How to Make Learning Stick through AGES

Learning retention occasionally poses a challenge for L&D professionals. While we mostly manage to focus on what’s important, it’s sometimes too easy to forgo evidence-based practices in the favour of creating something glossy and glittery. Yet, no matter how much of a wow-factor your learning program comes with, it doesn’t matter at all if the learners don’t acquire and retain the learning. To stay focused on the things that really matter, the AGES model provides a good framework for looking at learning design.

The AGES model in a nutshell

While the field of neuroscience in learning is still probably in its infancy, there are a few key things scientists have already helped us to discover. One of primary interest relates to how the brain works when it comes to learning. Learning requires a process called hippocampal activation, which takes place as an experience engages and activates the hippocampus region of the brain. The better the activation, the more fruitful the learning.

As we’ve learned about the importance of hippocampal activation, the questions has become how to achieve that. And that’s where the AGES model comes in. AGES stands for attention, generation, emotion and spacing, each of which are of critical importance in making learning stick.

Now, let’s look at each of these in a bit more detail.


Even without the AGES model, you’d probably know that attention is where all of it starts. If you fail to get your learners’ attention, whatever happens after is irrelevant. The more learners are able to focus, the more they can learn. But our knowledge of attention is not limited to just that.

Firstly, we know that the attention span of humans is limited. While there’s a lot of noise going around and loosely grounded guesses being presented, the research community’s consensus seems to be that the brain can sustain focus for around 20 minutes at a time. After that, it needs to rest and reactivate. Therefore, you should give your learners a break or switch to a less cognitively loading activity every 20 minutes to give the brain some time to recharge.


Once you’ve got your learners’ attention, you need to start generation. Generation is the process of learners connecting the learning to their existing knowledge. This process helps to form a rich network of neural links in the brain and hence help learning stick.

Therefore, instead of making learners passive recipients of information, we should plan a more active role for them. Corporate learning programs can be much more effective if we provide opportunities for generation. For instance, teaching others helps to form one’s own understanding. Creating content about the learning topic, e.g. reflections, commentary etc. is a good way to generate too.


Next, the third piece in the AGES model is emotion and its relevance to learning is quite straightforward. Emotional moments tend to stick with us. This is because emotional moments trigger hippocampal activation.

However, all emotions are not necessarily good for learning. If you trigger negative emotions by e.g. accidentally activating previous bad memories, learners may have a hard time focusing on the content, as they contemplate over their memories. Therefore, when using emotional learning techniques, try to keep it primarily positive!


Finally, one of the most important notions of the AGES model is that of spacing learning. The human brain is only able to process a very limited amount of information at a time. Too much information at once causes cognitive loading, which has an adverse effect on learning. To keep the cognitive load at a viable level, learning activities should be spread out over time, instead of trying to fit everything into a single session.

Especially if you’re already doing digital learning, there’s little reason to not space your learning. And if you’re still relying primarily on face to face instruction, creating spacing even within sessions seems to help. And in case you’d like to explore digital opportunities in learning and making it effective, we’re happy to help. Just drop us a note here.

4 Tips for Training Contingent Workforce

The modern economy is increasingly made up of gig workers. Many industries, such as retail and other labour-intensive service businesses are using increased amounts of temporary workers. This helps to smooth out spikes and drops in demand, and may keep the organisation itself more lean. However, temporary workers sometimes prove to be a headache for L&D professionals charged with figuring out how to transfer them the essential knowledge to do the job. Therefore, we put together a quick list of tips on training contingent workforce. Let’s check it out!

When training gig workers, time is of the essence

The first rule of training the contingent workforce is that everyone’s always short on time. If you employ temporary help, chances are that your permanent staff have got their hands full already. Furthermore, gig workers may often join a company for just a few weeks or months, which hardly gives them a lot of time to go through an extensive learning process.

