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December 18, 2019

How Small Groups Facilitate Peer Learning

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Learning management systems and peer learning continue to evolve as the ways we work and live change. You can see this in the continued evolution of microlearning, gamification and the integration of video in standard training programs. Often, though, to continue to advance in learning and development, we often need to go back to the basics.

Let's start with a fundamental question: Who are we training? When designing an L&D program, we need to look at the who in a broader sense. Often, eLearning is thought of as an individual training practice. However, LMS can revolve around peer learning through small group learning projects. Let's learn more about LMS best practices in the small group environment.

Making small group learning work

There is much talk in the LMS industry about facilitating engagement, teamwork and learning across the entire workforce—no matter the geographical distribution. But this doesn't all have to occur in grand, sweeping gestures. Small learning groups, such as team training or one-on-one mentorships, provide strong foundations for peer-to-peer learning, where employees build bonds to teach and train one another.

As teams go on to collaborate on the job, that learning continues to connect dots until the full organization represents a complete constellation of active and engaged individuals.

According to the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, small group learning occurs when learners "work together in groups of typically 3-6 members, helping each other think critically, master course concepts, and apply them to real-world situations." Learners in small groups are motivated to achieve a common goal while supporting one another in the process.

Not all training techniques work best in a small group environment, however. For example, a chat function may become unwieldy for a large group, but it may be valuable in small group training. On the other hand, universal messaging and training provided to a large group allows each individual in the training to complete the assigned tasks. Although this may deliver training to learners, it defeats the collaborative purpose (and benefit) of peer-to-peer interaction in a small group.

Learning on-site vs. remotely

Like many employees, small group learners may be scattered across multiple physical offices, homes or other geographic locations. The International Workplace Group's "Global Workplace Survey" found that half of workers work remotely for at least half the week.

L&D professionals can still tailor practical small group training, even for these dispersed groups. Although a blended workforce offers richer, more diverse talent pools, it also creates additional challenges for management, especially when trying to get everyone on the same page for L&D. Even with learners scattered in numerous geographical locations, through small group learning platforms, the bonds between employees can be strengthened, giving both your employees and you an additional benefit.

Incorporate small group best practices

To conquer these challenges, L&D professionals can invest in an LMS platform offering reward-oriented learning features for remote employees, such as contests or visible leaderboards, encouraging teamwork and friendly competition across geographical lines.

To confirm that you're engaging all of your employees, whether they work right next to you or from their apartment in Singapore, invest in LMS data analytics. Analytics provide the insight you need to make sure you're meeting the needs of your small groups as well as allowing you to share your small group training successes company-wide.

However your workforce is distributed, small group training can help you generate the engagement and teamwork required to achieve the most effective, actionable learning possible.