Friendship: An Unexpected Benefit Of Training
We often think of training as solely a learning endeavor, but educational events can also serve as opportunities to build new relationships. Whether delivered online or in the classroom, learning experiences–when designed with an eye on socialization–bring people together in ways that typical networking or social events cannot. Learners and instructors have a shared frame of reference (the course content) and engage in friendly discussion, discourse, and collaborative learning around the course goals to naturally forge connections and bonds that can “live” beyond the classroom and blossom into lifelong friendship or working relationships. I have known many instances of classmates forming strong friendships, becoming colleagues, or working together on committees or projects long after class has ended.
As we design both online and face-to-face delivery, our key concern must be learning and transfer but don’t forget about the incidental benefits that come from relationship-building. Consider ways to facilitate opportunities for friendship and professional networking within your course.
- Begin with icebreakers that help learners to indirectly disclose information about themselves and identify common frames of reference (see this example). Also, as an instructor, participate in the icebreaker so students can get to know you.
- When assigning groups, always begin with a second icebreaker or low-stress activity to create a sense of camaraderie before getting down to real work.
- Encourage groups to create and follow ground rules to prevent unnecessary conflict.
- Give learners a social assignment during breaks to encourage connection beyond the classroom (see this example).
- Create opportunities for collaborative problem-solving around course topics.
- End the course with a formal exercise that encourages learners to say thank you and recognize the contribution others have made to their learning experience (here are a few examples).
- Have you formed strong social or professional bonds with classmates? What brought this about?
- Can you share a training activity or experience that has the added benefit of social networking?