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Peer learning and online courses – how to share knowledge in e-learning

Peer learning happens during collaboration between learners – often without explicit directions from a teacher. Peer learning is a pedagogical method that supports learner activity, helps make tacit knowledge visible, and strengthens social skills.  It can be applied in many contexts – from vocational education to corporate training. 

However, it can be a challenge to organize opportunities for peer learning when learners are not at the same place at the same time. So how can techniques of peer learning be applied independently of time and place?


Peer learning and remote studies – an impossible combination?


Peer learning is a broad concept. It can be applied to formal or non-formal teaching at educational institutions through group works or discussions. It also applies well to informal learning at the workplace through observation and collaboration. 

The benefits of peer learning are promising. It makes learning a versatile process and activates learners to reflect and debate. Active participation in learning helps to improve outcomes. It also helps make tacit knowledge within an organization visible and formal. 

However, the nature of learning and working has gone through a shift. Work is increasingly detached from time and place – as is studying. More learning, particularly in vocational education, takes place at work. There are less opportunities for peer learning and discussion – or at least peer learning looks very different. 

That is why new solutions are needed for peer learning. An active teacher or supervisor is a key for its success. 


Make most of peer learning tools online


If there are few or no opportunities for organic peer learning, they must be created. The teacher, HR expert, or supervisor responsible for learning must actively work to create an ecosystem that allows for peer learning. 

Digital learning environments, messaging apps, and project management tools can be crucial when learners spend little time face to face. Peer learning activities can be integrated into online courses and hybrid learning very easily. 

Use discussion forums. Maybe the easiest method to facilitate peer learning is to promote the use of discussion forums. Make sure learners have opportunities and incentives to share their ideas and to be exposed to new thoughts. Have your learners share their results and experiences, and require them to comment on what others have shared. 

Use peer review. In formal learning and on online courses it is often easy to have the learners review each other’s work. This way learners have an opportunity to see and analyze different responses and receive versatile feedback. This increases dialogue between learners and facilitates critical thinking. 

Organize group assignments. Online courses as an excellent medium for organizing group projects. Messaging apps and different project management tools make coordinating work and sharing ideas easier than it has ever been, without schedule restrictions. Within groups, learners will communicate to coordinate tasks; between groups, learners can share and comment their results. 

Organize workshops and events. If there are no opportunities for group assignments or you want to facilitate peer learning for instance in remote offices, workshops or seminars constitute an excellent tool for sharing ideas. Facilitate dialogue and give participants sufficient space to express themselves. 

Facilitate networking. Tutoring, mentoring, and networking can help peer learning beyond individual courses. Networking is most effective when you have participants with different profiles and backgrounds mentoring each other. Networks can also cross department or organization barriers – look for networking opportunities in your industry. 


Teacher activity on online courses


During online courses or trainings, peer learning is rarely organic. Rather, it requires proactive facilitation from the teacher or supervisor responsible. Opportunities for learning must be recognized and created. The supervisor must encourage sharing ideas and participating in the conversation. 

Provide sufficient tools. Peer learning online requires proper tools for working and communicating. Even the best pedagogical model will not work if it does not have a platform. Know the learning environment you use and suggest tools for peer learning projects. 

Encourage participation. Often keeping learners active in peer learning situations, regular encouragement and incentive is necessary. Be supportive, remind learners of deadlines, and participate in the dialogue. Require participation and taking ownership of discussion entries. Small nudges will usually keep the discussion active. 

Create a culture of openness. Peer learning requires psychological safety and ability to give and receive constructive feedback. Nurture a culture that makes open discussion possible. Lead with example, be present, and provide feedback. 

Set clear rules and expectations. Create conditions for productive discussion from the beginning. Make sure there are clear rules, deadlines, and assignments. Encourage respecting the rules and being on time. 


Peer learning on Workseed LMS


Workseed is a versatile digital learning environment for working-life oriented learning. It is already in use in multiple vocational institutes, universities of applied sciences, and private companies. It is an excellent tool for competency oriented and practical learning. 

Workseed is an optimal tool for managing remote learning. It contains tools for managing discussion, peer reviewing assignments, and working in groups. 

If you are looking to implement an LMS in your organization, we recommend you take a look at our tips for choosing the right tools just for your organization. 

In case you want to know more about Workseed and how it could facilitate learning in your organization, you can book a demo here. Our experts will tell more about Workseed’s features and help you understand how to improve your teaching.