Imagine this. In your workplace training, your employees are truly engaged and involved, and given the chance to replicate realistic work situations. At the same time, they absorb crucial information and develop decision-making skills relevant to their roles.
Then imagine: What impact would this have on their ability to step into their roles with ease and confidence?
And, even better, imagine they walk away from their training, collectively thinking: “Hey, that was fun!”
“You learn by doing.” Richard Branson.
Now consider this scenario: Your workplace coaching consists of a series of lectures, discussions, role-plays and tests, and your employees walk away from their training feeling disengaged and un-motivated. Even worse, a momentary lapse in concentration means that they’ve also missed critical learning components.
As a business leader, which option would you prefer your learners experience?
Exposing your employees to the former method, Experiential eLearning, allows your people to virtually mimic real-life work tasks prior to commencing their roles. It makes learning more exciting, applicable to the role, and provides much deeper retention of knowledge. This can have profound benefits to your employees and impact the success of your business, but if you’re not familiar with the concept, let’s break it down.
Firstly, what exactly is Experiential Learning?
The concept of experiential learning is simple: It’s the process of learning by doing.
The educational theorist David Kolb said, “Humans generate knowledge and meaning from interaction between their experiences and their ideas”, and he developed the Experiential Learning Cycle, which outlines how we learn:
- Concrete experience (i.e. Try it out)
- Reflective observation (Think about how it went)
- Abstract conceptualization (Think about how it should be)
- Active experimentation (Decide how to do it differently)
Children do it instinctively, and if you watch them, they do it all the time. But it’s not just child’s play. It’s also a valid, powerful and highly satisfying way for adults to learn.
We all learn by doing when we’re doing something NEW. And when we’re doing new things, our brain creates new neural pathways. And guess what? This is experiential learning – that is, learning through direct experience.
US President Barack Obama famously announced, “The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something.”
And he is absolutely right! The act of DOING is often more effective and productive than the acts of merely watching or listening.
And this is where the concept of Experiential eLearning comes into play.
What is Experiential eLearning?
In essence, Experiential eLearning completely reframes the training process by allowing people to experience what it is like to do critical aspects of their job by using software that is specifically developed to replicate the structure of an organisation,
Using Kolb’s theory, here’s how it works:
1. Try it out
Using a range of online devices, learners are able to complete experiences that mimic real–life work tasks in a virtual environment. Learners are presented with realistic, complex situations, and they are also provided with supporting tools and information that they need in order to complete the tasks.
2. Think about how it should be
The decisions that learners make have realistic consequences (e.g. a virtual profit, customer satisfaction score), and the degree to which they obtain success in their virtual world reflects how well they have mastered the tasks presented to them. If the learner is not doing an aspect of their job in every single part of the learning exercise, then it’s not experiential learning.
3. Think about how it went
Each decision the learner makes has consequences within the scenario, in terms of how their decisions impact profit, customer satisfaction and quality scores. They receive detailed, meaningful feedback tailored to their choices, and they can learn as much from making the wrong choice as from the right one.
4. Decide how to do it differently
Then learners can go back to try the scenario again, or move on to a similar but slightly different scenario. By reflecting and acting upon feedback allows the learner to ‘lock in’ the critical information.
So, what are the benefits of Experiential eLearning?
- Experiential eLearning is relevant and grounded in actual context.
- It provides deeper learning, as the brain encodes new material within a realistic work context.
- Easier learning, as there’s a reduced cognitive load.
- Learning seems ‘effortless’ to learners, so motivation and completion rates are higher.
- It provides better subconscious adoption of values and personal attributes, which are difficult to teach
- It’s genuinely engaging and fun!
Experiential eLearning VS Instructional Learning
In contrast to Experiential eLearning, Instructional Learning – the method that involves class-based or online instructional lessons, discussions and tests – can sometimes be efficient to design and can easily be re-purposed, but this form of coaching relies heavily on the learner’s memory and cognitive skills. More concentration is required of the learner, motivation can suffer, modules can often be abstract, there can be major variables in the ability of teachers to communicate the coaching, and the content is not work-specific or relevant.
Australian sports icon and Olympic Gold medallist Cathy Freeman once said, “When I’m in a bad mood, I don’t listen.” And this is just one point that underpins the many limits of Instructional Learning. If your employees are tired and unmotivated, they will lose concentration, struggle to retain critical information, and will have difficulty applying their coaching into their roles at work. However, if you can find a way to mentally activate and challenge your learners by getting them to virtually participate in realistic situations, they’ll have a better chance of connecting to the material and transferring it to their day-to-day work.
Just do it!
We all know the iconic phrase, and we all know just how powerful the concept of immersing yourself in an activity can be, rather than standing by as a passive observer.
As the famous playwright Tennessee Williams once wrote, “Make voyages. Attempt them. There’s nothing else.”
So, in our workplace training, why don’t we allow our employees to virtually ‘just do it’ and mimic real-life work tasks prior to commencing their roles?
If you can transfer this ethos into your training by using Experiential eLearning, your employees will be stimulated, motivated, and ready to tackle their roles with confidence!