Despite all the available tools, it can be difficult to develop a training program that is effective and engaging. In the session “Engaging E-Learning,” Tanveer Makhani, a cognitive scientist and solutions consultant at Kineo, discussed how to create success in the digital learning space.
He opened his session by defining what success looks like for those tasked with creating e-learning experiences: Success means you have completed the project within budget and received rave reviews. Using that as a launching pad, he reviewed three key considerations talent development professionals should make when designing a successful e-learning experience: Use learning models, choose the right tone, and redefine interactivity.
Use learning models. A learning model is a template or best practice for how to solve a problem, Makhani explained. Matching the most appropriate learning model with your content requires you to have an understanding of your desired outcome for the learning experience.
In a situation where your goal is to share information, to inform, or to raise awareness, you may want to convey that information in “short bits of information and open navigation.” Examples include a scrolling e-learning page or an e-magazine. Makhani noted that the latter is a highly underrated form of e-learning.
For situations where your learning objective is to improve knowledge or skills—for example, how to operate a ventilator—or where you need to assess learner competency, Makhani suggested providing plenty of opportunities for learners to practice. “Until we get our hands dirty, we don’t really know how to do something,” he explained. He contends that we’re all kinesthetic learners and suggested throwing learners into a challenge even without all of the necessary training or information. His rationale is that when learners realize they only understand 30 percent of something, for instance, they will be more receptive to learning the 70 percent they don’t know.
The third learning scenario Makhani raised is when your objective is to change attitudes or behavior—for example, teaching a new set of behaviors or soft skills such as listening. The learning approach for that scenario can involve branching scenarios as well as immersive and ongoing learning campaigns where talent development professionals intentionally “slow drip” information in an effort to bring about the desired change in behavior.
Choose the right tone. Regardless of the content, Makhani posited that tone matters. He then shared his five-rule framework to use to create engaging, exciting, and yawn-proof content:
- Keep it light.
- Give it spirit.
- Have a conversation.
- Call for action.
- Be adult.
Redefine interactivity. Sometimes talent development professionals fall prey to incorporating interactivity in e-learning just for interactivity’s sake—that’s what you want to avoid, Makhani cautioned.
“If you put interactivity into a learning module just for the sake of clicking or just to kind of make it fun and engaging, you’ll find that people actually get more fatigued and distracted by those interactions than engaged, or it doesn’t promote a level of deeper understanding,” he explained. Instead he suggested you get learners to cogitate—that is, get them thinking by asking questions that provoke deeper thinking.
Another best practice for incorporating productive interactivity is to get learners feeling—do this by telling good stories, humanizing the content, putting learners in the story, and building in deliberate real-world practice. “Don’t be afraid to make your learner uncomfortable,” Makhani said.
Also, get learners acting by incorporating real-world activities, such as interviewing other team members, and contextualize and personalize the learning so they can demonstrate what knowledge they may already possess. Makhani noted that it is likewise important to let learners hear from real people, including their peers—that gets learners connecting.
“You don’t always have to be the one teaching,” Makhani stated. “Sometimes you just have to create the environment or the forum for them to learn from each other.” In wrapping up his discussion of the principles of creating engaging e-learning experiences, one of his final suggestions was to offer learners mentors and coaches.
During his session, Makhani reminded talent development professionals that the goal of learning is to change, and “if learning didn’t change behavior, learning didn’t happen.” If learners aren’t engaged, the likelihood of them retaining the information decreases.
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