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But What About Aggregators and LMSs?

They have collaborative features, don't they?

Kinda, but content aggregation platforms perpetuate the problems of content-focused learning. These useful but limited solutions exclude collaborative, contextual elements through which skill transformation takes root. Unlike content-focused methodologies in which learners listen passively, absorb content, and then take a validating quiz, collaborative learning helps learners move beyond memory games and into accountability. They help employees move from theory and regurgitation to real understanding and on-the-job application.

Accountability breeds transformation. It’s the same reason many people join book clubs: knowing that others are paying attention and expecting engagement greatly raises the chances of both completing the material and thinking about it in a deeper, more thoughtful way. Engaging with others’ around perspectives which may be wildly different than one’s own accelerates the shift from “something read” to “something learned,” and creates a richer, more transformative experience than content absorption alone can provide. Just like a book club, the peer-to-peer contextual learning experience is as important as the content itself.

Content has had a lot of rigor in the learning industry. Now, collaborative methodologies ask for the same rigor around context, which, thanks to technology, can be achieved at a grander scale than ever before.

And though an LMS might have a discussion forum bolted on, or an e-learning module might be “gamified” in some way, that’s not real collaborative learning. Collaborative online learning is both a technology, and an approach, a modality. The program designers must bear collaboration in mind and weave it into the very fabric of the course itself. Having a discussion forum with a vague hope that people will use it because it’s there just doesn’t cut it in the modern highly-distracted and time-starved worklives of learners. It has to be ruthlessly relevant, required for both completion and understanding, and engaging.

Giving learners a Facebook- or Twitter-esque way to voice their opinions can be useful, but it’s not collaborative. It creates a series of monologues piled up on each other rather than a dialogue between peers. Learners’ opinions won’t be changed or improved simply by posting what they are, and posting individual opinions is not the same as working together to understand concepts, which broadens learners’ perspectives and teaches important soft skills.

This is just one section from our definitive guide to collaborative online learning.

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