How to Humanise Online Learning?

How to humanise online learning?

How to Humanise Online Learning?

One of the common pain points of digital learning is its passivity. One of the reasons learners often cite for unwillingness to engage is the lack of the human factor. Learning by oneself in an online environment is not necessarily very fun. While techniques like gamification can help to spark interest and keep motivation high, it might not be enough. However, you could tackle a lot of this problematic passivity already at the design phase. By focusing on making learning more active and human, one can go long way. Therefore, here are a few different tips for humanising online learning.

Humanise online learning with peer interactivity

One of the first contributors to the human factor is peer interaction. When digitalising learning, it’s easy to forget to utilise all three levels of interactivity. While peer-to-peer interaction occurs naturally in conventional classroom learning, it doesn’t online unless you create the infrastructure for it. So, when humanising online learning, it’s critical to enable learners to interact with each other.

The interactions can take many formats. Online discussions or internal social media channels are a good way of getting started. Chats and video rooms can also help to connect remote teams and individuals to each other. Whatever the social framework, usually a common rule applies: it’s not easy to get people to interact without any kind of guidance. Therefore, it’s a good idea to prompt and facilitate the discussions, and design them to be a part of the material.

Make it about the people, share stories

Humans are wired to retain, respond and relate to stories. However, training content often tends to stick to the facts and figures. The content moves on an abstract level, often with little explicit relation to the jobs or people in question. This doesn’t do wonders for learning results, nor is it particularly human.

One way of humanising online learning is to shift focus away from the content to stories. Less is more is a good approach when it comes to data and factual information. When you go less on that front, you’ll create room for more storytelling. Now, you can plan the stories meticulously like your marketing department might do. But it could work to also let your people share their stories. A personal testimonial or a story of a use case of the things that is being learnt is likely much more valuable than some facts that end up forgotten anyway.

Experiment with adaptive or personalised learning

Another way of making online learning a more human experience is to personalise it. Personalised learning is about finding out the learner’s interests, needs, requirements and ways to add value, and providing resources catering to them. A one-size fits all passive online learning course is about the least human experience there can be. Personalising the experience, tailoring it to the learner, can take some of that feeling away.

Adaptive learning could also accomplish similar goals. The fundamental idea of adaptive learning is slightly similar to personalisation. The learning content and its sequence doesn’t resemble a linear path, but rather a spider’s web. Based on performance on previous parts and the learners perceived knowledge and skill levels, you direct them to different bits of the material. Similar to before, learners feel that you’ve designed the learning for them, instead of a profile of averages.

Provide comprehensive and rapid support

Finally, there’s often a lot of human touch missing from getting help with one’s learning. In a lot of cases, learners tend to get left alone with the courses and programs they are completing. If they encounter a problem, they are supposed to solve it on their own. If they have questions, they might be able to ask somewhere, but getting a response might take a long time. All of this causes interruptions to the learning process.

Therefore, when humanising online learning, it’s important not to forget the learning support either. Give your learners ways of reaching out to the trainers or admins. Whether it’s usability issues or questions about the content, make it easy to contact the relevant people and ask for help. Having access to a safety network of this kind can help to alleviate a lot of the stigma when it comes to online learning.

Final words

Overall, as organisations make the transition towards online learning, it’s important not to forget the human factor. Passive consumption of online content gets too tedious fast, and learners disengage. Humanising the learning experience can keep them engaged, and feeling that they’re not just the victims of a cost-cutting exercise. Hopefully these tips prove helpful. In case you need help in making online learning more human, feel free to reach out to us. We’d be happy to help.

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Asynchronous Learning at the Workplace – Pros & Cons

Asynchronus Learning at Workplace

Asynchronous Learning at the Workplace – Pros & Cons

As many organisations digitalise their training, they often take the asynchronous route, lifting away the constraints on time and place. In asynchronous learning, learners can progress at their own time and pace. While the approach is efficient, there are still certain limiting factors and problems to solve. Therefore, we put together the pros and cons related to the method.

Asynchronous learning: the pros

Naturally, there’s a lot of upside to the method. If there wasn’t, it wouldn’t probably be as popular. Here are some of the advantages we see in using the time-independent learning method.

