10 Strategies for Successful Learning Communities
Since 2014, SAP is offering virtual learning communities on SAP Learning Hub. We call them “Learning Rooms” as they characterize virtual spaces for learning similar to physical classrooms. All Learning Rooms are moderated by experienced instructors and SAP experts, and also include additional materials and functionalities to help more than 100,000 learners globally to achieve their learning objectives, e.g. passing the SAP certification exams.
But why are learning communities so important for the digital learning experience?
In 1885, the German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus did the first experiments on memory and discovered the learning curve. He learned series of nonsensical syllables, tried to memorize them over time, and recorded the outcome of his experiments. What he discovered has been confirmed by many other researchers since then: after 30 minutes, Ebbinghaus was only able to remember 50% of the words he had learned. After 6 days, he was only able to remember 20% and had forgotten 80%.
In other words: if it is not used, new knowledge will be forgotten after 6 days. And this is a situation many learners know from studying online courses and e-learnings. Without using and applying the knowledge, most of it is forgotten after a couple of days.
But additional exercises, discussing open questions with other learners and practice can all help to retain, even increase knowledge in order to convert it into valuable skills. This is exactly the idea behind Learning Rooms as they provide a social, collaborative space for learning and practicing SAP knowledge. And they are becoming more and more important as many learners are using e-learnings or handbooks from SAP Learning Hub to learn about SAP products and solutions.
From our experience with more than 100 Learning Rooms and more than 100,000 learners, we have identified the following success factors:
1. Pro-active moderators: Learning communities need to be moderated and led by pro-active moderators with a didactical background. Successful moderators initiate learning processes by providing additional exercises, by focusing on practice and by facilitating collaboration. All these elements need to fall together
2. Focus on long-term motivation and collaboration: Learning communities are different from classrooms in many ways. Therefore, moderators need a different didactical approach – the activities are not only required for a couple of hours or days but need to be maintained on an ongoing basis for weeks and months. Most importantly: the didactical concept needs to motivate and engage learners over a longer period of time. On the SAP Learning Hub, we are using missions, badges, and levels. New missions are published regularly helping learners to reach their goals.
3. Personalized instructions and feedback: Learners benefit mostly from personalized instructions and individualized feedback. In SAP Learning Rooms, our instructors and experts provide additional materials and exercises according to the needs of the learners and by doing so they help each learner individually.
4. Ask for active learner contribution: In learning communities, moderators and instructors have to challenge learners and need to ask for their active contribution. Polls, assignments, quizzes are tools that can help to get discussions and exchange started.
5. Quick responses: Even if our moderators and experts cannot answer all questions immediately, they try to respond to questions or comments within 24 hours. This is important, as learners will lose interest and get frustrated if they have to wait longer than 1 day to get an answer.
6. Reoccurring live events: In many Learning Rooms, we are offering additional live events, e.g. quick info sessions or webinars where learners can ask their questions immediately and can discuss topics in more details. Regular, monthly events, which everyone can put in their calendar, motivate learners and make it easier for everyone to come back into the learning community.
7. High quality content and instructions: Content is king also in learning communities. But it has to be content with a solid instructional design – easy to find and consume.
8. Practicing: A successful learning community offers many possibilities to practice and share best practices. In many SAP Learning Rooms, we are including the access to cloud-based training systems.
9. Critical mass: A learning community works well with 20 to 50 active learners. As in open learning communities, about 80 to 90% of all members are more or less passive at the beginning, you should aim for 200 to 500 learners. But once you have reached the critical mass of active learners, the value to the learners starts to grow and you can be sure that others will join as well.
10. Technology & ease of use: Discussion forums, rating, tagging, a group wall, group calendar, wiki pages and personal blogs are what a learning community needs. For our Learning Rooms on the SAP Learning Hub, we are using SAP Jam which gives us all of the before mentioned features and even more, such as mobile access.
The above can be summarized in a simple formula. Successful learning communities focus on:
- 30% Pro-active moderators and instructors
- 30% Engaged learners and collaboration, e.g. by using game mechanics
30% Personalized learning and possibility to practice, e.g. by leveraging cloud based training systems
- 10% Technology, e.g. SAP Jam
If you want to try it out, you can subscribe to the free SAP Learning Hub discovery edition and join the SAP Activate Learning Room.