Interleaved Learning – Improve Results by Mixing It Up

Interleaved learning can improve results

Interleaved Learning – Improve Results by Mixing It Up

Do you still remember the time you were in school? Chances are that the teachers probably offered you study advice. One particular piece of advise when it came to studying that we recall was “take one subject or topic at a time”. While the intentions were definitely good, it seems likely that it wasn’t necessary the best advice to give. In fact, studies have shown that learning methods that leverage on the opposite – learning a few different things simultaneously – can produce even better results. One of such methods is interleaved learning, and that’s what we’ll look into here.

What is interleaved learning?

Interleaved learning is a method in which one mixes up different topics or forms of practice to facilitate learning. The method is also occasionally referred to as mixed practice or varied practice. Instead of completing one things before moving onto the next one, the learner switches between materials. And that’s where the secret of the method is.

In simple terms, this method of learning works because of the “switching”. The human brain and its cognitive mechanisms such as contextual interference are behind this effect. In practical terms, this means that the increased interference in doing a task forces the learner to use multiple different processing strategies for the topic. This in turn leads to higher learning retention. Interleaved learning also forces the learners to identify the right strategies for tackling a particular problem from their long-term memory, rather than applying the thing they just learned about.

How could we use the method in corporate learning?

In addition to help our personal lives, the method could also be beneficial in corporate learning. Most corporate learning programs often take quite a conventional approach. Usually you’ll have a module on a particular topic, followed by questions (assessment). This type of assessment is certainly not formative enough to really assess learning. It’s more likely that you’ll just be testing short term recall. So, what if we just changed the way we do those questions? Instead of having a small set for particular module, what if we had a big one for a group of modules? This would force the learners to apply the knowledge, instead of just regurgitating it.

Another possible approach could be changing the way we structure learning materials. Normally, you have your “courses” that have a very specific and focused subject matter. But what if we abolished the structure of courses and started working within the framework of topics? Instead of studying a particular course on e.g. how to deliver presentations, the learner could be prompted with various types of not necessarily related materials under the wider umbrella of communication skills. This is similar in philosophy to the resource-based learning strategies that a growing number of organisations are employing.

However, a thing to note when planning interleaved learning is that the topics should never be too similar (so you need to identify right strategies and apply knowledge) nor too unrelated. For instance, pairing up communication training materials with something for technical skills is unlikely to have the desired effect. However, pairing up communication with leadership could work a lot better.

Key takeaways

Interleaved learning is an interesting phenomenon, and certainly good to know about. L&D professionals and learning designers can use the technique to facilitate better and lasting learning. However, even if you’re not a learning designer, the method might be beneficial to incorporate in your own educational endeavours.

Whether you implement it personally or on an organisational level, there’s one thing to note. Interleaved learning is not easy. It feels more difficult, because it is. But that’s exactly why it’s so effective. It forces us to spark those neuron connections and apply knowledge on a wide level. So, don’t be discouraged if you don’t see immediate, quick wins with the method. Rather, focus on the long term, as that’s where the effect tends to really start to show.

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4 Ways to Use Scaffolding in Corporate Learning

Instructional scaffolding in workplace learning

4 Ways to Use Scaffolding in Corporate Learning

Instructional scaffolding is a set of techniques used to support learners in their learning process. The goal is to enhance learning and aid the learners in achieving mastery of the topic in question. While the techniques are nothing new, they remain highly relevant. In particular, transformational learning initiatives, whereby organisations introduce new work practices, tasks or strategies can benefit a lot from well-designed scaffolding. If we use a toddler analogy, the process is similar to learning to walk. Initially, you’ll have the parent holding up the kid, gradually giving more “responsibility” to the child, and ultimately letting go altogether.

So, let’s explore instructional scaffolding in the context of workplace learning. Here are 4 techniques that tend to work well in our experience.

1. Tap into and connect with learners’ prior knowledge

A big component of adult learning is learning through building on prior knowledge and experiences. Hence, it’s important that you let the learners see the big picture; how the learning relates to other things. Thus, you should aim to make connections with the employees’ current skills, professional experience and prior learning.

