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Collaborative Learning Environment – The Way Forward

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Does completion of an eLearning course hosted on the company’s intranet or LMS, complete the individual’s learning process? We know that, given the current dynamic business environment and market competition, learning needs to be an ongoing process. In this context, can a couple of isolated eLearning courses hosted online aid in continuous learning?
What happens when individuals wish to discuss, share and learn from each other’s experiences after completing an eLearning course? What are the avenues open to them?

Individuals do use the web and collaborate using social networks for personal and professional purposes. They may have a LinkedIn group, where they interact and exchange information. However, do organizations provide such environment or tools, for collaboration and networking within the formal corporate learning environment?

In an article titled, “Social software: E-learning beyond learning management systems”, Christian Dalsgaard of Institute of Information and Media Studies, University of Aarhus, Denmark, make an interesting point. He says eLearning needs to “engage students in an active use of the web as a resource for their self-governed, problem-based and collaborative activities“. Social software tools can be effectually integrated with learning management systems of today, to create a vibrant collaborative environment for learners.

In fact, New York University is in the process of replacing its existing LMS with a new open source LMS that facilitates a participatory culture among students. As a result of the new environment, students are encouraged to contribute to the learning environment and establish a social connect with their peers. The same need is felt in many corporate organizations as well.

Some organizations, such as IBM, have begun offering a range of social networking tools such as blogs, discussion forums, wikis for collaboration and interaction between employees. The key idea behind such initiatives is to develop an inclusive learning environment, where learners are given an array of options to learn, contribute and interact with their peers.

Gone are the days when learning in isolation, is adequate for personal growth. Collaborative learning environment is the way forward and the sooner organizations realize its relevance to their business, the better. Therefore, formalizing collaborative learning environment, as a part of an organization’s eLearning initiatives, enhances learning culture within the organization.

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