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Building a best-in-class learning experience
August 17, 2021
Leveraging neuroscience to match the learner’s needs
Unleashing the full potential of learning
An upskilled and well-trained workforce provides companies with a clear competitive advantage. But while the need for effective learning strategies is clear, few organizations truly prioritize upskilling. Neither do employees make learning a priority in their daily job life. Like a security update notification on your smartphone, everyone knows learning is important, but it is still being de-prioritized and delayed. With increasing virtual ways of working and a fast-paced working environment, employees face multiple barriers to learning, including:
- Endless digital notifications and distractions
- Distributed locations that reduce information sharing
- Divided focus as employees handle multiple projects
Ineffective learning on the individual level can have devastating consequences for an organization’s medium- and long-term competitiveness. Given that an effective learning program takes time, delays today can have knock-on effects for years.
When organizations try to address these challenges with a conventional upskilling program, the results are disappointing. Capgemini Research institute found that feedback on upskilling programs includes responses such as “not fully relevant” (28%), “hard to understand” (18%) and “boring” (18%). Only 25% of employees say their upskilling programs are “relevant and exciting.” What employees need is content that is relevant not only to the organization (read about this in our first blog) but to each employee and their jobs. Learning formats will need to be more engaging, interactive, and seamlessly integrated into daily routines to create a learning experience that unleashes employees’ full potential.
Leveraging the science of learning
Why can you remember song lyrics from decades ago, but not your learning content from last month? Because you were intent on listening to those songs, you were engaged, you were emotionally involved, and you heard these songs on repeat. Neuroscience research shows how each of these factors can be incorporated into an effective learning design, thus giving rise to neuro-learning.
Neuro-learning is based on the ways in which our brains naturally process information in order to foster deeper learning and better retrieval. There are four pillars to neuro-learning:
- Attention: the ability to maintain focus – optimized through short and animated sequences
- Commitment: a learner’s internal drive to master a subject – enhanced by demonstrating relevance and engaging learners’ emotions
- Testing & feedback: the ability to make mistakes and learn from them, especially in contact with others – learners need space to experiment and make mistakes without negative consequences
- Consolidation: the ability to memorize, recall and transfer – primarily driven through repetition in combination with resting moments over longer periods of time
Translating the basics of neuro-learning into learning design
Micro-learning: now more than ever
Micro-learning is a learning trend that leverages all four neuro-learning pillars. This consists of breaking down subjects or skills into small, easily digestible lessons that build knowledge in a given direction. Small packets of information are easier to focus on and engage with than conventional courses (as anyone who’s attended an all-day training can attest). More importantly, by presenting learners with a series of small lessons, micro-learning builds on the power of repetition and incremental challenge. Micro-learning adds just enough new material to continuously guide the learner forward, steadily building skills over time.
Micro-doing: the power of action
To make time for learning is hard, to transfer learnings into practice is even harder. This is where micro-doing comes into play. Micro-doing is easy to visualize in sports, where a coach continuously makes small adjustments to an athlete’s position, guiding them towards peak form. So why not have a digital learning coach as well? Imagine being presented with small learning challenges, suggested learning videos or even digital guidance through a new IT system – all seamlessly integrated in your digital workspace. That way learners actively put skills to use through practice, while being nudged in the right direction.
Gamification: open the league for learning
Gamification infuses learning with fun and emotion, driving both engagement and long-term memory. Learners experience a series of successes, creating lasting motivation throughout the learning experience. The element of competition is also a powerful motivator, especially when learners represent teams, and see how their own success affects their teammates. It also creates a learning culture where failure is not something to be feared, but an integral part of the learning experience.
Blended learning: the right mixture makes the cocktail
Working from home brings challenges, limiting both interpersonal relations and personal communication. Through blended learning, remote work can be turned to an advantage. Participants take online courses at their leisure, discuss through Teams, Slack etc, and then meet up in person to put skills into practice with a far lower time commitment and cost than traditional trainings require. Blended learning affords extra flexibility to employees and to management, who can choose from a vast array of online materials. Combining different online, hybrid and face-to-face formats sends learners on a journey with repeated touchpoints – making learning content stick. The challenge is to design blended learning in a flow that balances guidance and flexibility. The right mixture of online, hybrid and offline learning can vary depending on learning content and target group. In other words, don’t follow an exact recipe – mix & match it to your needs!
No learner-centric experience? No results
What unites the above learning trends is that they put the learner’s needs in focus to create a targeted, personalized and learner type-centric learning experience. Innovative, data-driven technology provides the foundation for this approach. Our next blog will go one step further, discussing the game-changing potential of learning technology to accelerate the learning experience. The distances that workforces need to cover in the next few years are daunting. Fortunately, the tools are waiting.
Co Authors: Vivien Yang, Isabelle Petzold, Isabell Schastok