2. Break up content into digestible chunks

To enhance the effect of the previous point and help learners activate their prior knowledge, you should consider breaking up your content. Smaller chunks, or microlearning activities, that build on each other tend to work well. But instead of just chunking up content and delivering it the same way as before, the “consumption” of these activities should be spread over time in a spaced learning approach to enable the learners to build up their knowledge gradually.

3. Give the learners time and opportunities to talk

People need time to process new information and make sense of whatever they have been learning. Peer discussions enable the learners to articulate their own understanding, synthesise information and learn about different points of view. Guided discussions also provide a good platform for sharing personal experiences, tips and best practices that might help other learners. With different social learning technologies, you can facilitate these types of learning discussions in a digital way.

4. Give the learners time and opportunities to practice

Finally, a critical piece in scaffolding is to enable sufficient amounts of practice. When learning new things at the workplace, the challenge is often not in the learning itself, but transferring that learning back to the workplace. But if you allow people to practice, they can build up their confidence doing things in a new way before being exposed to “live” situations. Hence, you should always aim to incorporate practice time in learning activities. That might be role play in small groups, digital simulations or many other types of activities. However, the important factor underlying them all is providing a safe environment to make mistakes.

Final words

Scaffolding techniques have proven to be quite powerful and should be a part of every learning professional’s toolbox. In workplace learning, scaffolding can help employees to learn more effectively and increase learning transfer. However, as a process, it shouldn’t continue forever. Just like with the toddler learning to walk, you need to figure out when to let go completely and let them do things on their own. Similarly, when learners reach a certain level of proficiency, they no longer need or even want you to hold them up.

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Fighting the Forgetting Curve – Fact-based Lessons on Retention

Fighting the forgetting curve - how to make learning stick?

Fighting the Forgetting Curve – How to Make Learning Stick?

If you’re in L&D, chances are that you have heard of the forgetting curve effect. This means that people forget things over time at a diminishing rate. This tends to be a consideration for workplace L&D, as if people don’t even retain what they’re learning, it’s going to be difficult to apply it. While there are a lot of numbers being thrown around as facts (e.g. people forget 70% of what they learn in classroom training within 3 months), the reality is much more complex than that. Thus, we decided to embark on an exploration into the forgetting curve and what makes learning stick. Here are a few fact-based lessons that as an L&D professional you should be aware of.

You cannot generalise the forgetting curve

The first fact, and also an important one, is that we cannot generalise. Educational and cognitive scientists have done a considerable amount of research into the topic. While you could even argue that the methodology of these studies doesn’t really represent the nuances of workplace learning, the findings are nevertheless clear. There’s not a single formula to forgetting. Meta-research results show that the rates of forgetting in these pieces of research have been “all over the place” to put it mildly. The amount of learning retained is heavily influences by several factors, e.g. learning methods, motivation etc.

So, as a takeaway, there are no rules of thumb (such as people forget x% in y days) to the forgetting curve. Parties who claim so have generally either been very selective with their research, or are not familiar with it overall.

What kind of factors affect learning retention?

Like mentioned, learning retention is influenced by several factors. Here are a few of them that are particularly applicable to workplace learning. But don’t consider this list as an exhaustive one!

  • The type of learning materials
  • Learning methods
  • Prior knowledge and experience of the learner
  • Difficulty of assessment
  • Context of learning
  • Learning support and feedback

Interesting and engaging learning materials tend to be less “forgettable”. The more relevant the particular topic or concept, the more likely the person is to retain and learn that information. The more support and feedback the learners have, the more seamless the process of learning should turn out to be.

How to make learning stick? How to keep people from forgetting learning?

To fight the forgetting curve, we need to make learning stick. Situations and contexts vary wildly, so this is not an exact science. There’s no single right or wrong way of doing it. However, here are some guidelines on what kinf of things tend to stick based on research findings that also match what we’ve learned over the course of our own work in workplace learning.

Less sticky, more forgettable

  • Information and knowledge that has very little personal relevance
  • Abstract knowledge that is not conceptualised or related to practice

More sticky, less forgettable

  • Personally relevant information and knowledge
  • Emotionally salient material that “stands out” or evokes a reaction
  • Decision making information

Overall, we could summarise what works in single word: meaningful. For workplace learning to stick and fight the forgetting curve, it should be meaningful. Learning that resonates, is relevant and important to the people in their personal and professional contexts. Just throwing information at people without them wanting or needing it doesn’t result in very much anything (other than forgetting!).

