7 Key Elements of an Effective Learning Experience
How many times have you been excited about a new learning opportunity or training session, only to find yourself feeling bored and disengaged by the time it's over? L&D professionals know that the more our learners feel like active participants in their own development, the better they will retain and apply what they've learned.
When learners are engaged with what they're studying, they're able to learn more effectively. This is why creating an engaging environment for your learners is of utmost importance!
Which are your most memorable learning experiences? We bet it wasn't when watching a PowerPoint presentation... so let’s take a look at the 7 components of an effective learning experience and how you can apply them to your training sessions.
1. FREEDOM TO CHOOSE
No matter what type of learning you provide, it's likely that at some point, your learners will feel disengaged or uninterested in what they're doing. The more your learners feel like active participants in their own development - the better they will retain and apply what they've learned.
Think about it: when you're learning something new, do you feel more motivated when someone tells you what to do or when you're able to work through a complex problem on your own?
The more freedom people have over their learning, the better they learn. They become invested in their own development - which naturally leads to better engagement and retention of skills or knowledge.
Now, you may wonder: How do we achieve that?
Here are a few ideas:
Provide learners with the same materials, but in different formats (class, video, article, etc.)
Send them regular short nudges via email or text (Slack, or other messaging platform)
Give easy access to different learning materials
2. EXPERIENCE – REFLECT – REPEAT
Let me paint you a picture:
A young man moves out of his parents’ home for the first time and starts living on his own. He needs to learn how to budget his money, cook healthy meals, pay bills, etc. Each month he needs to think about what worked well for him and what didn’t. Did his monthly budget cover his costs? Was he able to eat healthy meals 2-3 times a day? Could he afford that lavish night out with his friends just before his paycheck? Each of these questions brings him closer to becoming a more efficient and independent person. This young man doesn’t attend boring lectures, he goes through each experience himself and learns valuable lessons by either surviving the month or falling back on support from friends and family.
How does this apply to the corporate world, you may wonder?
In the workplace, learners often want to learn things as quickly as possible. This is perfectly understandable – we all want the shortest and most efficient route towards our goals! However, an engaging learning experience will make sure that you take a pause to reflect on your motives and the lessons you learn in a safe environment before you can apply them back in the real world. This way, when you get through your learning experience, you'll be in a better place to apply what you've learned in real life.
3. FEEDBACK IS KEY
Feedback allows learners to easily see the connection between their work and how it will benefit them. Receiving regular feedback is an excellent way to engage learners in their own learning because it gives them immediate results that they can see. Receiving positive praise when learners do something right, or constructive criticism to help improve when they need to, makes them feel more in control of their learning process and contributes greatly towards knowledge and skill retention.
This feedback should be received often and in a variety of ways.
Learners need to know that they're on the right track and making progress towards their goals. If you feel that this is something your training or development activities can benefit from, consider implementing some sort of continuous feedback loop.
4. OUTCOME AND PROGRESS
Some key things learners must know are:
what they're supposed to learn;
what their goals are;
and how they're going to get there.
When we talk about learning outcomes, we refer to the results that learners will get after the learning event is over. The learning objectives, on the other hand, are necessary so that you can check whether or not your learning had the desired effect.
For example, one of the learning objectives for our flagship Academy course Introduction to Learning and Development is “Create a development plan to grow in your L&D career”. It tells our learners exactly what they will walk out with from the course and why that is important to them.
The learning objectives must be clear, specific, achievable, and measurable. But, perhaps most importantly, they need to be relevant to the learner.
To set learning outcomes, you must answer these 3 questions:
What is the desired performance (in terms of skill, knowledge, and attitude)? That means answering the questions: what does this learner need to know and/or be able to do?
What learner behaviors and actions will show that objectives were achieved?
How will you and the learner know that the objectives have been achieved?
Chunks are the smallest units of information your learners will need to learn. The more complex the material is, the more chunks you need.
Imagine training someone to become a better public speaker. They need to know how to engage with the audience, write a compelling speech, use emotional hooks, vary their voice, tone and pitch. Each of these can be a different chunk that they would learn separately, practice with them and then put it all together in the final practice speech.
It's important that learners can relate to each chunk so that they can grasp the whole idea or concept.
Chunks can be as small as a word or as large as a complete lecture. A chunk size that is too small or too big will result in your learners having trouble remembering it, and it will be difficult for them to apply what they've learned when the information is presented in chunks that don't connect with each other.
Ideally, chunks are presented in order of increasing difficulty. The order in which learners are exposed to new material is very important. It is much easier to remember a concept or skill if it is learned after a concept or skill that the learner is already familiar with.
In order to make sure that learners can focus on the chunks, you must first establish a structure.
By establishing a structure, you are saying:
What information needs to be learned in each chunk?
Which chunks should be taught together?
How can you help learners to remember each chunk?
6. REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT!
In order for learning to become automatic, learners need to be exposed to it repeatedly over a long period of time. When learning something for the first time, it takes a great deal of concentration to remember and understand all the details. But as time goes on, the more they recall it, the less effort they need to put in to remember it. It becomes easier and easier.
When we first learn something, we must go through the motions.
This is especially true when we're just beginning to learn something new. When we are learning a skill, we must practice it over and over again. We must repeat it many times until we have it down. And we must practice it at least once a day.
In the case of training, this can be done in one session, but more often than not, it will be spread out over multiple sessions over several weeks or months.
The number of repetitions varies depending on the complexity of the material.
For example, if you are teaching your learners how to use a new software application, you need to repeat the key point more than once and have them build on their skills by applying what they already know in different contexts.
7. PERSONALISE THE CONTENT
The purpose of personalizing is to ensure that each learner receives exactly what they need and nothing more or less. You need to consider what skills they need to master in order to achieve their learning goals. Then you must decide how to best deliver the learning material to each learner. Peoples' learning preferences can vary widely. Some prefer to watch video-based lessons. Some want to read a textbook. Others learn better when they are able to interact with other learners. By personalizing your learning, you are giving each learner exactly what they need to master their objectives.
Learners should not be taught the same way. Each person has different learning preferences and needs. Personalizing the learning is the most effective way to meet these requirements.
You can personalize the learning by:
Providing each learner with individual objectives,
Giving each person a different approach to learning,
Providing each learner with a different sequence of learning,
Teaching in small groups,
Using a variety of teaching methods,
Changing the learning environment.
The best way to personalize learning is to give each person a unique experience. For this you need to give them:
A different objective
A different approach to learning
A different learning experience
A different sequence of learning chunks
A different environment