Flexibility. The method is highly flexible, enabling learners to engage anytime, anywhere, as long as they have a network connection. This helps tremendously in finding time for learning, as you don’t have to coordinate multiple schedules.

Learner-centred. The method puts the learner at the centre and gives him/her the control. It’s about one’s individual progress and people can go through the content as many times as they feel needed. This may help to balance out differences in learner skill levels as well as learning speeds.

Efficient. Asynchronous learning tends to require significantly less resources than its counterpart. As learners are engaging through digital mediums, they don’t need to travel to come together for a training session. This is especially helpful for organisations with a dispersed workforce.

Potential for personalisation. The method leaves room for a lot of personalisation. While it’s hard to personalise in a classroom, with this method learners can be assigned materials tailored to them. Even adaptive learning is possible, enabling learners to craft their learning journey as they progress through.

Asynchronous learning: the cons

However, there are downsides to this method of learning as well, just like to any other method. Here are a few considerations you should keep in mind when doing asynchronous learning. We’ll also list a few suggestions to tackle them.

Lack of social interaction. Conventionally, one of the big challenges has been the lack of social interaction. Fundamentally, learning is a social process, and eliminating peer-to-peer and instructor interaction may get some learners feeling isolated. However, nowadays more and more social learning platforms are emerging, which may solve some of the problems.

Absence of instant feedback. Another aspect where the asynchronous model may be lacking is feedback. Whereas in classroom a learner would get constant feedback, both direct and indirect, from the instructor and peers, this doesn’t always materialise in digital learning environments. However, the aforementioned social learning tools may help. Also, feedback is question of learning design. It takes a bit of time to design comprehensive flows of instant feedback throughout the material, but it’s well worth the effort!

Requires self-regulated learning skills. One of the primary challenges in asynchronous learning is getting people to commit to learning. Self-paced learning requires motivation and engagement, both of which you will likely need to carefully facilitate. However, a portion of people may not have the capabilities to manage their own learning. Therefore, we should always clearly communicate things like workload required, and offer tips and support to the learners in case they face challenges.

Final thoughts

Overall, asynchronous learning provides great possibilities thanks to its flexibility and efficiency. However, to ensure that everyone has ample opportunities for learning, we should build adequate support frameworks to make sure no-one falls off the bandwagon. Furthermore, if we can find meaningful ways of adding more social interaction, personal touchpoints and incorporate feedback on the programs, we’ll be able to significantly improve the offering. If you need help in improving your own asynchronous learning programs, feel free to drop us a note. We’d be happy to share some experiences.

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Data-driven Learning Design – How to Get Started?

Data-driven Learning Design

Getting Started With Data-driven Learning Design

As a whole, the L&D industry hasn’t always been doing a terribly good job when it comes to designing learning. However, we have started to recognise that one-size-fits-all activities are probably not the way to go, and that we should design learning for the people doing the actual jobs, not for the company HR department. Fundamentally, designing better learning is about knowing your learners. In that aspect, the overall capabilities of the industry have developed tremendously over the past few years (with things like xAPI etc). However, as we start to accumulate more data and information, it’s important to know how to use it well. Thus, we decided to look at data-driven learning design, how to get started and the different types of data you can use in design decisions. We’ll divide this article into two, resembling an initial- and a subsequent round of design.

Understanding who you are designing for

At the start of any design process, you should always spend time understanding the problem and the “customers”. In corporate learning, this discovery is equally important, yet something that many organisations skip almost entirely. Here’s where data-driven learning design approaches already come in handy, albeit not perhaps in the way you expect.

Since it’s your people and employees you are designing for, you have an abundance of data available to you. However, this data is not necessarily siloed within the L&D’s systems or records. Rather, you might have to look for it in other places. For instance, demographic data might sit in an HR system. Assignment and task related data might sit in a performance management system. These kinds of data can help you create rough archetypes, or “personas” of your learners, i.e. who they are, what they do etc.

However, if we leave it there, we might still miss the mark. At the initial design stage, we should also explore how our learners can engage with the learning content at the workplace. As we don’t want to inconvenience them, it’s important to get to know the workflows and they ways we could instil learning into them. Now this a part of data-driven learning design that you don’t have an easy tool or a dashboard for. Rather, you have to get out there, start observing and exploring, and collect qualitative data. Different service design methods prove quite effective in this regard.