Another key method in reducing the chances of forgetting learning is spaced learning. Research shows that long-term retention can be significantly increased with spaced repetition, where learners are exposed to the material over time, and practice and test themselves on more than just a single occasion. While organisation may often neglect the concept of spaced repetition due to the time investment in designing such, it could greatly benefit workplace learning. And with the right learning technology tools, it’s a lot easier to build such learning activities.

Final words

All in all, much of the discussion out there about the forgetting curve is false. However, people still do forget, that’s certain, and the impact may be significant. If people don’t retain knowledge, they can’t apply it and L&D loses all its value in a heartbeat. By sticking to fact-based and evidence-informed practices and models, workplace learning professional can ensure better retention. And it’s no rocket science. Meaningful learning delivered in a pedagogically meaningful format (e.g. spaced learning) can already get you quite far. After reading this piece, hopefully looking into further research about learning retention and still feeling unsure, feel free to drop us a note. We can help you build learning delivery with a big emphasis on meaningful.

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Compliance Training – Is There a Smarter Way to Do It?

Smarter ways to do compliance training

Compliance Training – Is There a Smarter Way to Do It?

With increasing regulation and complexity, compliance training is something that many companies must conduct. While the intention of regulators and compliance enforcers may be good, the practice needs improvement. The usual ways of doing the training don’t produce value beyond ticking a few boxes. Employees generally dislike it, and real learning is a rare occurrence – it’s just a matter of getting it over with in the least amount of time possible!

But does this work? Sure, as long as you get to your “completions” and “passes”, you can show that you’ve covered your own behind. But wouldn’t there be value in educating people in a proactive way, that perhaps could reduce risky behaviour in the first place? Or if that sounds alien, how about not having to force employees sit through the same material year after year? Let’s explore two small things we could do to make compliance training work just a little bit better.

Proving knowledge through mastery vs. a few correctly guessed questions

Arguably, the usual ways of conducting compliance training have very little actual learning value. The compliance training just acts as a tool to shift blame; you’ve “trained” the individual, so you can wash your hands off. Yet, the actual risks are of committing harmful acts are not necessarily materially reduced and do still realise. And as an organisation you’ll be on the hook – both financially and reputationally. Wouldn’t it make sense to be bit more proactive and try to reduce risky behaviours through learning in the first place?

Another problem is that the way compliance training is often assessed is quite limited. You’ll have your course, followed by a test that pulls its questions from a larger question bank. So even with a 100% score, there’s still a lot that they could potentially not know. Additionally, it’s perhaps worth realising that many learners just skip through the material and guess answers until getting a passing mark.

So, what if the learners actually learned the concepts and proved it through a mastery-based approach? In a mastery-based approach, you’re essentially testing everything, from multiple angles and at different points in time. Learners reach mastery when they can consistently answer correctly and confidently, without guessing or cheating, which can be detected by algorithms. At that point, you can also be fairly confident that they’ve learned what they had to.

In practice, such an approach doesn’t have to be a burdensome one either. By switching some of the focus from content to testing and instant feedback, you can keep the time investment required also in check. Furthermore, the learners can keep developing their mastery in short bursts over time, instead of having to spend a lot of time at once. Consequently, this also improves the learning results.

Enabling employees to test out of material

Even if you don’t buy the value of a more proactive approach just yet, you’ll probably agree that the time spent on compliance training is time away from productive work. Naturally, we’ll want to keep that time to a minimum.

As mentioned, we often tend to build compliance training in a way in which learners go through material and then test themselves. However, this kind of approach wastes a lot of time. It doesn’t really take into account learners’ existing knowledge, and forces them through mundane tasks. Consequently, the learners will look for ways to minimise their time investment, and start skipping through. Hence, it’s easy for updates and revisions go unnoticed, no one simply engages.

So, at the very least, it would probably make sense to do this the other way around. Why not test the learners before letting them into the material? If they score high enough, exempt them from the compliance training altogether – they already know the stuff. This saves their time – time which makes you money.

