Professional Partner Content

Promote Learner Ownership: How and Why

Psychological ownership is the feeling of possession and personal identification with an object, idea, or concept. An expression of self-identity and belonging, it can extend to a person’s role at work, items frequently used, and qualities such as brand preferences or activities. Incredibly valuable in training, maximizing this sense of ownership increases the success of learning outcomes.

The benefits of psychological ownership in learning include:

  • Increased motivation
  • Better recall of information
  • Enhanced complex thinking
  • Improved performance outcomes
  • Greater learner satisfaction

When course design gives the learner more control, it encourages psychological ownership. Employees own their learning when they feel engaged, inspired, and in control of the process. The ownership must feel like a natural choice; that choice is a way to participate in the learning process.

As instructional designers and learning and development professionals, we can use this information to craft more effective learning delivery that encourages ownership and enhances outcomes. This design can come in the form of added activities, but the capability may already be built directly into the tools you use to create your digital learning content.

Increasing User Control in Your Learning Design

Anything that allows for greater user control promotes a sense of psychological ownership. Here are some ways to build ownership-enhancing features into your course delivery:

  1. Design with accessibility in mind. Test the course during development at each step to ensure training can be retrieved with the technology available. Ensure all employees can scroll, navigate content, and play available media without difficulty.
  2. Use standard navigation conventions. Scrolling is instinctive to learners and a simple way to navigate a course. It saves time by allowing learners to learn rather than having to orient themselves to the customized mechanics of the learning system.
  3. Allow for independent course exploration. Anything that promotes independent study, including pretraining or post-training activities, enhances learner control and motivation. Give the learner the sense that they can flex the course to meet their schedule and other individual needs.
  4. Turn navigation control over to the learner. For example, content should progress based on the user’s scrolling action or button press rather than on a timed function. Any media should include controls to start, stop, rewind, and play.
  5. Give learners tips about what to do next. People sifting through data look for clues to find the most valuable information; these contextual clues are called information scent. Add summaries, clear headers, and images that point learners in the right direction.
  6. Don’t overload learners. Cognitive load is an important concept, especially for learners with a limited or finite amount of attention available to acquire new information. Ensure your learners can easily find the important ideas that add instant value. Don’t overload your courses with information learners won’t use.

Following these tips can provide your learners with greater psychological ownership, increasing your chances of achieving your organization’s desired learning outcomes.

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