Understanding how learners engage with the content

Unfortunately, once you’ve put a learning activity together, your job doesn’t end there. Although the initial time spent on learning design does pay off, it’s still unlikely that everything works perfectly. Maybe there are pieces of content that the learners don’t engage with. Maybe they engage in ways different to what you initially thought. Whatever the actual usage and engagement behaviour is, it’s our job to find out.

To start out, tools like web analytics can provide handy insights into e.g. engagement times, devices used and geographical locations. Then, more specific tools for learning content analytics can tell us stories about how the content is being consumed. Finally, it’s tools like xAPI that enable us to practically follow the learners’ journeys through the material, tracking and seeing every interaction along the way.

Once we know what’s not working, we can fix it. Maybe we need to cater to different device sets than initially thought. Maybe the video we produced doesn’t actually engage the learners. Or perhaps the sequencing of learning activities seems to be wrong, as the data might show they jump between sections rather than following a linear path. Regardless of what it is, smart data-driven learning design enables us to get information, understand its magnitude, and make design decisions accordingly. Remarkable results are not produced in one iteration.

Final thoughts

If we want to improve as an industry, L&D has to start working with data to be able to produce better outcomes. It’s easy to view data-driven learning design as something daunting and terrifying, but it’s really not. Sure, we need to adjust our mentality a bit. We need to become more comfortable with “betas” and iterations, and the fact that we may not always get it right the first time. But once we get past that, once we learn that, there should be a great future ahead. And if you’re not entirely comfortable with all this just yet, we are happy to hold your hand. Just contact us here.

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Problem-based Learning as a Tool for Innovation

Problem-based learning

Problem-based Learning as a Tool for Innovation

One of the challenges in corporate learning is that activities tend to be distant from the business itself. Furthermore, formal programs tend to be somewhat inflexible, focusing too much on content rather than context. An interesting approach to tackle these problems and a handful of more could be found in problem-based learning. While certainly not applicable to every kind of training topic, problem-based learning can help to enhance collaboration, teamwork and culture. More importantly, the method can also become a method of innovation within the organisation. Here’s the way we see it:

What’s problem-based learning all about?

As the name might give away, problem-based learning is centred around solving problems. The method is increasingly popular in leading universities around the globe. Business school case work can be a good example of the method. The problems are open-ended, meaning there are no predefined right answers or solutions. Furthermore, the subject matter in question only plays a minor part in the learning. The learners will naturally develop their capabilities around different skills like teamwork, collaboration and communication. However, for companies, this provides a tool for learning while solving real business problems.

The method as a tool for corporate innovation

In addition to having people learn to collaborate better, problem-based learning methods could have a significant value-adding offer to corporates. Having people work on real business problems, and organising it in a smart way could help to source ideas, insights, process innovation and solutions from within the organisation. Furthermore, it could help to expose people the different parts of the organisational value chain, and hence have them understand the business in more holistic terms.

How to do it in practice?

Here’s a list of things and processes we would like to install into a corporate problem-based learning program.

  • Form groups of diverse individuals. Mix participant groups from different business units, departments or even locations. To come up with innovative solutions, we must avoid tunnel vision.
  • Introduce the learners to a real business problem. If needed, have a person working on the topic brief the participants. However, remember to keep it a blank slate. Don’t put boundaries in place.
  • Ask people to come with solutions to the problem! However, as business problems are complex, give the participants adequate time to come up with novel solutions. Also, it’s good to have learners present the ideas to the heads of the business.

In general, the more diverse groups you can assemble, the better. If you’re trying to solve an operations problem with people just from operations, don’t expect great results. You may get small improvements, but radical innovation rarely happens that way. On the other hand, it’s easier for people with little prior knowledge to question and re-evaluate the existing practices.

In terms of facilitation, a blended learning approach may work best in problem-based learning. It’s a good idea for the participants to meet in and organise around physical workshops. But digital mediums and social learning tools can be helpful in keeping the collaboration going in between the workshops. For instance, a collaborative platform can enable participants to share ideas, insights and thoughts to the group immediately, and thus “record” them.