Final words

All in all, the usual ways of doing compliance training are not particularly smart. If we want to see real learning impact, we have to move away from the prevalent tick-the-box culture. Different mastery-based approaches or even downright getting practical by eliminating useless training could be steps towards the better. If you’d like to explore those steps further and find better ways of doing things, feel free to initiate a discussion with us. We rarely do anything related to compliance training for the sheer lack of imagination and ambition the field pertains, but we do entertain interesting ideas.

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Contextual Learning in Organisations – Why and How?

Contextual learning in organisations - why context matters

Contextual Learning in Organisations – Why and How?

Many organisations, both large and small, often express their challenges in delivering learning content. Due to this need to rapidly put out fires by pushing content to each and every direction, the L&D teams can easily lose sight of perhaps an even more important thing – context. Here’s why context and contextual learning should be much higher up organisations’ priority lists.

Why context matters in corporate learning

Context is incredibly important in workplace learning for multiple reasons. Firstly, a lot of adult learning happens through scaffolding and building on experiences and prior knowledge. If we can’t connect the dots between what is being taught now, and what the people already know, we’re up for some challenges.

Secondly, contextualisation of learning is important for another highly individual reason. While we do learn at workplaces, learning is rarely the end goal of the employees. Rather, they’re learning to position themselves better professionally, move up the career ladder and unlock new opportunities. Learning is just the way of getting there, and the learning done should serve those goals. If it doesn’t, it gets “mentally thrown out” quite easily.

Thirdly, organisations don’t really learn for the sake of learning either. Rather, L&D functions exist to improve and nurture performance. Learning is again only a medium of intervention, and should certainly not be the only solution. Fundamentally, it’s about helping people succeed in their jobs and roles to help the organisation carry out its mission. If we disregard that context, and deliver learning on an abstract level, without addressing the specifics and peculiarities of actually doing it on the job, we’re unlikely to see an impact on performance.

Finally, the big challenge in corporate learning is not in the delivery phase. We can “get people information” just fine. The challenge is in learning transfer. People have to actually retain the knowledge, and then take it back to their jobs and put it into practice. Often, however, we deliver learning on an abstract level and leave it up to the employees to figure out how to put it into practice (and then they don’t). That’s a model deemed to fail.

How can we deliver more contextual learning?

In essence, high context learning requires you to understand your people and organisation. It’s about designing impactful activities that resemble real situations, are applicable to the learners’ jobs and come with opportunities to practice. Therefore, instead of focusing on building content, you should focus on building context. The following activities or questions can get you closer. So, for every learning activity you put out, consider the following.

  • Who is learning this? What do they already know (learning analytics might help here)? How can we relate the activity to what they already know?
  • What are they doing when they’re accessing this learning? How are they accessing it? What do they need?
  • What motivates our learners? How can we align this learning with their aspirations?
  • How does this learning help our people do their jobs better? What kind of barriers might prevent them from applying the learning?
  • How can we build a safe environment to practice the learnt immediately, to ensure that a higher portion of it is retained and transferred in the long term?

As you might see from reading the questions, it’s really about understanding the people. Now, on practical level that might involve use of analytics, interviews or even job shadowing. Also, something important to address (that we even didn’t manage to yet) is the social context. Cultures of teams or business units, influence and power dynamics often come into play especially when introducing transformational learning initiatives.

Final words

Nowadays, we are drowning in content. Learning content libraries and the amount of available resources is greater than ever before. Yet, we have barely started to overcome the old challenges. Learning is still not being retained or applied (or even consumed!) to a great extent. Most of it just seems to go in from one ear and out the other (perhaps ticking a compliance check list item along the way). So, it’s about time to start approaching the problem differently and putting context above content. Less can sometimes be more too.

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How to Write Good eLearning Questions?

How to write good elearning questions?

How to Write Good eLearning Questions?

Wherever there’s learning, we often need some kind of assessment. While learning analytics have evolved considerably over the past few years, often the easiest method to try to capture learning is through asking questions. However, it’s good to keep in mind other formative assessment methods, that might be better in evaluating long-term learning outcomes. Regardless, there are certain elements to asking questions as well. Naturally, you’ll want to be sure that you’re evaluating learning, not just the ability to regurgitate facts or recall statistics. Thus, we put together a quick guide on how to write good eLearning questions. Here you go!

