Whether delivered online, in-person, or video, all forms of training require careful planning to get the most out of learning outcomes. Because traditional instruction yields only a 15% application on the job, it’s important to incorporate experiential learning into learning pathways. Emphasizing experiential learning in a broader training strategy allows your learners to take their learning to their jobs which increases retention to 90%.
Experiential learning can be used in a wide variety of industries and contexts. To ensure a successful learning experience, there are four steps you need to address.
To kick off your planning, create a clear outline of what needs to be achieved in the experience in the context of the broader learning pathway. Is there a more intimate, in depth way to ask the learner to engage with the knowledge they’ve recently or should be learning? An opportunity is to move away from “Go get” to “Analyze”, “Compare”, “Design”, “Teach” verbs to incentivize more active learning.
You should also understand what type of knowledge you want them to gain (factual, contextual, procedural or metacognitive knowledge). Consider how many gaps learners will be able to tolerate in overcoming in the context.
You can visualize some of these questions in a table like the one below:
Some of the greatest experiential learnings allow learners to take risk and experiment in doing something to attempt to get an outcome that is more efficient, stronger, faster, etc. In some cases this requires some flexibility and autonomy for the learner.
Well crafted outcomes, or ones focused on collaboration or exploration have the opportunity to spur team and individual innovation a company can cash in on.
Autonomy can also have an engagement affect. Considering their job more broadly, autonomy is an essential construct.
However, just like in Buridan’s donkey, if you have too many choices it could cause paralysis or delay in completing the task to your expectations. As learners embark on “real-life” use of new knowledge, make sure to provide a channel and the right people for learners to get their clarification questions answered and provide appropriate modifications to the outline.
Provide the Right Tools
Consider if learners have already been exposed to the required skills to be successful in the task. Provide a clear “toolbox” of things to help them in the task.
Job aids are often rendered useless if they aren’t explained and distributed well. Allowing learners to practice immediately with a new aid can result in better outcomes. Taking the principles of Ebbinghaus’s Forgetting Curve, the longer you wait, the less likely learners are going to remember all of the parts they need to be successful in a procedure or skill.
Beyond that make sure that they already have some exposure to the essential skills they need to apply. Experiential learning is a perfect way to apply seemingly disparate skills together in a specific scenario. The best case scenario is the task helps them to identify their own skill gaps, find the correct tools and apply them independently.
Ensure learners will get timely, appropriate feedback to provide future opportunities to grow. The modern workforce craves more frequent feedback, which in turn can help them invest more in their work. However, the feedback has to be timely and genuine.
Feedback is also an opportunity to connect mentors and mentees, SMEs, and peers to the learner. But beyond that, provide visibility to the learner’s quality of outcome and skill to the broader organization.
Experiential learning plays an important role in any corporate learning program, especially when coordinated with online and instructor-led training. Reimagining the process for how tasks are designed and launched can result in greater utilization of critical skills by employees on the job, which is the optimal outcome for any learning professional.