Using online communities to extend the learning experience

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    Learners are busier than ever. So, as learning experts, we have become experts in meeting learners where they are (virtual, on-demand, hybrid) and responding to the resurgence of in-person education. A variety of modern learning tools ensure that learning and development is timely and impactful in the moment.

    Ultimately, our purpose as L&D practitioners within our organization is to facilitate the development and adoption of new skills. This takes time, repetition and continuous practice. Demonstrating new behaviors consistently takes effort, and it is often difficult to maintain momentum once the formal learning event is over. Newly learned skills are perfected through practice, and guided repetition allows learners to hone their teaching in a positive environment. The proliferation of online communities in use and familiarity can extend learning experiences and increase engagement by providing a place for learners to connect, continuously develop and hone their skills.

    In formal L&D programs, collaboration times are often guided and scheduled, allowing learners to share ideas and interact before moving on to the next topic. While contributing in this way, Has been shown to create a deeper understanding of context and increase the likelihood of exhibiting desired behaviorwhich can feel contrived and is often only included in the program itself.

    But what if there was a way to facilitate collaborative learning in a more organic way?

    As an L&D leader, you can take simple steps to nurture your online community.

    The Age of “We”

    In 2020 and beyond, online communities will become an increasingly important place to connect and learn from peers and leaders. Since COVID lockdowns, existing communities have seen an 81% increase in engagement, with 98% of people reporting a greater sense of belonging. A significant percentage of people have started to feel more comfortable navigating and connecting with online communities. This supports the premise that the environment can be used to extend the learning experience with the right approach. Part of this can be attributed to the severe isolation many experienced during the pandemic lockdown, but that sense of belonging remains central to people’s desire to remain involved in their communities. I’m here.

    Communities foster connections

    We all feel the need to connect. Online communities are a natural meeting place for furthering L&D efforts. The goal of online communities is to create spaces for people to connect and interact meaningfully. Ideally, an autonomous environment can provide a platform for sharing ideas, insights, experiences, advice and knowledge. Online communities thrive when people are able to form social relationships and develop a sense of belonging.

    Communities give learners individual access to peers in cohorts and new contacts. With the rise of remote work and flexible working hours, meeting learners wherever they are is more important than ever. These instances range from casual check-ins for upcoming events on smartphones to structured surveys by posting questions (and getting multiple well-placed answers) on forums. structured learning.

    Focused groups within the learning community encourage members to explore topics specific to their needs. Additionally, by offering multiple groups, the community can spark curiosity, foster learning on a broader scale, and inspire a more diverse and engaged community. For example, you can join Sephora’s award-winning community to learn about her makeup solutions for oily skin, or join the ‘Oily Skin’ group with over 70,000 members. The same learner may then decide to deepen her knowledge of her application of makeup by consulting a thread in the “Everything Eyes” group that provides tips on the latest eye makeup techniques. This benefits both Sephora and her members of the community by exposing members to alternative content. This is to expand opportunities for members to learn and connect.

    Additionally, online communities can foster global connections. Forums and discussions are available in multiple languages ​​and help bridge cultural gaps. This leads to a deeper understanding of the topic and creates meaningful relationships between people from different parts of the world, ultimately leading to greater understanding and connection.

    Communities extend the learning experience

    Online communities provide a safe place for learners to interact with each other and exchange ideas. Through live feeds, discussion forums, chat rooms, moderated events, direct messages, and other interactive tools, learners can ask questions, offer feedback, and get feedback from others who have had similar experiences. increase. There are four main ways online communities can support the learning experience:

    • continuous learning: Communities can support continuing education by providing opportunities for learners to progress beyond formal training programs. For example, the Blanchard community offers regular webinars, discussion forums, or other resources to keep learners up to date with the latest developments in their field. Additionally, learners can get feedback on their work so they can improve their skills in real time.
    • Knowledge sharing: Communities facilitate the sharing of expertise among learners. By sharing experiences and insights, and by practicing moderation and oversight, learners can build a collective understanding of the subject matter and help sustain learning over time. Forum discussions and carefully placed chat topics often encourage this kind of collaborative learning.
    • Peer support: Learning can be challenging and learners may need support and encouragement to stay motivated. Communities can provide a space for learners to connect with peers and receive real-time support and feedback. Accolades can extend beyond one-off certifications and course graduations. This keeps them engaged and motivated throughout the learning process.
    • Mentoring: The community can also offer mentoring and coaching opportunities. Experienced learners or subject matter experts can provide guidance and advice to beginners to help them overcome challenges and maintain learning. Additionally, recognition and awards may be incorporated for community her members who regularly help other members or achieve professional milestones.

    Fostering a community of learners

    Perhaps you’re reading this article and all of the above sounds tempting but is out of your reach. By taking a few simple steps, you can help your community grow and become self-sufficient. It’s easy to start with something small and manageable.

    Once you’ve outlined your community’s purpose and goals, choose a platform that fits your budget and audience. Online communities exist in many places for learners, from LMS systems to his SharePoint sites and MS teams, to forums like Reddit and Discourse, on one of many customizable and configurable platforms. can host. Naturally, there are online communities that help and support their members in building and nurturing their online communities. There are learning possibilities available to all.

    Using online communities can facilitate the development and adoption of new skills. This takes time, repetition and constant practice. Communities allow learners to practice and socialize, leading to better outcomes. Better results lead to bottom line benefits and demonstrate the true value of L&D within an organization.

    In summary, online communities can be powerful tools for strengthening and sustaining L&D efforts. Leverage various elements of online communities, including resources, forums, and events, to foster knowledge sharing, peer support, ongoing learning, and mentoring. Over time, you’ll get the measurable results you want your training to achieve, such as increased employee engagement, adoption of new skills, or improved performance. All of this is supported by a community of motivated and dedicated learners.


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