Final thoughts

Overall, problem-based learning can provide an effective tool for not only learning, but also to source innovative solutions to everyday business problems. As a learning experience, the method is highly collaborative, and thus touches on the practical aspects of communication, teamwork, leadership, project management etc. However, the best thing about it might just be that it doesn’t really feel like learning. Instead of mindlessly going through courses, your employees can actually contribute to the business whiled developing themselves. Could just be a much more fun way of doing (at least some of the) corporate learning!

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4 Service Design Methods for L&D Professionals

Service Design Tools for L&D Professionals

4 Service Design Methods for L&D Professionals

The nature of workplace learning is undergoing a shift. Organisations are starting to recognise that simply delivering conceptual knowledge doesn’t necessarily yield results. Rather, the function of the L&D should be to facilitate performance by solving business challenges and helping the people succeed in their jobs. And as we go more and more into learning in the workflow, and integrate learning activities to our daily jobs, we need to update our toolbox as well. Packaging information with instructional design techniques is no longer enough. If we want to truly make an impact on performance, we need to get much deeper into it. And that’s where different service design methods, such as design thinking, may come in handy. Here are 4 service design tools for L&D and how you can use them in practice.

1. Service Safaris

Service safaris are explorations. Participants are asked to go out and explore examples of both good and bad services. You can narrow down the field of services to e.g. the same sector as the organisation, or it can be an open field. This is an easy way to put the participants in the shoes of the end-users, and get to experience things from their viewpoint.

In L&D, this service design method can be similarly handy. You can set people out to learn about different kinds of learning experiences, what works and what doesn’t. This first of all helps you define what are the critical elements of a good learning experience overall and in a particular context. Secondly, this also opens you up for small scale learning innovations. As you’ll experience the problems of the end-users first-hand, you are much better positioned to come up with novel solutions to solve them!

2. Shadowing

As a service design method, shadowing involves the designers immersing themselves in the lives of the customers (or end-users). The aim is to observe behaviours, practices and experiences, without being obtrusive. Of course, documentation is important, for which text, photos or video can be used. Immersing oneself in the real environment enables the designer to document problems that others may not recognise. Furthermore, spending time “at the front line” is often the only way to develop a deep understanding on how things operate.

This service design method provides L&D another avenue to understanding the workflows of the learners, and thus gaining insights on how to provide learning opportunities within them. This is especially helpful when designing performance support resources and delivery.

3. Contextual Interviews

Contextual interviews are a good method of collecting qualitative, user-driven information. The interviews always take place in the environment or context of the service or process in question. This helps to provoke more in-depth discussion, compared to e.g. conventional focus groups. As the interview happens “on the spot”, the interviewees are also more likely to remember specific details. People may also be more comfortable in communicating their own thoughts when they are in a familiar environment. It’s often beneficial to document these interviews with audio or video.

When it comes to service design for L&D, contextual interviews work well in understanding how employees interact with learning, whether it’s in the workflow or as a separate activity. These kinds of qualitative insights can be used to validate quantitative data as well.

4. Co-creation

Co-creation, in its fundamental, is at the core of the whole service design philosophy. It’s about involving different groups of stakeholders and collaboratively examining and innovating an experience. However, organisations should be wary of challenges related to participants’ fears of e.g. speaking up or disagreeing with a boss. Unless these kind of challenges are overcome, co-creation will only have limited efficacy. In general, co-creative approaches tend to bring a variety of benefits, e.g. increased ownership of the concepts created.

In L&D, this service design tool can be used in a number of ways. For instance, you can use it to develop strategy, new work practices or training needs analysis. Additionally, co-creative methods can extend all the way to the execution as well. For instance, smart use of user-generated content at the development phase can help to alleviate a lot of the output pressure of the L&D team.

Final words

Overall, service design methods can prove very beneficial to any modern L&D practitioner. They enable one to identify real problems and points-of-need, design more effective learning experiences and support performance in ways that conventional instructional design cannot. In the end, the better L&D can understand its business, people and their problems, the better learning impact it can deliver. If you’d like to explore designing learning in a new way, but feel you may need additional support, feel free to reach out to us. We can help you implement service design principles within your L&D, or demonstrate the effectiveness of these methods in practice.

