During the last decade, e-learning’s focus has shifted from straight content delivery to a learning approach that emphasizes communication and collaboration. As such, features that encourage sharing, connecting, relating, and other sorts of learner interaction have become commonplace in online learning environments. Important considerations in collaborative e-learning include:
- Directionality of Communication: Should be bidirectional, or better yet, multidirectional. Chats, video conferences, or online discussions are some tools with strong social components.
- Variety of Media: Interaction can be prompted through a variety of media, including texts, illustrations, audio, and video. These media can be shared, edited, and commented on using blogs, wikis, or online walls.
- Level of Engagement: Instead of just absorbing information, students must be actively engaged. Students can apply the information, as well as give and receive feedback from other colleagues. As communication flows between participants, the environment naturally becomes more enriching and conducive to learning.
While all types of communication can be valuable, this article focuses on asynchronous communication. Whereas synchronous communication requires real-time discussion (such as live chat rooms), asynchronous communication allows for a time lag, such as email or commenting on a blog post. Asynchronous communication is most often employed in corporate e-learning environments because it gives learners the chance to interact at their own pace and on their own schedule. Popular asynchronous tools include:
- Wikis – Appropriate for tasks that require reflection and more time to accomplish, they can be used to share ideas and resources on a topic.
- Email – Can be used for asking and answering questions, group project work, and collaborative activities.
- Discussion Forums and Message Boards – Allow a number of participants to hold conversations in the form of posted messages. They can be used to convert learning information into real knowledge.
- Blogs – Blogs are the ideal place for learners to share thoughts, gather ideas, comment, and engage in conversation. Blogs help students to “make sense” of what they are learning.
This chart illustrates how knowledge should be directed. We are focusing on knowledge transfer and exchange (KTE), which helps learners enrich their own learning experience.
A considerable body of research supports the benefits of group learning. As Yuen (2011)i affirms, the success of online learning environments depends on the knowledge sharing process. The various forms of communication facilitate knowledge acquisition, creation, and transmission. Learners can define problems and find solutions as a group, which encourages a sense of community. This sense of community cultivates self-efficacy and enhances learner motivation.
How do we support our clients?
Letting the learner interact with the content is the best way to promote a good learning experience. TransPerfect’s solutions allow clients to incorporate asynchronous learning tools into online training programs. These collaborative learning tools allow employees to acquire information more efficiently, which improves ROI for e-learning programs. Contact us today to learn how we can help you incorporate collaborative environments into your e-learning strategy.
Ma, W. W. K., & Yuen, A. H. K. (2011). Understanding online knowledge sharing: An Interpersonal relationship perspective. Computers & Education, 56(1), 210‐219.