Peer Learning and MOOCs: Using Technology to Maximize Employee Learning

How well do people in your organization learn from each other their basic skills and knowledge? ten%? 20%? Probably closer to 80%. Do you know what they teach? Does this meet the goals of your exercise program? Well, it’s hard to judge, but one thing’s for sure – they’ll remember it. No matter how much time or energy you put into creating content and planning your training, your employees will learn more from their colleagues. In a previous series, we looked at the benefits of using a mass open online course (MOOC) to integrate informal learning into curricula. Here we will focus more specifically on mutual learning and on how MOOC can be used to facilitate, structure and evaluate it.

Collegiate learning is a powerful learning tool, but one that is largely unused in an organized way, often because of the belief that it does not allow for very tight control. One of the methods that many companies use is mentoring, and studies have shown that employees with mentors feel more support from the organization, show greater commitment from the organization, and are more likely to stay. But mutual learning takes place in different ways: people constantly give each other advice, opinions and special lessons, by email, by phone and even at the cooler with water. While these interactions are informal, they nevertheless provide a great deal of organizational experience, and it may be useful for enterprises not only to encourage them, but also to promote them.

Organizations have many reasons to apply mutual training:

People remember what they learn from each other, more than listening to a lecture or reading a document.
Collegiate learning is by far the cheapest option for learning.
Mutual learning often focuses more on “just on time” training than on “just in case” training, and leads to more direct results.
People often prefer to learn from their peers.
Collegiate training enables organizations to leverage a broader knowledge base and find innovative new approaches to problem-solving.

The main problem for organizations is that most of the mutual learning takes place in an unstructured environment, making it impossible to accurately assess what is being studied. However, as more online training takes place and social networking integration begins, better tools are being made available to facilitate, track and control the quality of mutual learning. One of the best ways to integrate mutual learning directly into formal learning practices is to use MOOC.

MOOC has changed a lot in its short life. The first MOOC was based on a connectivist structure in which the creation of personal knowledge networks was considered more important than the content studied. Then, with the advent of Coursera, MOOC began to resemble traditional classroom classes, where lectures became the main activity. Now the pendulum is returning to closer cooperation, and preliminary results from moOC’s new joint provider, NovoEd, show that students are more likely to stick to courses that focus on social interaction.

Previously, we have explored learning resources using technologies that promote social interaction at MOOC. Here are some structured and measurable ways to use these tools to ensure that mutual learning meets your organization’s goals.

Social media and MOOC’s personal office. The MOOC control panel resembles the course homepage: it contains course navigation buttons, course calendar, and links to course and event pages. Many MOOC also collect student blog posts and Twitter feeds directly on the toolbar so that students can easily access their peers’ content. It is a way for teachers to see what students are talking about and to highlight the best or most important messages from students.

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