Therefore, time is of the essence. Starting early helps. If your new temporary employees are able to access and complete e.g. their mandatory training (compliance, SOPs, safety, hygiene, etc. depending on your industry) beforehand, you’ll greatly reduce the time it takes them to get working. However, while it makes sense to go through the mandatory and perhaps regulatory programs beforehand, the actual learning for the job may be better done on-the-job.

Use on-the-job learning to build capability through practice

As we move onto more specific skills and work tasks, it stops making sense to try train everything beforehand. Too much training isolated from practice makes one an easy suspect to the forgetting curve. Being able practice things in an authentic environment greatly reinforces retention. It also helps to connect often abstract task and process descriptions to the real world.

Therefore, instead of trying to train everything beforehand, your strategy for training contingent workforce should perhaps leverage on on-the-job learning. Provide your gig workers with performance support resources, interactive manuals and how-to nuggets. In this kind of case, just-in-time learning makes much more sense than just-in-case.

Provide a support platform

However, for when those just-in-case situations occur, it’s good to have systems in place too. There’s a lot of unexpected situations that may arise in any given job that you can’t really account for in conventional training. But you can always be prepared regardless. For those rare moments of need, it’s good to have your support system ready.

When encountering problems they can’t solve based on their experience and training you’ve given them so far, gig workers could use that support system to help themselves. For instance, this might take the form of a Q&A bank, where staff can search for answers to uncommon situations. It may also be a helpline, or a support forum, or a live chat environment to another colleague. In its most analog form, it would be pointing out a person that the gig worker can go to with problems. Whatever the degree of sophistication, the idea is to provide a platform to take care of the needs that normal performance support or prior training can’t cover.

Remember to keep it inclusive

While inclusivity in learning was our main topic last week, it has relevance in this context as well. When training gig workers, there are a few inclusivity factors to consider.

First, you’ll want to make sure that the language and communication you use fits their level of experience and exposure. Temporary workers may not be familiar with all industry terms, and even less likely to understand your corporate lingo and cultural artefacts. Furthermore, when it comes to practical skills and experience, the basis for learning for temporary staff may be wildly different from that of your permanent employees. For instance, whereas your permanent staff may be formally educated in the industry, the temporary staff may not be. As such, it’s important to deliver information and learning in a way that takes into account their existing skill levels and potential lack of prior exposure to the industry or tasks at hand.

Final words

While the contingent workforce often presents a headache to learning organisations, it doesn’t need to. There’s a lot that organisations can do with relative ease to streamline the training and onboarding process of their gig workers. A good learning design process helps you to get clarity on the needs of the modern workers and provide a platform for success. If you think you need help in improving your design process, do drop us a note. We can help you design learning in a new way.

3 Tips for Designing More Inclusive Digital Learning

As more and more people get into digital learning, the issues of inclusivity is raising its head. Catering to organisation-wide audiences means catering to a diverse group of learners – both in terms of capabilities and limitations. While inclusive and accessible design is an entire fields of its own, we thought it would be helpful to share some good practices. Therefore, here are 3 tips for designing more inclusive digital learning.

Empathy is a good starter

Just like in any design project, empathy is a good place to start when it comes to inclusivity too. So, polish that design thinking hat once again and seek to understand your learners and their constraints and limitations. A good empathetic process should uncover some of the limitations your employees may have when it comes to accessing and using digital learning. Furthermore, you’re also likely to uncover new realisations about the context of the users. Learners don’t consume learning in a vacuum, and therefore the context matters a lot. Situational limitations and restrictions may present a real barrier to inclusive digital learning if you don’t uncover them and design with them in mind.

Multimodality is often good idea

In many cases, one of the bigger issues in inclusive learning is the use of different modalities and mediums. For instance, some learning may be primarily audiovisual, whereas some may require reading extensive text-based material. Whatever the primary modality, it’s important to offer an alternative pathway and support system for those who can’t due to personal or contextual limitations use that modality. For instance, an employee with hearing impairment may not get much out of a training video – unless you use captions. On the other hand, someone with dyslexia may really struggle with large amounts of text.

