How to Facilitate Community-based Learning?

The general job of L&D could be defined as transferring knowledge from those who have learned to those who need to learn. However, a challenge is that no matter the resources available, an L&D team is never able to accommodate all the learning needs in an organisation. The business needs and skills required at work are simply too complex – and changing rapidly. But could we do more without adding traditional resources? Community-based learning is a strategy that aims to connect organisational experts to learners and cut away the clutter in between. So, let’s look at how leveraging learning communities could benefit your organisation.

What is community-based learning?

Like mentioned, a community-based learning approach aims to connect organisational experts to the learners directly. On one hand, this allows willing experts to share their knowledge in a convenient manner. On the other hand, it enables the L&D to “crowdsource” a large part of its traditional work. A practical application of this could be employees sharing their own expertise to colleagues through a medium of their choosing.

How does this benefit the L&D team?

The benefits of community-driven learning can be manifold. Generally, effective strategies follow a particular division of labour. The L&D function tends to handle high-intensity, high-cost initiatives, whereas the community contributions tend to be more “long tail”. Regardless, organisations employing community-based learning strategies may see the benefits such as:

  • Much broader offerings of learning, without huge increases in direct cost
  • Better visibility to changing learning needs in the organisation
  • Increased collaboration opportunities, as people become aware of each other’s work and projects
  • The ability for the L&D team to focus on high-impact activities

How can we facilitate community-based learning in an organisation?

While there are many solutions to a problem, and you should always take your organisational culture into account, we’ve seen two distinct enablers for community-driven learning.

Firstly, since the idea is to match subject matter experts (SMEs) with interested learners, you need a some sort of marketplace. Within that marketplace, SMEs can share their knowledge and offer their expertise to others. The actual “delivery” of learning can take many forms (workshops, short talks, digital content etc.), but the important thing is to make it available. If the employees don’t know that the opportunity exists, they can’t take up on it.

Secondly, you need to embrace user-generated content. Combining the above marketplace method with easy tools for content development can really enable a great offering with good efficiency. From a resource constraint perspective, it doesn’t necessarily make sense for the L&D team to intervene even in the instructional design phase, if you can guarantee an acceptable base level of quality. By enabling the SMEs to freely generate and publish digital learning content, you unlock significant scalability. There are a lot of platforms out there enabling the users to seamlessly and quickly generate content. Then, naturally, if such community-generated learning program becomes a resound success, the L&D team might step in to optimise and add to the learning experience.

Final thoughts

Overall, community-based learning as a strategy has a lot to offer. However, implementing it successfully requires the L&D team to relinquish some of its control. Fundamentally, it’s about enabling learning by connecting people. And the funny thing is, that these more informal and collaborative learning activities might even be much more effective than conventional classroom training or eLearning courses. If you’d like to give community-based learning a try, or find ways of leveraging user-generated content in your learning strategy, we can help. Just contact us here.

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