1. Align your questions with the learning objectives

Whenever you’re writing questions, you should keep in mind what the learning objectives of the activity are. When going through subject matter and material, it’s easy to pick on certain things (especially facts, figures, numbers) in the hopes that they would make good questions. However, often these questions don’t go beyond the trivial level, and thus don’t support the learning goals either. Overall, we should focus on the use of knowledge, rather than the ability to recall content. Hence, you should focus on writing eLearning questions that require understanding the concepts and ideas, as well as practical applications.

2. Use a variety of question types

Simple multiple or single choice questions are probably the most used ones. However, there’s no reason you should limit yourself to those. Question types like drag-and-drop, fill-the-blanks, sorting activities and open-ended questions all work well and are easy to execute. The added variety has two benefits. Firstly, it may help in engagement. Instead of mindlessly clicking through alternatives, learners have to focus on the questions type first, and then the content. When you get people to focus, they are more careful, which means you’ll get better answers. Secondly, using multiple different eLearning question enables you to ask about the same thing from different perspectives and in different ways. This helps to really understand whether the learners truly understood the concept or are just working with surface level knowledge.

3. Keep the questions clear and concise, avoid negative

The aim of assessment should naturally be to test whether someone has understood your content. Now, if your learners have trouble already understanding the questions, you’ll just make everyone frustrated. The learners are having trouble answering and you can’t be sure whether it was the content or the question that wasn’t understood. So, keep your eLearning questions clear and concise. Avoid ambiguity, “circling around” and unnecessary detail, and be direct.

Also, you should try to avoid negative phrasing of questions wherever possible. Studies show that negatively phrases questions are more difficult to understand and thus result in more frequent mistakes.

4. Provide valid answer options without free clues

This is probably the part where it’s the easiest to cut corners when you’re under a time pressure. When designing the alternatives that the learner is supposed to pick from (in e.g. a multiple choice question), we’ll naturally already have the question and the right answer ready. It’s probably easy to just come up with random options for the wrong answers, which are also referred to as distractors. But you really shouldn’t do that.

Good assessment tries to eliminate the possibilities of guessing. We often say that “it’s not the correct but the incorrect answers that determine real knowledge”. By providing “bad” alternatives or silly distractors, you’re effectively making it a whole lot easier to pick the right answer from the rest. So, ensure that all the options could at least seem plausible to someone who had not learned the topic. Also, make sure that all your alternatives are roughly the same length and same phrasing. We human beings instinctively look for visual cues when trying to solve problems. By keeping things uniform, you’re not giving away unnecessary free clues.

Final words

Overall, writing good eLearning questions is not rocket science by any measure. A good rule of thumb that encapsulates a lot of the previously said would be “keep it clear and don’t try to trick the learner”. It’s very easy to sabotage one’s own “data set” by asking silly questions, but that only comes back to haunt you as an L&D professional, as you won’t get an accurate picture of the knowledge and skill levels in your organisation. So, the next time you’re designing an eLearning quiz, keep these 4 points in mind!

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Micro vs. Macrolearning – What to Use and When?

Microlearning vs macrolearning what to use and when

Micro vs. Macrolearning – What to Use and When?

Microlearning has been all the rage in recent years. While we shouldn’t undermine its effectiveness when designed and used properly, it isn’t a solution to all learning problems. Concise and contextual bursts of learning are good for certain uses, but not all. Sometimes, we still need more long-form education, macrolearning.

While the traditional training approaches of organisations perhaps rely more on macrolearning than they should, we do need to make sense of when to go micro and when, on the other hand, we are better off with macro. So, let’s explore what to use, when and how.

We need macrolearning to build new skills…

Generally, we can distinguish between the need of macro vs micro by analysing the existing skill level of the learner. If the topic is entirely new, or the learner has had very limited exposure, macrolearning is the more suitable approach. Novices tend to benefit from structured and guided instruction, as well as learning about the topic with a wide perspective. This helps to develop an understanding of the topic to the level that the learner can start self regulating his/her own learning.