Also, many work situations may limit the use of certain features of the learning experience, such as audio. For instance, a customer service employee may not be able to listen to audio without putting headphones on, which is something they wouldn’t do during the workday. Thus, it’s important to also understand the work situations and contexts that employees engage with learning in.

Use media and language in an inclusive way

Finally, the use of media and language presents an important consideration for designing inclusive eLearning. Often, the devil is in the details. Learning designers face the same issue as advertisers. The imagery and visuals you use should be representative of the population that consumes your services – in this case, your employees. Therefore, you should make sure that the learners are able to see themselves in the visuals you choose. Maintain a balance when it comes to attributes like gender and race, for instance.

Similarly, the language you use in the learning should be inclusive as well. Firstly, it should be comprehendible to people whose native language may not be the one they’re learning in. Secondly, the use of vocabulary should avoid biased and loaded expressions. But perhaps most importantly, the language choices should be ones that the audience can relate to. Ideally, the language should feel personal to the audience, and not just some corporate slang and compliance lingo. If you give your learners a chance to relate, you not only make your learning more inclusive, but also more effective.

3 Tips for Managing the Learning Design Process

Learning design projects take many shapes and forms and organisations have a variety of different ways of managing them. Some use conventional approaches like ADDIE, some may use more agile methods. Some rely heavily on data, whereas some go all out on the service design playbook. Whatever your methodology, there are some common best practices that we have found to be of benefit in any situation. So, let’s take a look at 3 ways you can manage the learning design process better!

Spend time on the discovery phase

One of the challenges corporate L&D teams face is time. Teams may often be running backlogs with the business expecting to have its learning ready yesterday. In this kind of an environment, it’s easy to forget to invest enough time in one of the most crucial steps. That step is discovery. Discovery is all about validating and investigating the problem, and it starts right as someone makes a request for a new piece of learning. Instead of simply taking the request as it is, it’s the L&D professionals responsibility to really assess whether the issue is even a learning issue.

Furthermore, even if you have validated the issue, discovery doesn’t stop there. Further along the learning design process, you’ll want to invest time into investigating the problem space, and making sure that whatever you design is actually a functional and fitting solution. Often, problems are not learning or training problems and we mistakenly take them as such. If you’re trying to train your way out of a non-training problem, you won’t get much results. Therefore, it’s important to spend time discovering what the problems really are.

Seek feedback early

It’s nice to put out a beautiful product after you have tuned it to perfection. However, often we focus too much on building the perfect product that we actually fail to listen to the users. Once you’ve spent an enormous amount of time building something, you’ve become emotionally invested, and it’s more likely that you’ll just shrug off critical user feedback as “uneducated opinions”. While the users may not always be right in the absolute sense, they often are when it comes to their own context. For instance, a product might be good, but it might just not work for a particular user group.

To avoid getting over-invested, and to make sure you’re building a working solution, you should ask feedback often and early. Early feedback can help you rediscover the problem space and understand the potential user better. In most cases, you can ask for feedback with very raw prototypes. Early feedback collection also involves your user base as co-creators, and helps to set the stage towards what’s coming later. This may help to reduce change anxiety and help to adapt new ways of doing faster.

Avoid the sunk cost fallacy

Even with rigorous design approaches, we are bound to make mistakes. On the other hand, every learning project you put out has a shelf life too. Nothing is supposed to last forever. As L&D teams generally operate with limited resources, it’s important to use them effectively. In some cases, this can mean cutting the legacy program off life support or stopping a program even during the learning design process.

As learning is a highly contextual event, we can’t expect to be able to run same programs year after year. Eventually, subject matter and delivery methods become so out of date that it’s not simply worth it to invest into “fixing and fine tuning” anymore. At this point, it’s important for learning designers to know when to cut ties with the old. If you want to create new and design new things, you can’t have excess baggage slowing you down in the beginning. Furthermore, it’s also important to act when a project is not going in the desired direction. Content might be out of date even before launch, wrong delivery methods may have been chosen or a variety of other factors might negatively affect the outcomes. At some point, it’s just much better to start all over or forget it altogether than forcefully pushing through the existing course of planning.

