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The Power of Team-Based Online Employee Training

21 December 2015

6 Min Read


Today’s socially engaged workers find traditional learning methods boring. As a result, companies are finding it harder to engage employees in job training — particularly, in fast-growing, multi-location businesses.

Online employee training programs are helping companies overcome this challenge. However, many innovative companies are improving their online training results even more substantially by taking online training to another level — team-based social learning.

A growing body of research is showing that adding a team-based approach to online learning systems significantly boosts employees’ ability and willingness to learn.

Research Discovers Benefits of Team-Based eLearning

Research shows that 98 percent of employees learn better teams, including being more engaged and motivated to learn. Team-based engagement stimulates cross-cultural exchange, exposes students to new ideas, and forges relationships that can significantly increase their understanding of the material and their likelihood of success.

This result is realized in the classroom—and, increasingly, in online learning systems, especially among early-adaptors of online team-building technologies.

Stanford University launched an experimental online learning platform, called Venture Lab, to test the results of an online, team-based learning system on an international level, according to the Stanford News.

Stanford succeeded not only in joining people from dozens of countries into teams, but also enabling them to directly collaborate on group projects such as:

  • A group of women in Iran put together a tourism project
  • Three men in India devised a way of connecting Indian musicians, audiences, and venues
  • A pair of men in Trinidad and Tobago figured out how to ease road transportation
  • A team with members in Germany, the U.K., and Russia developed a mobile app for buying and selling locally designed products
  • Four Americans and a Pakistani created a search engine to find online classes.

The results of the experiment have long-reaching implications for companies’ e-training programs. “The most important part of this platform is that students can learn from their peers. The social and experiential aspects of learning must not be diminished by going online; on the contrary, the challenge is how to amplify them online,” stated Amin Saberi, associate professor of management science and engineering, who developed Venture Lab.

Companies Gain Advantages from Team-Based Online Training

Examples of team-based employee training are on the rise. Here are just two examples of the growing number of companies adding team components to their online training programs. These innovators are the first to reap the many benefits.

Xerox launched a management-training program based on a gamified application, called Stepping Up to Management. The program sent trainees on quests that simulated real work environments. Leaderboards showed their progress, making the training competitive, motivational, and fun.

The consulting firm Deloitte incorporated social and gaming elements into its employee-training program, “embedding missions, badges, and leaderboards into a user-friendly platform alongside video lectures, in-depth courses, tests, and quizzes,” according to Harvard Business Review. The firm found that employees became “engaged and more likely to complete the online training programs.”

Leading-Edge Gamification Supports Team-Based eLearning

As these real-world examples show, gamification is one of the leading ways that companies are adding a team-based component to their LMS. This helps explain why online training tools like leaderboards, certifications and badges, and discussion boards are on the leading edge of elearning today.

Gamification is the use of game thinking and mechanics in a non-game context to inspire employees and students to engage in online learning. Gamification takes the essence of games — attributes such as fun, play, transparency, design, and competition — and applies them to a range of real-world processes inside an organization, including training and development.

Numerous research studies and company success stories speak to the power of social learning tools to engage, motivate, and inspire employees to complete and learn from their online education. Here are a few highlights:

  • Leaderboards. Leaderboards are scoreboards that provide students with visual feedback about their online training, along with showing where each student stands compared to other students.In a recent gamification survey, 62 percent of respondents said they would be motivated to learn if leaderboards were involved and they had the opportunity to compete with their colleagues.
  • Badges and Certificates. Badges and certificates are digital tokens of rewards and recognition that learners can earn for finishing tasks or mastering skills — which delivers the power of immediate positive feedback. They are meaningful to users because they visually represent progress in mastering a subject. Game design elements such as points and badges can enhance the learning experience and increase the frequency and time spent on technology-based training, stated TribeHR.
  • Discussion Boards. Discussion boards are online bulletin boards where specific groups of people communicate and share information related to the group. In online courses, discussion forums provide a place for student-to-student and instructor-to-student, team-based interaction. Discussion boards help build community among students, which is crucial to providing a successful online learning experience, according to the University of Cincinnati College of Business.

How to Foster and Support Online Team-Based Learning

To gain the advantages of team-based learning, companies can use LMSs that include leaderboards, badges and certificates, and discussion boards, to help students share interact and build on each other’s knowledge, according to research conducted by St. Germain University.

Here are a few student collaboration tips for getting the most out of team-based online training support tools:

  • Teams should be consciously formed and managed
  • Employees should receive immediate and frequent feedback
  • Employees should be encouraged to share personal information like hobbies, interests, and demographic data to build community and create a friendly online environment.
  • Employees discussions should be monitored to ensure that they aren’t being excessively polite, which will undermine genuine sharing
  • Companies should foster secure online setting that affirms diversity of thought and critical inquiry into the subject matter

Online team-based learning research is in the early stages of discovering how to create the most impactful and successful training courses. In the coming years, researchers will uncover more insights, while forward-thinking companies will employ the principles and gain the benefits.

Today you can make significant forward strides toward team-based learning in your employee training program’s courses by incorporating the team-building and social benefits of gamification learning tools in your online training program.

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