Conversely, attempting to use microlearning on such new topics wouldn’t work very well. As the learners are not familiar with the topic beforehand, they are less likely to be able to form the links between concepts (i.e. relate the microlearning activities to the bigger picture).

Hence, if we consider some practical use cases, macrolearning is likely to be at its best in:

  • Transformational programs. E.g. training people on contemporary topics such as principles of data science, design thinking, machine learning etc. In many organisations, these are skills not readily available in the skill pool.
  • Learning to use the organisation’s tools. E.g. training on how to use various software and information systems of the organisation.

… But microlearning enables us to build on existing skills

Whereas macrolearning focuses on complete skill areas and “the bigger picture”, microlearning is better suited for more specific needs. Pedagogically, we should use microlearning to build on existing knowledge. Once the learners already have a baseline of knowledge to work with, they can contextually apply and relate the newly learnt things to the existing. For instance, once you know enough of a language, learning new words brings immediate benefits. But learning vocabulary without knowing the grammar or how to use the language won’t give you good results.

Additionally, microlearning has the characteristics of being able to help people to learn something small in a convenient, rapid manner. Convenience and speed are key factors when considering learning in the flow of work. Smaller “chunks” are simply more convenient to offer and use than large “chunks”.

So, taking this into account, we could establish that microlearning is potentially better suited for uses such as:

  • Updating” knowledge and skills. E.g. new SOPs, new workplace practices, product updates and best practices. All of these are topics that employees would already have experience on. Hence, micro rather than long-form learning should be better off.
  • Performance support. Practical knowledge and information on how to perform specific tasks, delivered just-in-time.
  • Increasing retention. Refreshers, knowledge checks and other spaced learning elements help to increase retention, even within a wider “macrolearning” activity.

Final thoughts

We should never assume that there are any one-size-fits-all approaches to learning. Ultimately, executing an effective workplace learning strategy is about combining different methods, formats and approaches in a way that makes sense – for both the organisation and the employees. Perhaps a key thing to remember for the future is that neither micro- or macrolearning has to be just “formal” learning activities. Furthermore, we shouldn’t forget the clear link between the two. Micro will always be a part of the macro, and macro will always include the micro.

Hence, you should take the time to analyse your own organisational needs, and see what where you might best utilise either of the approaches, and even better, how to play them together. And if you think you might need help in developing this kind of a learning strategy, we can probably help. Just shoot us a message here and we’ll get back to you.

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3 Reasons Your eLearning Should Never Be Mandatory

3 Reasons to Avoid Mandatory eLearning

3 Reasons Your eLearning Should Never Be Mandatory

When designing corporate elearning experiences, it might often seem compelling to make them mandatory. For some reason, we’ve grown to believe that forcing the learners to “take up on courses” or “participate” will guarantee learning. But the unfortunately reality is that it doesn’t. Far from it actually. Making a learning activity mandatory is a great way to kill motivation and effectiveness as well as introduce an inherently wrong culture of learning in the organisation. Thus, we should find alternatives. Here are three reasons to avoid mandatory elearning.

1. Mandatory eLearning kills motivation

Learners like choice, freedom and personalisation. Furthermore, adult learners tend to be relatively more self-directed than kids at school. Finally, learning is something that is inherently fun and rewarding, thanks to the element of discovery. Whenever you make learning activities compulsory, you’ll take away from all that. As soon as something is made mandatory, you’ll evoke a psychological defensive reaction: “why do I have to do this”. And if your training materials are not relevant, the employees will soon feel like you’re wasting their time. Continue that for long enough, and you’ll find it very hard to introduce meaningful learning initiatives within the organisation.

2. Having to go through everything doesn’t constitute effective workplace learning

On a practical level, once someone has decided to make elearning mandatory, a common technique to enforce that in practice is to use a technique of “locked progress”. Essentially, this means that the learner has to go through every piece of material, most often in a pre-defined sequence, to complete the learning. Unfortunately, this type of approach doesn’t serve the modern workplace learning at all.