Final words

While organisations manage their learning design process and operations very differently, it’s hard to dispute the benefits of a more learner-centric approaches. Investing adequate time into discovery, seeking feedback often and early, and avoiding throwing good money after bad are things that don’t cost much but can save you a lot of time and effort. Therefore, learning organisations should take note.

How to Use Emotion in Digital Learning Design?

Emotion is something one may not conventionally associate with online learning. However, from a learning designer’s standpoint, emotion is a powerful tool. It can engage, reinforce retention, spark behavioural change and sometimes just make learning that much more interesting. While some things, such as establishing relevance will never go out of fashion, there are a lot of things you can do to bring up your online learning experience. On a general level, we could say that it’s better to spark positive emotions than negative ones, and that people associate easier with other people than things. However, to bring in a bit more practicality, here are a few examples on using emotions in digital learning.

Connecting to people with stories

Stories are a crucial element to sparking emotions. Good stories connect people on an emotional level. Therefore, it’s a good idea to get familiar with the best practices of storytelling. Consider your online learning experiences not just as static courses, but as stories, with a predefined narrative. Stories always have their goals, i.e. what they are built to convey. That’s your learning objectives right there. When crafting your storylines, try to keep it relatable, positive, fun and something that would have a meaning to the learners.

Furthermore, it’s generally people that should be at the heart of the stories. As humans, we relate much easier to other people compared to things or abstract concepts. Therefore, your stories should too. Everything doesn’t have to be strictly factual, many stories are fiction! But having people as the centre objects or main protagonists of those stories will establish a more lasting emotional connection.

Empathetic experiences are often powerful

An important emotional aspect in digital learning is empathy. To maintain effective organisations, we should be able to empathise with each other and different contexts. In terms of instilling emotion in digital learning, some experiences are better in that than others. In general, role-play type of activities, i.e. putting people in their colleagues’ shoes can trigger an empathetic response. While there are a number of ways to simulate something like this, different role-playing scenarios have proven quite a popular medium. Nowadays, virtual reality can also be a powerful tool in assuming someone else’s role.

Design sparks emotion too

While stories and empathetic experiences are quite explicit in their nature, there’s a lot of small subtle things that can have an impact on our emotional response. Many of these deal with design. For instance, your choices for colours, images, visuals, cues and even mundane sounding things like navigation can all have an impact on the learners’ emotional response. While easy to overlook, focusing on the design aspects can bring you a lot of good. Aligning the learning experience with your branding can instil a sense of ownership and pride in your learners. Wording and image choices can turn a topic on its head. While there’s a lot to tackle in design, consistency remains an important factor. You should strive to make sure that your design aligns with the message you’re looking to convey, your learners as well as your brand as an organisation.

Final words

Emotion in digital learning, while often overlooked, is a great tool if you use it correctly. It can help in retention, behavioural change as well as making things relatable and fun. While there’s a lot you can do to spark emotions, it’s important to remain thought-out and consistent. A good design process never gets old!

3 Tips on Managing a Learning Library

Many organisations nowadays sit on considerable amounts of online courses and other resources for employee learning. However, for many, a lot of the potentially expensive resources might go unused – or even unnoticed! That’s often not because the content is bad. In fact, the content may be perfectly fine from an objective standpoint. It’s just that employees don’t find it contemporary and useful, or that they don’t find it at all. You can solve these kinds of problems and many others by managing your learning library more effectively. Here are 3 tips on how to do that.

Make friends with your search function

Just like Google to a layman, the search function of a learning portal, LMS or LXP can be the best friend to a learning manager. As a librarian, one of your main tasks is to make sure that the content in your library is relevant and contemporary. You’ll also be in charge of getting new pieces of content and information into the library. Now, you could be a visionary curator, who magically predicts what’s going to be the next big thing people want to learn. But that’s unlikely. Instead, you likely need a more “customer-centric” way of managing your learning library.

