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G’day Troubleshooters! Another week has flown by and it’s time once again for Troubleshooting Thursdays.

As you can see from the title of this blog post, we’re well into our series on trends in manufacturing training. In fact, today’s post is already Part 7—that just shows you how many hot topics there are in manufacturing training at the moment (and counting).

If you’re joining us in the middle of things and want to go back to the beginning (or somewhere else), here are the trends in manufacturing training that we’ve covered so far:

Part 1: Learning management systems (LMS)

Part 2: Microlearning

Part 3: Gamification

Part 4: Simulation

Part 5: 3D/virtual reality/augmented reality/mixed reality

Part 6: Adaptive learning

All of these posts will bring you up to speed on where training in general is heading, and one or more of them will definitely be relevant to your particular business’s training needs. In general, each of these trends have the benefits of simultaneously improving learning and the company bottom line.

Okay, on to today’s topic: collaborative learning.

Collaborative learning: Peer-to-peer, mutual education

Collaborative learning is an educational approach based on the understanding that learning is a naturally social act. It involves groups of individuals of differing abilities working together to learn a skill, solve a problem, complete a task, or create something. In the course of this collaboration, they share experiences, draw on one another’s skills and knowledge (e.g., asking one another for information or explanations), evaluate one another’s ideas, and articulate and defend their own ideas. They actively engage their peers, converse with them, and are challenged by new perspectives. They may even monitor or participate in the assessment of one another’s work. As the learners engage in their common task, and they are dependent on and accountable to one another. In these ways, collaborative learning shifts the responsibility for learning away from the instructor and toward the students themselves.

First popularized in the late 80s and early 90s, this trend has been around for a while, but has new juice because of the rise of social media and recent purpose-built technologies such as social collaboration software. In the age of social media, collaborative learning is most definitely a good fit—our instinct to turn to online peers for sharing and advice is well established. Collaborative learning can happen face-to-face, but increasingly uses chat rooms, message boards, and other online conversation formats such as social collaboration software.

Benefits of collaborative learning

According to a large body of research on this educational model, collaborative learning has a number of benefits:

1. Social benefits

Collaborative learning helps develop cooperative working skills in students, and typically results in more caring, supportive, and committed relationships. It provides a social support system for learners; builds diversity awareness; develops learning communities; and provides a positive atmosphere for practicing cooperation. These cooperative relationships and skills can last long beyond the duration of the learning and continue to provide lasting benefits, including better conflict resolution and general social competence.

2. Psychological benefits

Compared to competitive and individualistic instruction methods, collaborative learning offers several psychological benefits. It develops oral communication skills and therefore confidence; students are actively responsible for their own learning and their contributions to the group, which increases self-esteem; and the atmosphere of cooperation and mutual help reduces anxiety.

3. Academic benefits

Collaborative learning has many academic benefits as well. Because students must evaluate the ideas of others, and explain their own, it promotes critical thinking. Because students are engaged and invested in their own learning, it improves classroom results and increases motivation. Finally, tutoring others in the group forces students to have a firm grasp of the material themselves.

4. Corporate benefits

Collaborative learning also brings a number of benefits to corporate and manufacturing training:

      • It’s one way of shrinking the skills gap. The manufacturing skills gap is getting worse every year, as experienced older workers retire and younger workers with far less experience are hired to replace them. Collaborative learning gives experienced workers an opportunity to hand on their knowledge to the next generation before they walk out the door. Employers can easily incentivize this kind of informal mentoring with rewards such as gift cards, or formal recognition, or moving the employee along their career path.
      • It can lower training costs. By offloading some of the program instructor’s traditional duties, e.g., when peer-mentors offer help, answer questions, or share tips with other group members, it lowers training costs by reducing the administrator burden.

    And that’s it for today, Troubleshooters! Remember to tune in and join us again next Thursday. Have a great week.

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