Workplace learning is inherently informal and sudden. To really affect and enable performance, learning has to be much more just-in-time. In fact, most of the traditional corporate elearning today would probably be better off served as performance support resources than highly structured activities. If you’re wish to support your people at their jobs, limiting their access to information and having them jump through the hoops of locked progress might not be a good idea, as it kills all this natural inquiry -type of behaviour. And it’s not that they won’t learn, no. Your employees will probably find the resources via other channels. It’s just not going to be your learning materials, hence you cannot control the validity of the information.

3. Mandatory eLearning reinforces tick-box culture

Finally, the perhaps highest level challenge in trying to force your employees to learn is that it reinforces a tick-box culture. As there’s a good chance that the employees don’t feel that your mandatory elearning is all that relevant or beneficial to them, they are likely to try to minimise their effort to go through it. Yes, they will probably click through the slides or loop through the videos if you force them to, but that’s where it ends. You see a learning culture where it’s enough that something has merely been completed. We sure hope no-one still believes that having someone complete something is a good indicator of learning (hint: it’s not). Rather, learning requires active thinking, reflection and application and is a much more complex process.

Final words

All in all, we don’t think making your elearning or any kind of training mandatory is ever a good idea. Instead of trying to force people to learn, it’s our job as learning professionals to design workplace learning experiences that actually help them to perform better and motivate them to learn on their own. Some will undoubtedly argue that some learning needs to be mandatory for compliance reasons, and that may be true in some cases. However, even if you have to have your employees go through training doesn’t mean that you have to use the same old “mandatory” playbook. Rather, find ways of using things such as gamification, social or experiential learning to make it a bit more interesting. Or, use proper analytics to prove that the required effort has been put in, instead of forced tests or completions. And if you need help, just contact us.

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How to Optimise Learning Experiences? 3 Advanced Methods

How to optimise learning experiences cover

How to Optimise Learning Experiences? 3 Advanced Methods

Good and effective learning is not just about the content. Rather, it’s the sum of content, user experience and fit-to-purpose that defines the success of a learning experience. Nowadays, as we develop digital learning experiences, we need to pay increasing attention to how everything works. Frankly, there’s a lot of factors to take into consideration. Luckily, the prevalence of digital and web-based tools brings us the capability to optimise learning like never before. Therefore, we summed up three different methods for optimising learning experiences.

1. Using A/B testing to discover the best design or content

If you’ve ever done digital marketing, or UX design, you’re probably familiar with A/B testing. The underlying idea of A/B testing is to try out two versions of a piece of content or design, and measure the response. To optimise a learning experience, we could for instance measure:

  • Whether a text element or video conveys the required information faster
  • Which typeface/colour scheme/structure creates the most positive response
  • Task performance after using immersive simulations vs. a conventional e-learning module
  • Ease of use of navigation and user flow between two different design versions

By comparing different options with each other in live use, we can get a lot of data. This enables us to optimise the learning experience and get a little closer to the best solution. However, while A/B testing is a good tool, use it wisely. You should always make sure you’re only testing one variable at a time. Otherwise, you can’t be certain of the contributing factors.

2. Using web analytics to optimise the learning experience

Just like with A/B testing, if you’ve been involved with marketing, you’re likely familiar with web analytics. Nowadays, as a lot of the learning platforms out there are in fact “websites”, we can leverage web analytics to understand how a particular platform is being used.

The most famous web analytics tool is probably Google Analytics. But it’s not really about the tool itself, but rather how to use the data it collects. Some traditional web analytics data that can be used to optimise learning experiences include:

  • Device information. How many of the learners are using mobile? What about tablets? Desktop?
  • Bounce rates. How many learners don’t go beyond the first page? Where do they exit?
  • Time of usage. When are learners engaging on the platform? Are they learning during the workday or on their free time?
  • Frequency. How many times have your learners visited your platform? Are they coming back?

All of these data points, and many more, help us to further optimise the learning experience. While these types of web analytics are handy, you may also consider xAPI compatible platforms and analytics. The advantage of xAPI is that whereas e.g. Google’s data is largely anonymised, xAPI lets you drill down to the level of individual learners, and all their interactions within the platform.