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3 Quick Tips for Improving Learning Transfer

Learning transfer

3 Quick Tips for Improving Learning Transfer

One of the biggest challenges in corporate learning is not the acquisition or retention of knowledge, but learning transfer. Employees might learn the conceptual knowledge and take in information, but often it’s the application phase where we fall short. You see, learning things is easy (relatively speaking!). However, when trying to apply to learning, you may run into barriers like lack of practice or support, organisational culture, resistance to change, unfitting operational practices etc. Naturally, many of these problems will be outside of the immediate purview of learning and development. However, smart learning design choices enable us to tackle some of these problems already before they emerge.

Thus, here are 3 tips for improving learning transfer:

1. Focus more on practical learning

A lot of corporate learning is not very practical. Courses and programs are often heavy on rather abstract concepts and knowledge. In such cases, the learners are required to bridge the gap between the abstract and the real life themselves. Often, that may be asking too much. It’s not that people are not capable, it’s just that they do have a lot of other things occupying their mind. Hence an overload of conceptual, abstract knowledge often goes to deaf ears.

So, if you want to improve learning transfer, focus on the practical. Focus on how to make the employees succeed at their jobs. And be specific. The learning should put more emphasis on “here’s how you can do things” rather than “here’s what you need to know”. Use learning mediums that serve the purpose. Visual elements may help to illustrate how things work in real life.

2. Provide adequate practice opportunities

Another area where we in corporate learning could do better is giving opportunities to practice. People need to be confident in their ability before they dare to do things in a new way. Hence it’s important that we provide them with a safe environment to practice, make mistakes and fail during our learning programs. Naturally, there are several ways you could do that. If you’re planning to do fully online training, simulations can be a big help in ensuring learning transfer. On the other hand, if you’re running blended learning programs, this might be a good use of the expensive and intensive face-to-face time!

3. Understand the learners’ context

Finally, the biggest hurdle of learning transfer is related to the learners’ context. Even before you start putting together learning content or activities, you should spend time figuring out the work, tasks, routines, responsibilities and environment of the end-users (learners!). To make learning transfer possible, you should identify if any of these might conflict with the objectives of the learning you’re looking to do. On paper, doing something in a particular way may seem feasible, but in practice it might be impossible. Therefore it’s important to know the practical environment and setting – the context – of the learners. Otherwise, you’ll end up producing a lot of learning that can never really be applied.

Final words

Learning transfer is not always easy. However, good design methods, time spent on discovery and focus on practical things can help a lot. Of course, you should never forget the importance of relevance in corporate learning. Furthermore, it’s also important to provide a support infrastructure that acts as a safety net for the learners. As we solve these kind of problems, we are gradually getting closer to learning with real impact. After all, if people don’t apply the knowledge, our work has been meaningless.

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Why We Need Design Thinking in Corporate Learning

Design thinking in corporate learning

Why We Need Design Thinking in Corporate Learning

Unless you’ve been living in a basement for the past few years, chances are you’ve heard of design thinking. While the term has become a buzzword, and all sorts of vendors have spawned to offer services within the space – some more ambiguous than others – the underlying ideas and concepts are something an L&D professional should not ignore. We though we’d explore those ideas and concepts, and give you our thoughts on where we see the value. So, let’s look at why we should use design thinking in corporate learning.

Design thinking (the way we see it)

To avoid unnecessary buzzword sprees, we’ll skip the text book definitions. (If you’re totally new to design thinking, Google is your friend!) Perhaps worth mentioning is that design thinking is often defined as a process, but we don’t think that always does enough justice to it. There’s a danger of oversimplifying things and too rigid processes are not something that necessarily benefit design work.

That being said, the core ideas and concepts that make the process valuable are its big emphasis on discovery, research and user involvement. These are followed by ideation, experimentation, learning from mistakes and iterating. If you’re planning to put the methods into practice, it’s good to understand what these might look like from an L&D’s viewpoint.

Why is design thinking important in corporate learning?

Fundamentally, there are no learning problems in businesses. All of it is first and foremost business problems. Sometimes, though, learning might be a valid solution. Furthermore, big challenge in corporate learning is rarely the knowledge delivery and acquisition, but learning transfer, i.e. whether people apply the newly learnt in practice. Keeping these in mind, let’s look at the different design thinking concepts and why they can provide value.

