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Understand Collaborative Approach to Learning with Shivanu Shukla of Teamie

October 17, 2016

Addressing gaps in employee training programs, to looking beyond traditional approaches to learning using LMS, Shivanu Shukla, CEO and Co-Founder of Teamie shares his views exclusively with HR in Asia on why organizations across the globe should look at collaborative approaches to learning to facilitate better employee engagement and talent retention.

The idea of collaborative learning is to be able to leverage on the collective knowledge and experience of the learning group, learn through their experiences, questions and discussions, and in the process, make others in the group more engaged in the learning process. Know the role of Teamie in transforming learning experience for employees by harnessing education technology to the fullest.

Shukla further cites future trends in learning that should be embedded by HR managers in their learning and development programs, to be able to upskill employees to face challenges of the future.

  • Tell us more about the collaborative approach to learning.

Collaborative learning happens when we learn together in a community, instead of only learning individually. It gives learners the opportunity to discuss, ask questions and share ideas anytime, anywhere, at the time of thought, while instructors, trainers or experts guide and facilitate this process. The discussion around the learning content would help improve the understanding of the individual as well as the group as a whole.

The idea is to be able to leverage on the collective knowledge and experience of the learning group, learn through their experiences, questions and discussions, and in the process, make others in the group more engaged in the learning process.

Typically, eLearning or traditional Learning Management Systems (LMS) have been deployed by education institutions and enterprises. However, such platforms typically offer a one-directional, transactional approach whereby learners just download or access learning materials.

With Teamie, an online social learning community is created where learners can share, ask and discuss resources (instead of simply accessing the resources) and ideas with their peers in order to enable a conversation through an online platform much like social media platforms, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, but in a private and secure setting, along with gamification features added to the learning approach. It further improves the user experience with anytime, anywhere access through mobile and web apps.

  • What are the gaps in employee training that organisations in Asia Pacific need to address and how?

The main challenges that HR and Learning & Development teams face is engaging employees in the training process, measuring training performance and effectiveness.

Employees expect flexibility in their work, whether it’s about bringing their own device, flexible working hours or being able to learn at their own time and pace. With millennials and Gen Y being a large part of the workforce, there is a high expectation of being able to leverage technology to drive productivity and effectiveness.

Employees dispersed across countries and time zone differences are not desk-bound, thus making traditional training, learning and development approaches of face-to-face workshops harder to schedule, manage and deliver. Hence, providing a flexible way to learn and train is critical to engaging them in the training process.

Shivanu Shukla, CEO and Co-Founder, Teamie

Shivanu Shukla, CEO and Co-Founder, Teamie

Furthermore, to engage employees in the training process it is important to keep the training programs relevant and always accessible, with employees being able to learn what they need just-in-time, instead of just-in-case.

To drive engagement further, and create a pull factor, gamification can be considered to drive the right behavior and incentivize participation in the training process. Gen-Y workers are set to be 75 percent of Singapore workforce over the next 10 years however 32 percent of them are disengaged at work. Providing badges and points through a gamification engine,  can help create an environment that increases engagement and friendly-competition.

Traditionally, training has been about employees learning different skills and processes through training resources created by expert trainers. While this may ensure good quality content, it does not tap into the collective knowledge of the employees, or the questions or alternate approaches or scenarios that others can share and add to the training content and increase learning retention and training effectiveness.

Teamie’s platform incorporates learning with gamification elements and social learning aspects. This allows employees to not only learn what their employers want them to learn, but also increases engagement amongst employees themselves,when they discuss and exchange ideas, share experiences and find solutions together.

  • How can technology continue to encourage collaboration and engagement for employee training? 

Technology can support by providing push and pull factors to encourage employees to participate and collaborate in enterprise training.

To better encourage the use of learning through technological advancements such as online learning platforms, Teamie has designed its user interface similar to social platforms that employees use to communicate and interact with their peers the most: Facebook.

Similar to how users comment on their friends’ posts on Facebook, employees can become more engaged in this conversational approach of learning on Teamie, as it makes it easier for them to share and exchange ideas, anywhere, anytime, while their employers provide feedback accordingly. This helps to develop the skills of self- and peer-assessment, encouraging more independent learners.

Through mobile notifications, gamification and peer discussions; a pull factor can be created and participation can be encouraged.

  • How can Teamie help blend the merits of traditional learning with technological innovation to offer a comprehensive learning experience to new candidates during onboarding stage and on the job?

Onboarding is critical to ensuring that the employee understands the company and its policies but also feels comfortable and settles quickly so that he/she can start to contribute effectively.

Typically, onboarding involves making the employee go through a series of eLearning or face-to-face sessions on different topics from company policy and procedures to job related tools and knowledge. This traditional approach tends to overwhelm the new employee with a lot of information, most of which may not be retained.