That’s where you should make friends with the search function of your learning resource portal or even the likes of your company intranet. Those kind of systems should be able to record the search terms people are using. Visualising that into a word cloud can be a helpful exercise in understanding what’s really being searched for, i.e. what the learners really want. You can then determine whether you’re actually catering to that audience and how you could improve.

Make it easier to find your content

If you’ve ever been to a library, you’ll likely have noticed one common thing across all of them. They all employ a system that enables a layman to find his reading with relatively minimum effort. Books are placed based on topics, which are number-coded. Just by knowing the number of your book, you’ll be able to walk right to it. The way we see it, we should strive to have the same kind of efficiency when it comes to our learning resources.

On that front, we should learn from the librarians and spend the time and effort in good category design. In the context of the workplace, these categories could and should likely be aligned with different competency frameworks and career learning paths you may have. Resources could also have a lot of ancillary attributes, like approximate length, complexity level, job level etc. Based on these attributes, we could design a tagging system that helps to ensure the accuracy of content suggestions and offerings.

But don’t forget less is still more

Now search analytics and tagging sounds all fine and dandy, but as librarians, we shouldn’t forget one of the basic rules of learning: less is more. Another main duty of a librarian is to manage the exit funnel. It’s natural that the audience loses interest in some books. It’s likely that some books anticipated to become bestsellers ended up collecting dust on the shelves. Some books should not have been there in the first place.

As a learning leader, it’s important to manage your learning library with the same amount of vigour. Use the analytics, find out what’s collecting dust on your virtual shelf and remove it. Content that is demonstrably not being used is just clogging up your system. Once you have enough of redundant content in your system, you’re back to square one again, where it’s extremely difficult to find the right learning resources. Therefore, when managing your learning library, make sure that you’re pulling stuff off the shelves too, and not just putting more in. And if you think you need help in designing, setting up or managing a learning library, resource portal or a system, don’t hesitate to reach out.

3 Ideas to Keep Learners Engaged during Work-From-Home

As the amount of work-from-home population still increases, learning leaders are facing a challenge. Engaging learners from far away is quite a bit more cumbersome than doing it on-site, especially if you had not planned in advance. While we’ve written on practices on engaging in synchronous learning and webinars, things get different when learning gets more self-paced. Therefore, we’ll take a look at three ideas to keep learners engaged. Whereas modern learning solutions help in doing that, you can utilise all of these even if you were caught off guard by the sudden increase in remote learners.

Reward recurring activity

Once you’ve got learners onto your digital learning environment, it’s important to keep them coming back. For that, you not only need useful and fresh content, but likely a bit of incentives too. Learning research shows that learning over a period of time produces a better effect than trying to cram everything on one sitting. Furthermore, the more encounters we have with a piece of information, the better our chances of learning. That’s the law of repetition!

Therefore, it makes sense to incentivise behaviour where learners activate themselves every day, rather than once a week for instance. This can be done in numerous ways. For example, a gamification concept called ‘streaks’ fits this use perfectly. To keep their streaks active, learners may need to complete an activity on a daily basis. At certain intervals, active streak holders can be rewarded based on their streak length and performance. While some learning tools may have this kind of functionality built-in, you can do a lot on shoestring too. You could for instance use forms for simple daily check-ins. This could also incorporate other elements at the same time, e.g. pulse checks or other surveys. Alternatively, you could configure your learning analytics dashboard to show recurring users and handle the rewards manually.

‘Pace it’ to keep learners engaged

To support the recurring activity behaviour above, you should also consider setting up the content in a different way to keep learners engaged. Conventionally, we like to think that open learning experiences are the most user-friendly. They enable learners to navigate freely and access all content at once, as they need it. However, in a situation where you might be resource strapped to keep producing new content, it might make sense to pace the existing experiences. Let’s call this limited progress. You’ll allow learners to only progress to a point during one setting. After completing everything in the current block, they’ll have to wait for the next experience to be unlocked.

