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The recognized value of corporate learning and development has been growing over the past few years as skills increasingly trump tenure in the workforce. In our rapidly changing world of work, ensuring your employees are armed with the latest knowledge and competencies is critical for staying competitive.

As a result, companies are investing heavily in L&D: A recent Bersin by Deloitte report revealed the LMS market grew by 24 percent in 2014, with predictions for similar growth this year. Yet despite increased investment, impact is low: 66 percent of L&D professionals say they have trouble engaging learners with their programs, and while employees say training opportunities are a top priority in staying at a job, the average employee spends just 1 percent of his or her time on L&D.

HR leaders have doubled down on their budgets around learning, but something is clearly still missing. It's time to double down on the strategy.

The Evolution of Learning

The integration of technology has changed the world of work: People now collaborate across time zones, industries and skillsets. Yet our core learning methods are still based on solitary, individual endeavors—and that's not how effective learning takes place.

According to Jane Hart, founder of the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies, workplace learning has progressed through five stages: 1) classroom training, 2) e-learning, 3) blended learning, 4) social learning and 5) collaborative learning. Starting with classroom training, each stage gradually moves away from top-down control—dictated by the organization—to bottom-up control, whereby employees drive their learning. Hart says we are currently in the fourth stage with "social learning," the theory that people learn through observation and socialization. True innovation, however, requires moving to the final stage: collaborative learning.

What is Collaborative Learning?

Collaborative learning happens “in the flow of work [that is] enabled, supported and encouraged; not designed or managed," Hart says. Ultimately, collaborative learning allows learning and work to not only be interdependent, but unified.

Collaborative learning expands upon the social learning premise that individuals learn more through sharing and social interactions than they would alone, and moves beyond an instructor-learner model. Employees not only learn from their teammates; they also experience deeper learning through sharing information and perspectives with their peers.

The Impact of Collaborative Learning

Collaborative learning leads to greater knowledge retention than top-down education. According to Josh Bersin at Bersin by Deloitte, learners retain only 5 percent of what they hear and 10 percent of what they read, but they remember more than 50 percent of what they learn through discussion and interaction. In fact, retention can soar to 75 percent or more through direct experience and on-the-job learning.

But collaborative learning also has another, perhaps unexpected, impact as well: As networks replace hierarchies, relationships between team members deepen.

From the C-suite to your newest employees, collaborative learning provides improved ROI, as well as an enhanced culture of camaraderie and innovation. To learn more about the value of collaborative learning, and how you can adopt it in your L&D program, check out our new eBook, Why Your Current Strategy for Learning is Broken (And How to Fix It With the Power of Collaboration).