Innovations in active workplace learning

Informal, social & mobile learning can increase collaboration & communication within your team

Michelle Giovannozzi

The word “training” often evokes an image of rows of desks, whiteboards, lectures and quizzes. Yet today’s successful workplace learning is far from the former paradigm of formal, classroom instruction. Increasingly, training programs are integrating technology to make learning more engaging, relevant and impactful. Strategies such as social learning, informal learning, mobile learning, gaming and badging allow for active collaboration and more sustained results than the more traditional model of a single subject matter expert delivering content to a passive audience. Employing these innovative approaches in training your team can help you build a more connected and productive workforce.

Social learning is defined as the sharing of knowledge and information among peers through interactive discussions and technology, such as blogs, instant messaging, group discussion boards, wikis and other social media tools. Social learning is collaborative, encourages sharing of institutional knowledge and enables cross-functional partnership by connecting individuals who may not normally interface in their defined roles. Social learning harnesses the accumulated knowledge and experience of a group of workers, rather than relying on the expertise of just one teacher. Content can be shared among learners instantaneously and integrates feedback, learning from others’ experience, and mutual ownership of the development of team members.

Informal learning occurs independent of a structured classroom environment, when workers take charge of their own learning experience and direct the content, goals and objectives. Informal learning takes many forms, such as articles, videos, user groups, chat rooms and ad hoc coaching sessions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 70 percent of learning experiences in the workplace take place informally. This type of learning tends to be more spontaneous, casual and continuous, with the learner owning the content, application and impact of the skill development.

Mobile learning involves the use of personal electronic devices and virtual platforms for the delivery of content online at the time and location convenient to the learner. Because mobile learning can be accessed anywhere, it allows workers to bring learning aids to the place of work and reference them on-the-job, reinforcing the application and sustainability of skill development. The highly active nature of mobile learning has proven to increase test scores from the 50th to 70th percentile, and cut the dropout rate in technical fields by 22 percent.

Gamification and badging are interactive, creative tools that are taking on an increasing role in workplace learning. Gamification consists of applying game design and concepts to training scenarios in order to make them more engaging and entertaining for the learner. Game-based learning creates direct competition among learners or for an individual, resulting in an outcome or reward. Competitive learning games serve both employer and employee by improving productivity and positively impacting business results. Badging involves awarding a credential for a defined learning accomplishment, resulting in recognition and validation of skills learned. Earning badges can create a sense of completion that pushes learners to perform and produce beyond the competency levels achieved with traditional learning. Both gaming and badging use digital tools to combine interaction, feedback and creative graphics to make learning more engaging, fun and effective.

These learning strategies encourage communication and teamwork among peers in the workplace. A recent report by IBM, “Leading Through Connections,” found that leaders regard collaboration (75 percent) and communication (67 percent) as top factors crucial for work in today’s era. The study found that leaders “are creating more open and collaborative cultures – encouraging employees to connect, learn from each other and thrive in a world of rapid change.”

If you seek to increase collaboration and communication within your team, add informal, social and mobile learning to your training, including tools such as gamification and badging. Implementing 21st century learning approaches will enable you to develop a more agile, connected and productive workforce.

Michelle Giovannozzi is the director of economic development and partnerships for Clark College. She can be reached at

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