Additionally, this helps you as a learning leader to manage your content needs better. It can also allow you some really agile content creation practices. More importantly though, it creates exclusivity for the learners. They’ll learn that they need to come back to get the learning they want to do. Coincidentally, it also helps to prevent too much screen time, which is a risk during work-from-home arrangements.

Organise into teams

Finally, another way to keep learners engaged is to organise them into teams. Teams can be arbitrary, or you could base them on existing organisational structure. The important thing is that you assign a learners a social construct to associate themselves with. This creates social presence. As a part of team, learners feel a shared responsibility to contributing to the teams goals. Therefore, it might be beneficial to even map the learning goals out as team goals. For instance, you could require all team members to complete an experience before anyone could progress further.

Teams also enable a host of friendly competition options, while providing a platform for socialising and support. You could pit teams against each other on some virtual learning challenges, and then reward accordingly. You could also assign unique tasks based on team composition. Having mixed teams, for instance, could provide for an opportune time for some problem-based learning.

Final word

As more and more people work from home for extended periods of time, learning engagement becomes very important. A good engagement strategy should be based on recurring activity, evidence-based learning practices and social presence. Modern learning tools and platforms help in managing a lot of it, but there’s a lot that agile learning leaders can do while working within their resource constraints. If you’d like to explore further ideas in this space, let us know. We are happy to share more ideas.

3 Virtual Learning Ideas for Social Connectivity

As the current work-from-home and social distancing measures force people out of the offices, we find ourselves in a new situation. While remote working has been around for a long time, the current scale is unprecedented. Coincidentally, over the past few months, we’ve started to unearth some of the psychological difficulties in prolonged remote work arrangements. One of such difficulties is related to human connection. Fundamentally, people are social animals, and taking social opportunities away can have adverse impact on mental wellbeing. Therefore, we came up with 3 different virtual learning ideas that increase social connectivity. Let’s take a look!

Try out user-generated content

User-generated content can be a big opportunity in times like these. This means giving your learners and users (i.e. employees) the ability to create and share learning content and resources. By creating learning for each other, they are engaging in a socially connecting activity already. However, it’s not just for the creator. It’s likely that the consumer of the learning content may feel an increased sense of social connectivity as well. As the content comes from a peer, it can be very relatable and empathetic of the challenges people face.

User-generated content can take the form of even formal courses, but it can be much more granular and low-key too. Think blogs, resources, “homemade” videos, how-to materials, virtual classrooms facilitated by the learners themselves. Sky is the limit when it comes to creating content nowadays, but it doesn’t mean that small couldn’t be successful. Additionally, by using your users smartly, you can alleviate some of the L&D team’s pressure and reinforce a learning culture in the organisation.

Experiment with virtual lunch & learns

Besides the lack of social connectivity, another deficiency of working from home can be lack of structure. At the office, working days may often be structured around a common schedule. Everyone goes to lunch together, people share a coffee break, etc. Virtual lunch & learns can be an opportunity to get two birds with one stone. Firstly, they can bring added structure by setting a recurring activity. Secondly, lunch can be a great time to reinforce social connectivity with casual talks and chats.

The learning part shouldn’t be too serious, but the focus should be on social connectivity. It’s important to keep it casual enough for people to let down their guard and connect. However, it could be a great opportunity to do some informal sharing, e.g. about what different people do in the organisation, how they cope with the current situation and so on. These kind of sessions require very little effort, just an online video training tool of some kind, or even consumer-grade social media apps.

Start running a virtual book club

While people spend an increased amount of time inside four walls, they also need meaningful non-work activities to help them unwind. Hopefully, not all of it would involve sitting in front of a screen either. By informally surveying our peers and colleagues, we found that people are reading more books when they are confined to their homes to balance out the screen time. This sounds like a ripe opportunity for a virtual book club!

