Online learning networks

4 ways to break ground online

Written by Mind Tools for Business
Published 15 January 2021
Online learning networks
Posting a question on social media. Skyping a colleague. Browsing comments on a blog. Most of us use networks every day to get answers.
But some organizations take networking further – connecting to learn new ways of working and truly innovate. Let’s explore ways you can join them and break ground online.

1. Pioneer learning tech

Before COVID-19 forced classrooms online, Oxford University was teaching students in a virtual classroom. A world first, its Saïd Business School boasts an HD video wall made from 27 screens. Biometric cameras, 4D projections and robotics let teachers address the whole class, groups and individuals. Facial recognition software even monitors attention levels, so you can’t snooze at the back of your home classroom. [1]

Some organizations take learning beyond the four walls. Like start-up company Immerse which brings together virtual reality (VR) technology, subject-matter experts and teaching programmes.

Just now, it's helping students visualize viruses by zooming in and walking around bacteria, antigens and antibodies to see how they react with each other. [2]

2. Invite online contributors

You don’t need VR headsets to engage your learners. Just look at OpenStax. This online education system cuts out the need for textbooks and lets teachers share and update course materials freely from anywhere in the world.
Many firms see the value of an open-source business model – where the public can see and modify designs. And today, open innovation extends beyond its software origins. For example, in response to the pandemic, multinational Siemens opened its ‘online order-to-delivery collaboration platform’ to anyone who needs help making medical devices. [3]

Whatever your career, forums such as the Mind Tools Club let professionals share ideas and experiences to work smarter.

3. Get backing online

Crowdsourcing takes the concept of open-source further by asking outsiders for help. And right now, many artists, inventors and entrepreneurs are focussing on creative ways to help out in the pandemic.
After joking with friends on Skype about dodging grocery shoppers, a light went off for inventor Blair Wyatt. With the help of fundraising platform Kickstarter, he created a Social Distancing Badge. It squashes the tech behind speed-detecting traffic signs into a lanyard.
The badge’s sensor bounces off people coming your way – showing an LCD reading if they breach the six-foot safe zone. So far, he’s raised AU $8,700 of funding to take the badge to workers worldwide. [4]

4. Switch on machine learning

It’s not just humans sharing on networks. With machine learning, computers can team up to spot patterns humans can’t.
That’s why healthcare company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) asked tech specialists Luminosoto to use language and text analytics software to gain insight into parents’ concerns about medication.

Algorithms found patterns of fears such as links between vaccinations and autism as a reason for avoiding jabs. GSK uses these insights to create educational content to address misconceptions and offer parents advice. [5]
Insights from machine learning will become even more urgent as COVID-19 vaccines roll out around the world.

Tips to create an online learning network

Looking for ways to improve the culture of learning in your organization? Here are three simple steps to get started.

1. Embrace collaboration apps

Face-to-face communication is tricky right now. But you don’t need budget-breaking conferencing gear to connect.
You can start small with messaging apps such as Slack, Google Chat and Teams. They help improve collaboration and learning cultures within virtual teams.

2. Show your ideas

When you start generating ideas, don’t snuff them out in an internal email. Instead, invite employees to contribute further and share via apps such as Bamboo, MrOwl and Trello. The Miro app even lets you capture ideas on virtual whiteboards with online Post-Its®.

3. Leave a digital legacy

It’s easy for big ideas to lose momentum after the event. So, film brainstorming session, share appropriate pics on your company LinkedIn, and invite colleagues to blog about what they’ve learned.
You can also let your people access learning resources on their own time with Mind Tools. Discover what your people could be learning online, right now.



[1] Saïd Business School,‘Saïd Business School opens Oxford Hub for International
Virtual Education’. Available at: (accessed 15 January 2021).
[2] Thomas Macauly. ‘Could virtual reality be the future of training and education’. (Aug
2017) Available at:  (accessed 15 January 2021).
[3] Linus Dahlander and Martin Wallin, ‘Why Now Is the Time for “Open Innovation’ (2020).
Available at: (accessed 15 January 2021).

[4] Leigh Buchanan, ‘Crowdsourcing Projects Take On Covid-19
Kickstarter and other platforms are attracting creative responses to the crisis’ (2020). Available at:
[5] Daniel Fagella, ‘Mining Online Discussions for Deeper Customer Insight’ (Dec 2017).
Available at: (accessed 15 January 2021).

About the author

Mind Tools for Business

Mind Tools for Business

Mind Tools for Business brings accessible, on-demand performance tools and resources focused on leadership, management and personal effectiveness that empower colleagues to perform in today’s progressive workplaces. Helping them build happy and successful careers and to contribute positively to the success of organizations, the world over. At Mind Tools for Business, empowering people to thrive at work has been our passion for 25 years.

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