Firstly, proper discovery is really important. As mentioned, all the problems are business problems and learning is a solution to only some of them. If we bypass proper discovery and blindly offer learning whenever someone asks for it, we are not doing any good. Furthermore, discovery is important for the learning design phase too. If you want to have people apply the learning, it has to be easy. Hence, it’s critical to understand the context of the learners. Even good content will go to deff ears if you don’t understand the context.

Secondly, ideation as an open process should be something to go through, even if at small scale. A set time for open exploration enables L&D to look beyond their own immediate scope of work and identify potential solutions that are not necessarily about learning. This helps you get closer to what the people actually need, rather than blindly providing what you think they need.

Finally, experimentation is one thing that you shouldn’t neglect either. Small pilots, test runs and demos let you collect data and validate assumptions before moving onto large scale implementation. But whether you’re doing small or large, it’s important to continuously learn about how people engage with whatever it is that you’ve provided them with. Too often L&D are in a hurry to roll out a solution, but stop the work once the solutions is out. Great solutions are the products of usually multiple iterations, that are made based on previous mistakes and learning.

Final comments

Overall, design thinking as a method or a process is something that any L&D professional should be aware of. However, the key takeaway from it shouldn’t necessarily be any rigid process itself. Rather, we should aim to understand what makes these kind of methods a near necessity in building the workplace learning of the future. Also, understanding the philosophy of why it’s imperative to spend time on discovery, engaging with the users or constantly learning and iterating is important. Ultimately, L&D is about helping people succeed at their jobs and the business to perform better. Taking a design thinking angle to it might help to better address those issues.

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Whiteboard Animations in Corporate Learning – Why Use Them?

Whiteboard animations in corporate learning

Using Whiteboard Animations in Corporate Learning

Video has become a popular format when it comes to corporate learning. Of course, not all topics lend themselves well to a video, so you should always keep in mind using mediums that are fit-for-purpose. However, there’s still a lot of use cases. Due to the challenges in making traditional training videos, animations have grown in popularity – ourselves being heavy users as well. While we’ve written about using animations in digital learning before, this time we wanted talk about a particular type. Whiteboard animations are perhaps the stripped down version of conventional animations. However, they’re still effective and highly suitable for corporate learning use.

What’s a whiteboard animation?

The term refers to a type of animation that is generally quite minimalistic. Colour is scarce, and generally used for highlighting things. Also, the props, characters and layouts are generally quite simple. These factors help to create visuals that are less cluttered and focus on the key message. As an example, take a look at the animation video below.

Quick, easy and consequently, cheap! Yet much nicer than slide decks or documents.

Why whiteboard animations in particular?

Naturally, the simplistic style of these animations and its constraints are not ideal for every kind of narrative. In our experience, whiteboards are generally a good option for abstract concepts and training topics (think soft skills, leadership, strategy), as well as delivering conceptual knowledge. If your training topic is more hands-on, other types of animation might help you to replicate those operating environments better.

In addition to the above, the benefits we as a power-user see in whiteboard animations go along the following lines:

  • Very fast to make – learning professionals are always under pressure to put out more content. To give you an idea of the time required, the animation above was made from start to finish during a lunch break.
  • No technical skills required – there’s a lot of good animation tools out there, that enable people with no significant technical skills to animate videos like these.
  • More engaging than slides or documents – Quick and easy to consume for the learner. The medium also forces the “trainer” to focus on what’s really relevant, as screen real estate is limited. Remember, less is more!
  • Easy way to visualise concepts – enabling visual cues could help your learners to learn more effectively.
  • Cheap! – in the end it’s all about the money, right? Thanks to the speed of production, these types of animations end up being quite affordable! Also, we’ve found that this medium often works quite well even without voice-overs, which is one of the biggest single cost items in producing training videos.

Final words

If you are a corporate learning professional that wants to move away from slides and documents, but struggles with the time required for producing better content, whiteboard animations could be a good addition to your toolbox. There’s a whole bunch of great tools out there. We at Learning Crafters really love Vyond and their comprehensive suite of tools. It’s rare that we find a need we can’t fulfil with their tools . But depending on your budget, there are a lot of offerings out there. And if you don’t have the manpower resources to design animations in-house just yet, we might be able to help with that. Just drop us a note here.

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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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