In addition to social connectivity, book clubs can be an incredibly powerful empathetic learning experience. And the core of the learning has less to do with the subject matter of the book than you think. The real power is in the discussion after reading the book. It never ceases to amaze us how differently different people read and perceive different characters, events and themes in books. If you’ve ever participated in a book club that spends a lot of time reflecting on the reading, you have surely noticed what you may have perceived as true, just or right was the complete opposite in someone else’s mind. The great power of book clubs consequently is in unearthing those differences and articulating their foundations. By doing this, we understand each other and our world views just a little bit better and can become more empathetic human beings.

That being said, there’s naturally a lot of great non-fiction out there that would surely spark a lot of new and fresh ideas for the business or work practices! Just go ahead and start looking!

4 Tips on Facilitating Webinars and Live Remote Training

Webinars and live remote video training are quite popular and low-barrier options for digital learning in organisations. At times where increasingly many are working from home, we’ve seen a big uptick on the use of these mediums. However, many are still trying out these methods for the first time. For those who are new to the medium, or want to revise their existing practice, we decided to compile a few useful but sometimes overlooked tips from a facilitator’s perspective. Let’s take a look on facilitating webinars!

Disable participant videos in big groups

While it’s nice to see the faces of your participants and peers, running continuous live video may become a usability issue. This is because of bandwidth. Whereas a regular team video meeting runs fine on just about any platform, you may experience connection drops with larger groups, depending on your configuration. Transmitting video in two directions requires a lot more bandwidth than one-way delivery.

Therefore, when facilitating webinars, drop participant video streams in big groups or close their cameras unless absolutely necessary. If you have several dozens of people on the webinar, the interactivity is bound to drop anyways. In fact, when tuning into a presentation for instance, additional faces may even become a distraction.

Use text chats for questions and comments

When facilitating webinars, it’s often a good idea to also use the text chat instead of audio for learners to ask questions and comment. This has two major benefits. Firstly, you’ll avoid the messy moment when everyone is talking out of turn. Secondly, posing questions in writing enables others to read them too, in case they did not get it the first time. Furthermore, it also enables the facilitator to read the question to themselves before answering.

Get a separate moderator for larger sessions

When participant numbers exceed several, it’s often a good idea to bring an a separate moderator. While this helps to take some of the administrative responsibility off the shoulders of the facilitator, it also helps in a few other ways. For instance, the moderator can keep an eye on the discussion stream as the webinar progresses, to get an idea of questions that come up. Often, facilitating webinars already requires extra effort, so make sure to not overstretch the facilitator with too much responsibility. Additionally, a moderator can also prompt the facilitator to explore particular topics in more depth, based on immediate user feedback. During Q&As with large groups, it’s also rare that every question gets answered. Therefore, the moderator can curate the stream of questions ahead of time, to make sure that enough ground is covered.

Record sessions for later use

Many webinar tools come with the option of recording sessions. Generally, there are two great reasons for making use of that function. First of all, recording a session enables the facilitator to review their own performance. They can get an idea of what it looked like from a participant’s point of view, and adjust their own setup accordingly.

Secondly, informative sessions often provide good material for future learning activities. Good training videos take time to produce, and by recording sessions you can get a lot of raw material quickly. However, the emphasis on the word ‘raw’ material. We don’t generally recommend using recorded webinars as-is, and just upload them for users to later view. That rarely happens. Rather, there’s a great potential use for these recordings with a little bit of post-production work. Editing the videos, clipping them into digestible pieces and weeding out the less useful parts of the recording is a good starting point. From thereon, you could also use different tools to make the recording interactive. This helps to keep up learners’ engagement as they view the video at their own pace.

Final thoughts on facilitating webinars

While webinars are a widely used medium, it’s often the small things in their execution that make or break the experience. Whereas on this post we focused more on perhaps the “technical” aspects of running a webinar, it’s also important for facilitators to work on engaging the learners in different ways during sessions (here are some tips for that). And while live remote training is a great low-cost alternative, remember not to overdo it either. Other types of interactive digital learning activities may often provide better alternatives for conveying a message.