3. Using heatmaps and user recordings to understand the flow of the learning experience

A handy new tool in the analytics space is the “heatmap”. While these tools collect largely similar type of data to web analytics, they go slightly further. With these types of heatmaps and user recordings, we can find out for instance:

  • The scrolling behaviour of our learners
  • Mouse movements / taps / clicks
  • The “flow” within the page or learning activity

This type of information helps us to further address problem areas, as we’ll know exactly where the learners tend to pause (perhaps there’s an unclear explanation?), where they progress to (does it happen linearly or as intended?) and how they flow through the activity. For instance, you might find out that only 25% of the learners reach the piece of content you spent a lot of time on. In such case, you might want to rework the activity.

Final words

Learning design as a process is becoming much more agile. We can no longer justify developing large amounts of content or designing in a specific way without validating the assumptions with data. By working to optimise learning experiences, we ensure that learners receive the right resources in the right way, which greatly contributes to their learning success. While the above are great methods and tools for optimisation, you can do quite well even with more traditional means, e.g. surveys or focus groups. In the end, it’s all about getting the right data and letting it guide your decisions.

If you’d like to explore more agile or learner-centric ways of designing workplace learning, feel free to drop us a note. Let’s optimise your learning experiences together!

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3 Quick Tips on Facilitating Discovery Learning

Discovery learning tips

3 Quick Tips on Facilitating Discovery Learning

Professional learning is more important than ever, thanks to the speed of change in the business environment. However, simple delivery and recall of facts and information is not enough. Rather, it’s how we and our employees use information to solve problems within our environment that matters. To encourage a more problem-solving approach to professional L&D, discovery learning might be worth looking into. Here are 3 quick tips on how to incorporate discovery-based elements in your learning design.

1. Steer away from the mundane multiple choice assessment

Most of traditional eLearning is the same. You start with a deck of material and end with a multiple choice quiz meant to test your learning. While a battery of multiple choice questions doesn’t actually even fill that purpose, and you should consider more formative assessment methods, organisations use them as they are the cheapest evaluation method. For learning purposes, a simple change to a discovery learning approach, e.g. open-ended questions can go a long way. Instead of spoon-feeding information and asking mundane questions just for the sake of asking them, use that time wisely. Open-ended questions activate thinking and self-reflection. Furthermore, solving something oneself leaves a more lasting memory trace than simply ‘choosing the right answer’.

You can also add some flavour into these types of questions by introducing social elements and turning the thing into a discussion. Social tools are also beneficial in bringing out those real-world experiences, which further facilitates cognitive processes and assigning meaning to the content. And don’t worry, as an evaluator, you don’t have to manually read everything either. Rather, some of the more advanced tools out there deploy semantic and keyword analysis to determine the “value” of the answers.

2. Discovery learning is moving from known to the unknown

We all are more comfortable with things we are familiar with. The same goes for learning. When designing learning experiences, you should aim to identify the already familiar concepts and ideas and start with them. From there on, you can then gradually introduce more advanced or difficult topics. Serving a baseline of information before inviting the learners solve problems and practice on their own helps to alleviate some of the pressure. However, it’s important that you always create and maintain a safe environment for the learners to discover, practice and make mistakes.

Technology can also assist in the process. For instance, you can use adaptive learning to offer the right content at the right time (whether in terms of difficulty, etc.). Recommendation engines and platforms using them can also prove handy in making more of the ‘unknown’ available.

3. Creating feedback systems is vital for discovery learning to work

Naturally, discovery learning relies on involvement, engagement and participation. As a method, it’s not nearly as “standardised” as some of the other methods, allowing for people to achieve the desired outcomes in their own personal way. For such a system to work, it’s vital that you create good feedback processes to support the learning experience.

Good methods of integrating continuous feedback can vary depending on the need. For instance, collaborative learning and peer-to-peer activities provide a feedback network without adding to the workload of the L&D team. You should also consider digital coaching and the possibilities it brings for 1-on-1 feedback. If coaching is too resource intensive, instructor-led facilitation might be a good alternative for providing the required support.

All in all, a discovery learning approach not only helps to create a lasting learning impact, but also prepares the learners for the future. In a world where critical thinking, problem solving and creativity are some of the most sought after skills, you’re hitting two birds with one stone! And if you think you need help in future proofing your learning strategy, we’re happy to help and discuss potential methods in more detail. Just contact us here.

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