborative learning in the digital learning space. 

By working together with developers, instructional designers can help them understand the needs of learners while also gaining insight into how best to design engaging content. 

Likewise, developers can offer feedback on what works best from a technical standpoint, which is invaluable information for instructional designers who are tasked with creating effective courses. 

By incorporating collaborative learning techniques into your training structure, you can create a learning organization that values knowledge as an integral component of its corporate identity and long-term vision for success.

Why should you consider collaborative learning?

So, why should you consider collaborative learning as part of your learning and development program? Here’s what we think at ELM:

1. Increased engagement

Collaborative learning has been proven to increase engagement in the classroom and workplace. Employees are more likely to be motivated, productive, and engaged when they have a sense of ownership over their work. 

2. Improved problem-solving skills

Working together on projects encourages employees to think outside the box, exchange ideas, and brainstorm solutions. The improved problem-solving skills resulting from this process can help improve productivity and team performance in the long run. 

3. Enhanced communication & teamwork

By working together as a team, employees learn how to communicate effectively with one another, which leads to better understanding and improved teamwork. This group mentality can also help build relationships amongst colleagues, which, in turn, can lead to increased job satisfaction and a more positive work environment overall. 

4. Improved knowledge & understanding

Collaborative learning encourages employees to ask questions and learn from each other’s experiences. This helps create an environment where everyone can share their knowledge and grow together as a team.

Clearly, collaborative learning has many benefits that can help enhance your learning and development program. But the benefits don’t stop there. 

Benefits of collaborative learning

Organizations that embrace collaborative learning stand to benefit in many other ways beyond the obvious ones mentioned above. These benefits include: 

1. Increased productivity

Studies have shown that collaborative learning can help organizations become more productive by allowing employees to work together to find solutions and develop better ideas faster. 

2. Enhanced creativity

As mentioned above, working collaboratively encourages employees to think more creatively and create unique solutions to problems. This can lead to improved creativity in the workplace, which can help organizations stay ahead of their competition. 

3. Increased motivation

Collaborative learning encourages employees to work together and support each other, providing a greater sense of camaraderie and motivation among staff members. This helps create an environment where employees are motivated to do their best work and push themselves further than they would on their own. 

4. Reduced costs

By encouraging collaborative learning in the workforce, organizations can reduce costs associated with training programs and other overhead expenses related to employee development initiatives. 

By leveraging these benefits, organizations can gain a competitive edge over their competitors while improving employee morale and reducing costs associated with training programs.

Collaborative learning theories

Theories of collaborative learning can be traced back to the late 19th century when psychologist Lev Vygotsky developed his Zone of Proximal Development theory. This theory suggests that collaboration between learners with differing levels of knowledge and experience can help them develop skills more quickly than if they were working alone. 

Today, there are many popular theories on collaborative learning which have been adapted to fit modern learning environments. Let’s go over a few of them!

Social interdependence theory

This theory states that collaboration between individuals is essential for successful learning and emphasizes the importance of teamwork and shared goals in order to achieve success. 

This theory can be applied in multiple ways in terms of workforce training. For example, a company could create teams of employees with complementary skills and assign them tasks that require collaboration to complete. 

This could help foster an environment of cooperation and support within the team, resulting in better performance overall. Additionally, collaborative learning can be used for problem-solving activities that encourage groups to devise creative solutions to workplace challenges. 

This type of activity helps learners develop their critical thinking skills and encourages them to work together as a team and learn from each other’s perspectives.

Constructivism theory

The premise behind this theory is that learners are actively constructing knowledge through their interactions with one another rather than passively absorbing it from instructors or texts. 

L&D professionals can use constructivism theories of learning to create engaging, collaborative learning experiences for their employees. They can facilitate activities that encourage learners to ask questions, share ideas, and work together as a team to build solutions. 

By doing so, they’ll be able to foster an environment where everyone is an active participant in the learning process. At the same time, learning and development specialists should also focus on creating individualized training paths based on each worker’s unique needs and goals. 

By providing personalized support throughout the process, they’ll ensure that their employees get the most out of their experience. 

Connectivism theory

This theory focuses on the idea that collaboration can create new networks of knowledge and understanding that can shape our thinking. 

Workers can benefit from the connectivism learning theory by engaging in activities such as group projects, collaborative brainstorming sessions, workshops, and more. These activities allow individuals to learn from each other while building relationships and trust within their teams.

 By facilitating open dialogue between employees, managers can create a culture of collaboration where everyone feels comfortable speaking up about their ideas or thoughts without fear of judgment or criticism. This helps create a more efficient, productive workplace where everyone works together towards common goals.

By understanding these theories, instructional designers and educators can design collaborative learning activities that foster active engagement in the classroom or the workplace and help learners develop new skills and knowledge.

5 great examples of collaborative learning

From providing more effective training for employees to creating a more productive working environment, collaborative learning can help organizations achieve great things. 

Here are five timely examples of how companies have used collaborative learning to their advantage: 

1. Adobe

Adobe noticed that after a surge in remote working, employees sought to create or reinforce connections with their colleagues, so they tested useful models and standards for hybrid meetings to bring people together. Thus, Lab 82 was born—a space created to foster togetherness and experimentation for employees.

2. Microsoft

Microsoft developed its own in-house platform, Yammer, which allows teams across different offices and countries to communicate easily and work on projects together. 

3. Google 

One of the most innovative companies in the world, Google encourages employees to come up with creative solutions and collaborate on projects through its “20% time” initiative that allows engineers to spend one day a week working on their own pet projects. 

4. Apple 

Apple is known for fostering collaboration among its teams by creating an atmosphere that encourages open dialogue and constructive criticism among team members. 

5. Amazon 

The creator of the world’s largest online retailer uses the “two-pizza rule” to ensure all groups are small enough to promote meaningful communication. If a group swells to a size that two pizzas cannot feed, that group does not promote meaningful collaboration. 

Summing it all up

Collaborative learning is an effective way to foster a productive and engaged workforce. It enables employees to develop their own ideas, collaborate with peers on complex tasks, practice problem-solving skills, and create meaningful connections within the team.

With its focus on creativity, communication, critical thinking, and collaboration—all essential elements of successful teams—collaborative learning can improve job performance and productivity. 

If you want to create real change through a smart, beautiful learning experience, ELM Learning is ready to help you. We at ELM believe organizations can succeed when they commit to building a culture of continuous learning. 

Discover how collaborative learning can help you succeed. Contact us today