How to Design Reflection into Digital Learning

Research on cognitive science and learning has solidified reflection as an integral part to the learning process. However, it’s not always utilised to its maximum potential in corporate learning programs. In many cases, opportunities for reflection are foregone outright. While certain types of training may provide a more natural platform for reflection, such as leadership training or soft skills, it can be used in practically any type of learning activity. Here’s a little guide on how to design reflection in digital learning experiences.

Why we need reflection in digital learning experiences

There’s quite a number of reasons that make the importance of reflecting on one’s learning apparent. First of all, articulating one’s own thoughts is a key part of learning. Understanding concepts is the beginning, but being able to verbally relate the concept into other concepts and contexts brings learning to the next level. When people can generate their own original insights they are learning at their best.

Secondly, reflection in digital learning is crucial to having a lasting impact. Often, digital learning experiences may revolve on a theoretical level, unlike real life and work conditions. In such case, it’s up to the learner to build the bridge between the concept and how it applies to their work. Experience shows that unless it’s explicitly required, people often don’t take a moment to link the learning to their own tasks. While good learning design helps to bridge the gap, it’s unlikely that it can eliminate the need for reflection entirely. Therefore, providing an opportunity for people to consider the subject matter and how they may use it is a great enabler.

Thirdly, reflections on digital learning also build ground for business improvement. A collective reflection process can act as a fail-safe and a continuous review mechanism. When groups of employees are sharing their thoughts and experiences on learning, they’re bound to point out inefficiencies. Furthermore, constructive group reflection can be a great source of process improvement, whereby learners collectively conceptualise and suggest better ways of doing things.

How to design reflection into digital learning

Designing reflection doesn’t need grande investments, and not even significant amounts of extra effort. Rather, it’s just about providing opportunities for it and incentivising it. While reflection can come in many forms, here’s a handy process cycle that you can follow where possible.

  1. Learning a concept
  2. Reflecting on the concept itself
  3. Reflecting on one’s personal experience
  4. Review the reflections and experiences of others
  5. Articulate own insights

Providing opportunities for the above is really all it takes. Naturally, the tools and methods can also vary. For self-reflection, a journal-like tool or feature may be helpful. In intensive training or coaching situations, a trainer can also keep track and comment on the learner’s reflections. For group reflections and reviewing others’ thoughts, different social learning tools may come in handy. This goes for articulating one’s own insights too, naturally.

What does good reflection look like?

As mentioned, for the most part, reflection in digital learning is about providing the opportunity for it. However, there are a certain rules of thumb that it’s advisable to follow.

Firstly, reflection should be structured. An ad hoc call to “reflect on this topic please” won’t get you very far. Instead, you need to build in reflection opportunities into the learning experience. You can incentivise reflection, or make it even compulsory to complete a program. Structure in terms of e.g. guiding questions helps. Entirely free-form discussions have shown not to function as well as facilitated ones. If the point of reflection is not entirely apparent, spell it out.

Secondly, good digital learning reflection is also continuous. A single instance of a feedback form at the end of a course won’t get you those great insights. Instead, reflection should travel along across the whole learning journey, from the beginning to the end. This provides better opportunities for learners to manage their own learning too.

Thirdly, great reflection is arguably social. By limiting learners to self-reflection only, we are limiting them for access to the wealth of different world views out there. People are very different. And it’s a constant surprise how different the thinking of people in the same environment (e.g. work) may be. Bringing these differences to light is a richness, and learning designers should embrace it.

Final words

Overall, designing reflection into digital learning is a low-hanging fruit. It can significantly improve the learning value of different activities, and it doesn’t cost a lot of time or money to do it. It’s likely that you already have the tools and platforms in place, in which case it’s just a matter of providing the opportunity. And if you don’t, or if you feel like you could use some help in your corporate learning design and content development, feel free to reach out to us here. We’re happy to help.