Discussion Groups In Online Training

Why And How To Use Discussion Groups In Online Training

In the old days, all you could do was put some eLearning online and hope that your learners would find it. It wasn’t the ideal solution, but at the time it was all the technology allowed us to do. Well, you can thank your lucky stars that learning technology has kept evolving.

We now have the applications to support any training initiative we can conceive. The only problem is that these technological advances have happened so quickly, we’ve barely had time to adjust. Perhaps you’re reluctant to take a risk and try something new. Maybe you just don’t understand the options available to you. Whatever the reason, it’s time to step into the future of training.

One of the biggest advances has been the introduction of social functionality in online learning applications. We’ll look the advantages later but you might be wondering ‘where do I start with social learning?’. The answer lies with discussion forums.

What Is A Discussion Forum?

In general, discussion forums online let users log in and observe or partake in a discussion. This could be about anything from trombone maintenance to winter skincare dos and don’ts. These groups let people find answers to their burning questions from those in the know.

In a corporate training context, forums work in much the same way. Training managers can create a forum online for any work-related topic. Even the learners themselves can create a group chat to discuss concepts that the formal training doesn’t cover in enough detail.

How Are Discussion Groups Used In Online Training?

Not all training managers are completely behind the curve. Some have realized the potential of discussion groups for making the training go further. Here are a few examples of ways you can use chat groups. There’s even the chance that your training program already has a group discussion that you don’t know about, for example…

1. Learner Led

In cases where the learners set up their own discussion groups, that might not have been the initial intention. Maybe one person sends a WhatsApp message to a colleague, and that colleague adds another expert to the group. As more and more people are added, they might roll it out on LinkedIn or Facebook too. Before anyone knows what’s happened, they’ve grown a community of people, all passionate about database management!

2. Preparation Pre-Course

If a training manager has access to group discussion functionality on the LMS, they have a lot more control and visibility. Besides that, they can also tie the discussion groups to other activities, like workshops and classroom events. Prior to a face-to-face training session, the training manager can invite attendees to a related discussion group. There, the students can get to know each other and the training manager can get a better idea of where the knowledge gaps are.

3. Support Mid-Course

In a blended learning solution, discussion groups can also be used while the class is in session. This can help learners and trainers keep track of the lesson during the event and stay on topic. This is a huge bonus for any students who couldn’t quite make it to the session. With an active discussion group, they just need to log on and catch up with anything they missed.

4. Reinforcing Post-Course

Classroom training, like all one-off training interventions, is notoriously ineffective on its own. It’s thought that we forget about 90% of what we learn within a week if there’s no attempt to recall the information. Online discussion groups let the students keep the conversation going. With a little gamification thrown into the mix, the hunger for points and badges keeps them returning to the platform.

5. Sharing Knowledge On Topics

In any organization, so much knowledge gets transferred between employees that doesn’t get captured anywhere. For example, your formal retail training might cover the intricacies of operating a till but it might not address methods of dealing with difficult customers. On the other hand, the veterans will have collected their own personal favorite methods of diffusing tension. If they regularly contribute to a discussion forum, the organization can use that knowledge in future training initiatives.

6. Identifying Subject Matter Experts

Discussion groups also help the training managers discover who the go-to person is for any business-related knowledge. Gamification comes to the rescue once again! You can add a ‘top contributors’ leaderboard to each group and easily see who has the most to say on any topic. This makes life easier for the L&D department, and it also gives otherwise invisible employees a chance to be recognized for their expertise.

What Are The Benefits Of Discussion Groups In Online Training ?

As you can see from that small selection, there’s no limit to the ways you can leverage discussion groups in social learning. Once you finally do, here are a few key bonuses you can expect.

1. Peer To Peer Learning Is More Effective Than Formal Learning

Firstly, it’s accepted that informal learning makes up most of what we learn at work. The formal content only makes up roughly 10%, yet this is where most training managers focus their efforts. With discussion groups in place, you can start encouraging more of the learning that makes an impact.

2. Content Can Be Used In Formal Training

It’s difficult to stay on top of all of the formal training content. If a new piece of legislation is released, this might have an impact on your training collateral. On top of all of your other duties, this might slip past you. That compliance training that was perfect last week, might now be entirely obsolete. With more people discussing the same topics, there’s a better chance that somebody else will notice the discrepancy and flag it up.

3. Good For Organizational Culture

Discussion groups could be just the catalyst you need to send your organizational culture to the next level. If your learners have a more participative role in the training, they’re more likely to take ownership of it. This kind of engagement is the first sign of a cultural shift. Once they realize they can be recognized for their expertise, they’ll feel more empowered – something they’ll carry with them beyond the training and into their daily behaviors.

Final Words

Collaboration is just what your training program is crying out for. With relatively little effort, you could add a little social spark to your training. If your LMS already supports group discussions, make sure you’re using them to their full potential. If not, you can use an existing social app to get started. That should keep you going until you secure the budget to splash out on a NextGen LMS!

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