The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly changed the way many people use online learning tools, and the Hubken Totara Learn solution is no exception. One of the most significant shifts recently has been towards online social learning.
After all, we’re social animals so collaboration, sharing and personal interaction are central to enjoyable learning and our physical remoteness has made that more apparent than ever.
In this article we look at the questions you should ask before you develop a social learning strategy and how Totara’s existing functionality can help you deliver it.
Cutting through information overload
We live in the data age where vast amounts of often contrasting information is available at the touch of a button. Broad, well informed learning comes from not just having access to information but from having connections with different sources of information as well as people with different perspectives on it.
While it’s easy to seal ourselves off into echo chambers of like-minded people true learning comes from hearing diversity of thought and having the skills to form a well-informed view on a given subject. Hubken’s Totara Learning solution is designed to enable connections.
5 questions to ask before developing a social learning strategyBefore you make a push to encourage more social learning ask yourself:
- Does your organisation’s brand identity build into your LMS? If your learners experience a familiar look and feel, in line with your brand they are more likely to feel comfortable and engaged when learning?
- Are your learners aware of discussion forums? – encourage them to dive in, ask questions, share and collaborate. Enable them to learn from each other and overcome challenges together.
- Are users creating their own profiles? – on social media most of us include some core information that represents who we are. Encourage your learners to do the same on your LMS including with images or videos.
- How easy is it to find content? – pretend to be a learner and try it yourself! Easy access to relevant content whether that’s formal courses or informal content is so important.
- Can you access user behaviour? – are you able to access information on how your learners are interacting with learning content and each other?
Enabling social learning
So, you’ve decided you want to encourage more social learning on your Totara LMS. Even if you are familiar with the following Totara functions, we think you’ll find some new tricks to encourage more social interaction.
Totara Learn includes a range of different forum types. Learners can search for existing discussions on given specific topics and learn from others as well as share their own perspectives. They can of course start their own topics, perhaps posing a question to others in the community. Totara Learn enables you to set parameters to encourage interaction for example you can hide forum comments until a learner has posted their own. You can also introduce grading for users to rate the quality of interactions from peers, helping to improve the overall quality of the information in the forum.
The chat function in Totara Learn enables you to create both ad-hoc and scheduled discussions. Perhaps you have an expert in a subject who is available to answer questions at a specific time. You can post notifications on your courses to let learners know when they are available. Learners can either drop into the live chat or the chat can be saved so that those who couldn’t make it can catch up later.
The seminar tool:
Totara Learn’s powerful seminar tool allows you to create virtual sessions for learners to connect. You can set up groups of learners such as project groups and set up single or multiple groups potentially running these simultaneously or concurrently with a tutor dipping in and out to facilitate learning and interaction. You can also allow learners themselves to dip in an out of different live discussions and use the choice function to allow learners to collaborate, vote and collect opinions on how people are feeling – especially important as we deal with the challenges of a pandemic.
The wiki and book tools:
Just like Wikipedia, Totara Learn’s wiki tool enables an individual or group to create a piece of content with all amendments and updates tracked so learners can see who changed what. This is a great way to encourage group work as different people and groups can contribute to a resource that develops and improves over time.
The book tool works in a similar way. The slightly simpler interface allows you to create chapters and sub-sections within those that make for a more linear and perhaps intuitive way for learners to access information although changes are not tracked as with the wiki function.
The assignment and workshop tool:
You can create singular as well as group assignments and of course facilitate interaction with the some of the tools we’ve already looked at. When you create a group you can set submission parameters for example that the group has to make a set number of submissions or that all members of a group to submit.
The workshop tool is a more advanced function which while taking longer to set up can be worth the extra effort. This allows peers to grade each other’s assessments. As the course manager you can set the grading criteria and apply scoring for individuals to either give a review to a peer or for them receiving one. Reassuringly there are tools to help identify any potential nepotism or otherwise for individuals giving outlier reviews that may arouse a little suspicion!
Time to get social!
We hope this has given you some food for thought about how to make social learning a bigger part of your online learning programme. We’re pretty sure that your learners will thank you for it.