Virtual Collaborative Learning

May 21, 2018

The future of learning starts today

Digital toolbox, learning community and co-creation: With virtual collaborative learning, the WU Executive Academy takes blended learning to the next level. The innovative approach harnesses the potential of the latest interactive learning technologies, gives learners utmost flexibility, boosts their motivation and enables them to do intense training right at the workplace.

In the following, Helga Pattart-Drexler, Head of Executive Education at the WU Executive Academy, explains not only what benefits virtual collaborative learning brings for individuals and businesses but also how it works in practice.

Picture of a tablet
Virtual collaborative learning takes belended learning to the next level by integrating the latest interactive learning technologies.

This has very likely happened to many learners: The webinar was exciting and so was the day-long seminar. However, three days later, the things one learned are gone—and it's business as usual on the job. Blended learning, which has been around for quite some time, aims to produce a more sustainable learning impact by dovetailing online and in-class sessions.

Blended learning 4.0

With virtual collaborative learning, the WU Executive Academy takes blended learning to a new level: Virtual collaborative learning puts even greater emphasis on the use of interactive online tools so as to promote interaction, co-education and peer learning, and improve learning retention. In the course of programs, in-class sessions alternate with interactive online sessions during which participants are supported by both lecturers and their learning community on an ongoing basis. This unique approach fosters social and co-creative learning, and is specifically designed to combat the natural forgetting curve.

Portrait Helga Pattart-Drexler

Helga Pattart-Drexler

  • Head of Executive Education

At the moment, we are, for instance, implementing a virtual collaborative learning project in cooperation with Österreichische Post. Its participants particularly value the virtual learning tools and the intense interaction with the learning community because these features make it possible for them to study at their own pace—around their professional commitments and personal preferences—and to immediately apply what they learn to their jobs as executives.

The benefits of virtual collaborative learning

1. It helps save time and fosters in-depth learning

The introduction round, breaks and closing discussions can easily take away two hours of valuable learning time from in-class-only programs. When it comes to virtual collaborative learning, these activities take place in an online environment: Participants introduce themselves by means of short podcasts; lecturers provide a brief overview of the training content and help participants familiarize themselves with the subject matter during a webinar, or set them an initial task to accomplish. So, before they actually meet for the first time, participants get to know one another and reach a common level of knowledge, meaning that, in class, lecturers can focus on the details without losing any time.

Picture of an empty chair circle
With virtual collaborative learning, the obligatory and usual time-consuming get-to-know-each-other part, is transferred into the virtual room. Photo © Sebastian Freiler

2. Everything is just one click away—in the information center

Even before the start of their training, participants can access everything they need, including the self-introduction videos or podcasts of their peers and the faculty members, with only a few clicks via the virtual information center. A custom cloud allows them to upload and download documents, useful pieces of information and learning materials. Thanks to the Wikipedia-like structure, participants will find it easy to systematically organize and share any relevant information.

3. Learning nuggets help combat the forgetting curve

A tailor-made training program at the WU Executive Academy typically comprises some three in-class days delivered over a period of several months. In between, participants receive intense support and get nudged in the right direction in the virtual learning environment by means of tasks, stimuli and inspiring discussions:

  • Learning journeys: A virtual learning diary helps participants keep track of their individual learning progress, making it possible for them to reflect on and develop a deeper understanding of the things they learn, and define their personal learning objectives.

  • Personal competence assessment: Individual competence profiles and the personal development of participants can be analyzed by means of competence checks and/or in-house competence models.

  • Study videos and interactive input: In the virtual learning environment, lecturers provide thematic input in a nutshell—for instance in the form of study videos, a brief webinar, or a question that participants will explore in greater detail in class or are to address in a specific manner in their day-to-day work as executives.

  • Twitter & WhatsApp: Twitter threads give participants an opportunity not only to discuss the topics they are studying but also to share additional materials as well as individual experiences with their peers. WhatsApp groups also provide a platform for sharing inspiring links and information about study topics.

  • Blogs: Blog posts are very useful in the context of making participants reflect on their individual learning progress and helping them develop a better understanding of a topic.

4. Mentoring and co-education

Virtual collaborative learning changes the role of lecturers: They become facilitators, providers of impetus and sparring partners for individual reflection. Serving as points of contact on an ongoing basis, they have a keen interest in helping all participants advance in their development. As a result, the interaction between participants and faculty members is far more intense than during in-class-only seminars.

  • E-coaching and e-mentoring: In the course of personal Skype conversations or online-chat sessions, lecturers give participants individual feedback on their learning progress or offer them thesis-related support and advice.

Two people having a skype call
With virtual collaborative learning the lecturers become continuous contact persons via online-chat and video-calls.

5. Fun and collaboration in a virtual learning environment

Digital technologies make it possible for participants to network with one another in a virtual environment at all times. The process of learning is very interactive in nature, with texts, videos, quizzes, etc. providing multifaceted impetus. This way, the interaction among participants and the support they get from faculty members are intensified—through features such as:

  • Self-organized peer learning: In small offline or online groups, participants reflect together on what they have learned, join forces in working on new topics and discuss case studies with their peers.

  • Interactive online chats: Participants interact with one another. Lecturers provide further impetus or set additional tasks to help them develop their skills in practice.

  • Quizzes, surveys and gamification: Participants test their individual and group knowledge in a playful manner. They can benchmark their performance against that of their peers, receive feedback and gain insight into the group's thinking through surveys.

Get more information about the Executive Education of the WU Executive Academy here.

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