Published on

November 23, 2022

What is Peer to Peer learning and why is it important?

Dr. Nico Broers photo

Dr. Nico Broers

Program Manager


Learning Hub

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Peer to Peer learning

Many companies focus on obtaining the knowledge their employees need from outside sources. Costly instructors are often hired to train employees through workshops and training sessions. But is this old-fashioned method the best? In this article, we will show you what peer to peer learning is, why it is so valuable, and how you can implement it into your organization.

What is peer to peer learning?

In a corporate setting, peer to peer learning refers to a type of training or education that takes place among employees, rather than being delivered by a manager or external instructor. This type of learning can take many forms, such as employees sharing their expertise and knowledge with one another through informal discussions or mentoring, or by participating in structured training programs together. Peer to peer learning can be an effective way for employees to learn new skills and knowledge, and can also help to build stronger relationships and a more collaborative work environment.

Group communicating with each other

Research has found out that on the one hand 55% of employees first turn to their peers when they want to learn a new skill. It is not Google and not YouTube. On the other hand, less than 50% of organizations have incorporated any kind of formal peer learning. Experts discovered that the main reason for this is that managers think external experts might be more valuable as teachers for their workers. That is a pity! Without peer learning, the entire pool of your company knowledge remains untouched.

Think of it like that:

By implementing peer to peer learning into your organization, all your smart workers can share their expertise which leads to the development of new skills!

2 reasons why peer to peer learning is important 

Your worker's experiences and expertise are in fact one of the most valuable assets to your organization. You should leverage it.

Peer to peer learning offers you the opportunity to use the learning loop as efficiently as possible.

Your employees go through it in four stages:

  1. Gain new knowledge
  2. Apply that newly gained knowledge
  3. Give and receive valuable feedback
  4. Reflect on the process: "What have I learned?"

Peer learning can actually break through the most common barriers to learning and skill-building.  Group-based learning is one method to move from independent to interdependent learning (Boud, 1988). Latter is much more effective than learning on your own.

Here is why:

1. Increase learner engagement

In our beginner-friendly corporate eLearning guide, we already introduced the "Learning Pyramid" from Michael Simmons to you. In summary, the learning pyramid demonstrates that learning consists not only of passive teaching methods (e.g. lecturing, reading, and listening) but also of active or participatory teaching methods (e.g. discussing, practicing, and teaching others).

“While we teach, we learn.” - Seneca

With participatory teaching methods, learners get fully immersed in the learning process. This results in a higher learner engagement, a steeper learning curve, and a higher retention rate on average. According to experts, 'the average learner' is able to retain about 90% of what he/she is able to teach to others. Just for comparison, listening and reading have an average retention rate of 5-10% which makes both forms of learning incredibly ineffective.

Engaged learners do not only learn due to the fact, that a certificate or something such as a promotion or prize is waiting at the end of a learning track. They learn because they actually want to understand and incorporate the information provided.

2. Improve learning culture

A great learning culture keeps your workers motivated and ambitious in their learning goals.

Especially in a group of like-minded learners, team cohesion ensures that your workers will learn more and share their newly gained knowledge with their peers. In addition, listening to those who achieved outstanding results can be inspiring for every employee.

With peer learning, you will improve team vibes, communication, and collaboration, as a result.

3 steps to implement peer to peer learning into your organization

There is a variety of possibilities for how to implement peer to peer learning. But here are 3 crucial and easy to implement steps.

1. Use a collaborative e-learning platform

If you use an online learning platform, you have the opportunity to bring your employees together in regular learning sessions. They can build teams, set learning goals, and work on them together. While learning, your teams can collect Learnings Points (LPs) and, thus, track their progress. With the help of team leaderboards, you can even inject a healthy dose of competitive spirit into the learning process.

2. Incorporate a buddy system

Alternatively (or in addition), you can pair new joiners with a more experienced colleague who then acts as a buddy. A personal buddy can help new employees integrate smoothly into your company and provide them with all the basic skills they need to get off to a good start. Moreover, you cultivate important workplace relationships. 

3. Regularly organize workshops

Give your employees the chance to meet with their colleagues on a regular basis to learn something new. Either during the workshop or during the breaks, your employees will exchange and share their knowledge about the subjects.

Get started today on engaging learners more effectively

After learning about the benefits of peer to peer learning and how it can help learners develop critical thinking skills, increase collaboration, and foster a love of learning. It becomes clear that is a good method which enables your workers to share their knowledge voluntarily, explain their ideas to others, discuss their opinions, and give each other valuable feedback. With every session, your employees use the learning loop as efficiently as possible and break through the most common barriers to learning and skill-building.

Now, you may be wondering how you can further increase engagement and enhance educational experience. What are effective metrics to measure learner engagement and how can you implement them? How can you nail learner engagement in times of online learning?
Get the answers in our guide and find out how to increase learner motivation!

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Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung (BIBB)