Being new to the company, the employee may not be comfortable asking too many questions to the HR, or get clarifications on the information they’ve received. Increasingly, companies have started to follow a “Buddy” approach, wherein someone from the company is designated to be the Buddy for the new employee, and act as a go-to person for any questions.

While this approach is a step in the right direction, effectiveness of such programs is questionable, as the Buddies may not have the time to spend time during the busy office hours to support the new employee.

On Teamie, the company can create a private social group on their learning platform for all new employees for that month, and add the different buddies to that group as well. In fact, some organizations create this social group before the employee joins, so that the new employees can not only access the learning information beforehand, they can also connect with other new employees who are going through the same experience, and be comfortable in using the social space to ask questions, which may be answered by the buddies at their own time and pace, from their mobile devices when they have a spare moment.

This creates a great experience for the new employees, makes the Buddy involved more effectively when needed, and allows HR professionals to track if the new employees have finished the training tasks set out for them in the first week or 30 days of joining.

See: Learning Management System Market Expected to Grow to US $15.72 Billion by 2021

  • What are the drawbacks to implication of traditional learning systems deployed by organisations today? How can HR managers motivate the team to step up and embrace digitalisation in their workings?

Traditional learning systems are designed to deliver content and are very static, one-way transactional systems where learners are placed in a passive rather than active role in the learning process.

This leads to one-way communication requiring educators and trainers to make conscious effort constantly to check back with the learners understanding of content. On hindsight, this exercise is more time consuming at the expense of productivity.

Most traditional systems have no support for learning on mobile devices, and this doesn’t remind employees of important deadlines for training completion on their mobile phones. With employees having to log into a separate portal instead of being always-on with a mobile app, the completion rate of training on traditional systems can be quite low.

To slowly introduce employees to digitization of learning, employers can start off with a mix of videos and interactive lessons that take less than five minutes to complete.

This would allow them to familiarise themselves to different topics through micro-learning, which encourages learning through spaced repetition, that is more effective than cramming a lot of content into one long, in-person workshop, or digital equivalent. The idea is to be able to do a quick “training” on the way back from lunch, or accessing some content that maybe relevant for the employee right before he/she goes into a meeting i.e. “just-in-time learning”.

With Teamie, the familiarisation stage is reduced as the designed user interface is similar to Facebook, a platform that majority of the population, young or old, have been exposed to. By incorporating gamification, employees will develop the motivation to contribute and outperform one another through friendly competition.

  • How does this collaborative cloud-based social learning network, Teamie help educators and students alike to interact and learn in a fun environment?

Teamie is a private social learning network with its user-interface being similar to social media platforms, focusing more on the interaction rather than just the downloading or accessing of information.

The platform provides a social space for learners to share and discuss with each other in an informal social media style format, such as commenting on posts, whilst accessing structured learning resources and assessments.

Coupled with its gamification feature, learners can earn points and badges upon various completion of milestones,when they contribute to the posts on Teamie, and be a part of ongoing discussions. This has already resulted in increased motivation to participate, not only among the students, but also with educators.

  • What are the implications of gamification in transforming the learning experience?

Gamification has certainly evolved how companies leverage online learning. It transforms e-learning by implementing gaming elements into the educational topics, and by marrying learning and fun, this enhances employees’ information retention abilities. Gamification transforms eLearning by increasing user engagement, influencing behaviour, and motivating participation.

  • Are organisations in Asia Pacific taking up gamification seriously to boost their training and development initiatives?

Whilst still relatively new, gamification is certainly one of the areas that is gaining popularity in the training space. Gamification is being used in various ways – through gamification elements such as Points, Badges & Leaderboards (PBL), or actual creation of game-style content. The budget of the organization will determine how much game-based learning they can afford.

Gamification elements such as PBL provide for extrinsic motivators and organizations can make the points or badges redeemable for real-world rewards. Building game-design into the content and structure of the training requires expertise in game and instructional design, along with graphic and interface design.

Building games, while more expensive, can yield good engagement and retention. One of our customers created a game to train on a procedural training topic, and transformed mundane training into an engaging game.

Gamification has been useful in employee behaviour modification, with more and more gaming mechanisms used in HR to improve employee engagement and enhance relationships with candidates and prospects.

  • How does Teamie help transform the EduTech landscape in Singapore through its customised learning solutions?

We believe that we learn better when we learn together, and leverage on the knowledge, experiences and discussions to improve our understanding of a topic. We also believe that learning is an ongoing process, and shouldn’t stop after the class or workshop is over.

Teamie aims to make learning collaborative, instead of learners consuming videos and files alone. Teamie aims to make learning happen anytime, anywhere and on any device.

