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ATD Blog

The Rise of Edutainment: Supercharge Your Remote Learner Engagement With Informal Learning

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Informal learning comprises 75 percent of total employee learning, making it a crucial component in any workplace. Going remote, however, can be challenging for company culture—water-cooler talk, lunch breaks with co-workers, and generating community is difficult in the virtual world. To drive learner autonomy and increase motivation, companies need to rethink about the ways to deliver these virtual learning experiences. It’s becoming more important than ever to start leveraging edutainment to create virtual frameworks for an informal learning culture.

Traditional Learning Versus Edutainment

Formal learning is the traditional method of education trainers use to share knowledge. Edutainment, or informal learning, occurs when learning is organic and inconspicuously consumed. Research from the Pedagogy of Play Playbook by Project Zero demonstrates that playful learning aids in a mindset shift because learners at play are engaged, relaxed, and challenged—a mindset that supports learning. It is an invitation to connect experience to application through knowledge and a process that drives learner autonomy and confidence. This type of informal learning is often measured through observable behaviors such as engagement and motivation.

Informal learning is as much a state of mind as it is a method—an environment that encourages curiosity, innovation, and social learning. In a remote work world, companies should be thinking of ways to translate these values into a virtual culture. Creating informal opportunities for remote social engagement between employees can lead to the type of water-cooler talk that excites, engages, and sparks curiosity. Any low-stakes intention to learn that generates conversation and innovation around knowledge is a great foundation for edutainment.

Gamification on the Rise

Gamification is one of the key ways to influence learning behaviors through edutaining learners in a remote environment. Gamification raises learner motivation and engagement with elements like scoreboards and in-the-moment feedback. Incorporating playful competition and visual kudos helps to set the tone for a productive company culture as well as gives your employees more ownership over their learning. A gamified training component designed with purpose and clear objectives can be a purposeful and fun way to introduce your new hires to the company.

In a virtual world, this might be as simple as leveraging a learning management system (LMS) to create challenges, roleplaying scenarios, and supplying leaderboards for your learners. Small prizes can be awarded to those at the top of the boards, incentivizing a culture of learning, mastery, and friendly competition. Emphasize a company-wide leaderboard highlighting different team members to foster cross-department community, and build pride in representation. Connect the process of learning and mastery as the reward by linking it to professional development opportunities for the player.


Discovering Discussion Threads

A central component to informal learning is socialization. Engagement means empowerment. Your learners feel comfortable enough to ask questions so they can improve their performances. Low-pressure stakes of peer-to-peer interaction relaxes the learner enough to be focused on the task and encourages them to further pursue the answer among each other. When learners collaborate with each other, it helps to break down department silos and create a more inclusive, engaging workplace. Having a platform to ask low-stakes questions and share joy is especially important in the virtual world when you’re striving to foster and sustain an inclusive learning culture.

A prominent concern is how to incentivize or encourage learners to post and comment on these discussion threads. Building routine around the mechanism of checking the threads can jump start this informal learning process. Start with a lighthearted topic—a favorite TV show, movie, or book enjoyed during the pandemic—to generate natural and low-stakes conversation around personal interests. This also familiarizes your employees with each other outside their usual departments and creates organic friendships. Once your learners have built a habit of checking and replying to the discussion thread, have your managers pose more complex prompts and questions.


Building Learning Communities

As edutainment breaks the formal learning norms of “knowledge deposits,” learning communities are a great way to further democratize education, so have your employee vote on the next learning topics. Your learners gain self-autonomy by advocating for their interests, and the company responds by rewarding them with the knowledge they seek. It amplifies the idea of a learning culture as an evolving, adaptive variability as stated by the Pedagogy of Play.

Leverage your discussion threads to generate a topic of interest for your first learning community and ensure that managers are giving props to active members. You want your learners to feel that their curiosity is supported and encouraged by management. A self-directed adult learner should be made to feel that their learning is in their hands, and the company supports their drive to become better at their job. As this learning community gains traction, keep an eye out for key players who can be leaders in this space. You want to build a strong system and routine for this new venture, but you also want to keep it running organically.

A New Era in Remote Learning

Edutainment can feel daunting to implement in a remote environment, but the key is to understand that the social-emotional space in which informal learning occurs is more of a culture than it is a strategy. Reward curiosity and active participants to draw more learners into the fold. By understanding that learning is a lifelong venture, your learners will be more motivated to become their best through these strategies. Expand your company’s social culture to encourage, energize, and innovate around informal learning.

Are you interested in learning more about how you can elevate the employee learning experience? Try WorkRamp, the all-in-one learning platform loved by teams at Zoom, Box, and Reddit.

About the Author

Rachel Lee leads marketing for WorkRamp, the all-in-one LMS that helps modern enterprises deliver amazing learning experiences for customers, partners, and employees. She loves working with top learning teams at Zoom, Box, and Reddit to build corporate education strategies that delight learners and deliver business outcomes. As a woman of color, Rachel is also passionate about leveraging the WorkRamp brand to elevate the work and voices of female leaders in learning, technology, and enablement.

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