According to July's T+D magazine, Millennials will make up more than half of the workforce in the next five years. Increasingly, not only will access to collaborative learning strengthen your team, but those Millennials who will be taking over your workforce, they'll expect it. To illustrate this, below is a chart outlining the respondents who answered "high" or "very high" when asked to what extent social media tools helped them to achieve tasks at work (you can click the image for a larger view).
If You're the Trainee
Have a question? Ask it! Know an answer? Share it! Many students rely on their instructor after the class if they need more assistance, but don't seem to take into account that the instructor is just one person. Why rely on just that one person if there is an entire network of people who could help you? Knowledge is one of the few assets that people are willing to pass along to other people, not only willingly, but happily. If you took your training class with fellow team members, hopefully you have some sort of shared workspace at your office where you can collaborate freely. If not, all is not lost. Ask your instructor how you can connect with fellow students after the class. Often training companies have Facebook or Twitter networks that they would love for you to join and add to the conversation. If not a network, perhaps your instructor maintains a blog with archived articles that you could search. Don't forget to check the blog comments for helpful feedback from people in your same situation.
If You're the Trainer
Don't let the training be the end of the communication with your students. Follow-up with students and outline exactly what they should have learned from the course. Believe me, if your students feel they didn't learn it all, they'll let you know.
Provide a link to your blog and make sure you are diligent about responding to your blog comments. Invite students to become a fan on Facebook, but be sure not to drop the ball. Respond to any questions thoroughly and promptly to foster a reciprocal community. Direct students to your Twitter account so you can keep them updated with all things related to the field and pass along useful information.
As your class wraps up, this is not the time to bombard your students with sales pitches. However, if you offer additional learning in the field (an advanced class perhaps), make sure students know about it.
Still not convinced that collaborative learning could make your team all that and a bag of chips? Check out this list of 44 Benefits of Collaborative Learning from the Global Development Research Centre. I'd love to hear how you are using collaborative learning, please leave your comments below.
About the author: AJ George is IconLogic's lead Technical Writer and author of both "PowerPoint 2007: The Essentials" and "PowerPoint 2008 for the Macintosh: The Essentials." You can follow AJ on Twitter at http://twitter.com/andrayajgeorge.