With the aim of prioritizing engagement, offering flexibility and delivering great learning experience, Teamie offers the following:

  • Social Learning and Training Communities: Creating simple and easy ways to discuss, ask and learn together
  • Announcements and Notifications: Post announcements and sending mobile app notifications to the learners.
  • Resources and Content: Create learning resources, upload existing learning resources (all standard formats supported) or embed content from the web using a drag and drop interface. Manage when and by whom a learning resource is consumed, and track consumption.
  • Assessments and Grading: Create Quiz and Assignments for training assessment and evaluation. Instant analysis and auto-grading for objective questions. Annotate on learner submissions to provide detailed feedback.
  • Gamification: Award Points and Badges for different actions on the platform to drive behaviour and participation. View leader boards and track participation.
  • Reports and Dashboards: Access a dashboard of reports to track learner performance, trainer participation, content consumption and overall engagement on the platform.
  • Do you think the Singaporean Government supports growing businesses in the country with adequate fund allocations to boost their training programmes and groom talent for the fast-paced technologically-advanced future?

The Singapore government is certainly moving in the right direction by allocating funds to boost their training programmes and groom talent for a digital future. The focus on lifelong learning is critical to ensure employability and overall competitiveness of the nation. The SkillsFuture initiative and the setting up of SkillsFuture Singapore Agency (SSA) offers a chance for learners to upskill, and also follow their passion.

Apart from courses, the Singapore government also offers incentives for organizations to deploy technologies that drive innovation, and productivity.

There is still more education that needs to be done around the importance of adopting new approaches to learning, and showcase examples of organizations and training providers who have transformed their learning experience and demonstrated improved training engagement and effectiveness.

As more organizations, SMEs and large enterprises take internal staff training more seriously and embrace new learning approaches, the overall mandate of increasing employability and competitiveness will be achieved.

  • What were your personal drivers that motivated you to set up Teamie? Take us through the success highlights of the company, primarily in terms of attracting the best talent and retaining them?

In 2009, I was working on a consulting engagement around the idea of Enterprise Social Networks, their feasibility and impact. The findings of the study revealed major opportunity areas, and the need for such a solution in sectors where the need for collaboration and engagement was important.

Education has always been a passion for me, and the findings, the timing and the sector were all well-aligned to take the plunge. My co-founder, Ashwin, and I had worked together in Frost & Sullivan previously, and found the opportunity exciting and decided to think deeper about the idea and study its feasibility. In the process, we met with teachers, students, HR directors, and parents to get a better sense of the landscape.

The opportunity was clear and it was massive. Even before incorporating the company, Ashwin and I invested time and money, and started to build a product prototype. The idea was pitch to friends and angel investors, and the company was incorporated in March 2011 with an angel investor deciding to back the idea, and invest in the potential of a social collaborative learning platform.

Most recently, Teamie raised its pre-series A round led by ACP and SPRING Seeds, together with Phystech Ventures, and their initial angel investor.

  • Share with us, three key learning trends you foresee in the near future? How can HR managers adopt and embed these learning trends into the workplace culture?

Micro or Bite-Sized Learning – It is important to shift away from long learning courses and resources to micro-learning sessions, which can be completed within minutes. This will improve effectiveness of training and retention of content, and move towards a just-in-time training philosophy instead of a just-in-case approach.

Blended and Mobile Learning – As micro-learning becomes popular, the mobile device will become the dominant learning device within an organization, and training programs will be a blend of face-to-face and online/mobile learning.

Learning Communities instead of Training Workshops – The idea is to make learning an on-going activity rather than a workshop that happens once a year on a topic. By leveraging on social learning platforms, employees can share experiences, ask questions, discuss with peers and tap on experts on an on-going basis.

Traditional face-to-face workshops or traditional eLearning have not helped organizations achieve the engagement or effectiveness desired, and hence HR Managers need to re-think their approach towards training and focus on the learner. Their learners have come to expect an always-on, social, mobile experience that they can access at their own time and pace, while giving the HR manager visibility into their training progress.

HR & Training Managers need to understand the context of their organization and see which of these trends will impact them the most. These trends are intertwined and adopting one can lead them to be in a better position to embrace the other trends. Training is always under pressure to prove its value, while instinctively, its value is appreciated, in practice, budget and focus remains a challenge.

Technology can help address these challenges to an extent, improve engagement and value in the training process, while reducing net training costs and improving effectiveness.

Also read: Management Bytes from S P Jain: Bridging the Industry-Academia Divide through Innovative Approach of ‘Blended Learning’

Content rights: This exclusive interview content is produced by HR in ASIA. Any redistribution or reproduction of part or all of the contents in this interview is prohibited. You may not, except with our express written permission, distribute or commercially exploit the content. 

 

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