“There is always a gap between the learning environment and the environment in which knowledge and skills must be put to work.” – The Six Disciplines Of Breakthrough Learning
The major challenge when imparting training lies in building a training framework that bridges the gap between learning and doing. With eLearning, the chances of narrowing down this gap between learning and application is way easier since eLearning involves a lot of instructional strategies and techniques that help transfer learning to on the job application.
Strategies to narrow down the learning-doing gap with eLearning
- Make the ‘What’s in it for me’ clear
- Make learning memorable
- Provide a platform to apply
- Provide a platform to share experiences
- Offer performance support
The main purpose of training employees is to ensure they apply whatever is learned to their work. And the main factor that bridges the gap between knowledge and application is the way employees are taught. However, the huge gap between the learning environment and the environment in which one has to impart the skills often makes it difficult to achieve the expected learning outcomes learning outcomes. The wider the gap between learning and application, the fewer can learners achieve the learning outcomes.
Five eLearning Strategies to Narrow the Learning-Doing Gap
1. Make the ‘What’s In It For Me’ Clear
The first step to bridging the gap between learning and application is by motivating learners to take up the learning. If you remember the principles of Adult Learning by Malcolm Knowles, one of the key principles states adults learn better when they know why exactly they are being asked to learn. Hence, establishing relevance will motivate learners to learn. How can eLearning aid in making the relevance clear to learners?
Set Performance-Based Learning Objectives
Learning objectives are a very crucial part of an eLearning course as they tell learners what exactly they will be able to do when they complete the course. This helps establish a significant amount of relevance right at the beginning of the course, motivating them to take up the course.
Demonstrate Using Case Studies
Case studies can be very efficient tools to establish the relevance of a subject to learners. Since learners gain knowledge on what they need to do to solve the case, it makes it very apparent as to why they should take the course. Case studies aid in illustrating the impact of decisions and strategies in the real world.
Connect with Past Experiences
It is a common phenomenon for learners to find it hard to accept and establish relevance in a new set of information. One of the ways this can be avoided is by allowing learners to connect the current learning to their previous experiences. In an eLearning course, this can be done is by using a pre-assessment or ‘Check Your Knowledge’ questions prior to the beginning of the course.
For example, if the course is teaching learners about a new drug for insomnia, you can get the ball rolling by asking them a few questions about the sleep cycle – setting the context for the new learning.
2. Make Learning Memorable
It is very important that you prepare your employees for every possible situation they might face at their workplace. These situations may include anything from crisis management to leadership challenges. You cannot afford to let your employees forget what to do in a crucial moment, can you? This is why you need to make learning memorable so that the solution comes to mind when it is necessary.
Any learning event a learner does not remember is wasted effort, but a learning event that learners remember will definitely help them in applying whatever they have learned in their workplace. So, how can eLearning make learning memorable?
The main way to ensure learning becomes a memorable event is by making the entire course learner-centric. This can be done by formulating well-defined learning objectives, incorporating the right ID strategies, and using the right mix of media elements.
Remember those stories we heard when we were young? I am sure most of you remember quite a lot of them, much more than the information presented in formats other than stories. Stories can be incorporated in eLearning courses too. For example, if your goal is to help learners understand the importance of data privacy and how they can avoid data being misused, present a story on how a individual lands in trouble due to careless actions and how another individual takes effective measures, such as locking his/her computer while leaving his/her desk, to protect data.
Learners will understand the consequences and also what they should be doing to avoid such consequences. Stories make for effective learning as they get us to invest our emotions.
3. Provide a Platform to Apply
Imagine you plan on training your employees on a surgical process. You will provide them a video-based course on how the surgery is to be performed. Do you think this alone will lead to effective performance? Unfortunately, no. Merely providing information on how to do a particular task is not enough. A platform that allows the learners to think and act as they should on the job should be provided. So, how can a platform to apply be provided in eLearning?
Simulations allow learners to perform actions within an environment that mimics the real setup, without the fear of failure or risk. In case of a software simulation, the simulated environment will be same as the actual software, allowing learners to perform actions they will be performing in the actual software. In case of a surgical process, the simulated environment can be that of an operating theatre with all the surgical tools available, allowing learners to carry out all the required actions in the simulated environment.
Scenario-based learning focuses on allowing learners to work through a situation using the knowledge acquired within the course. Along with the subject knowledge, the learner will also have to apply their problem-solving skills and critical thinking. This provides learners with an opportunity to identify the consequences of each of their actions, helping them understand how exactly to behave when such situations arise at their workplace.
4. Provide a Platform to Share Experiences
The probabilities of narrowing down the learning-doing gap increases when learners are provided with a platform to share their experiences and best practices. For example, when a senior shares a few handy tips with juniors and beginners, they immediately tend to try them in their workplace. So, how does eLearning provide a platform to share experiences?
Use Online Collaboration Tools
Online collaborative tools allow learners to come together to discuss and share their ideas and opinions. In online learning, these tools can be integrated within a Learning Management System. For instance, in a discussion forum, the instructor can pose questions related to what was covered in an earlier course and learners can reply by posting their opinions and solutions. Learners themselves can begin a discussion on their own, by either sharing experiences, success stories, or by asking questions and seeking clarifications.
5. Offer Performance Support
Providing performance support is all about providing access to the right information as and when learners need it. Performance support tools reduce the learning-doing gap by offering learning at the moment of need. How can performance support be provided in eLearning?
Deliver Short Bursts Using Microlearning
Performance support is to help learners gain quick access to the content they require. Hence, an extremely lengthy video or a 20-minute eLearning won’t do. This is where microlearning comes in. Microlearning is all about delivering learning in short bursts, focusing on one single learning objective per module. So each time a doubt creeps up, all the learner will have to do is to access the micro asset that has the answer.
For example, a color coded infographic will be a great tool the new hire in your lab can look up when in doubt. Offer a video on the steps to troubleshoot a machine, or a checklist to project managers to ensure they’ve done it all! Microlearning offers a lot of interesting options, but remember – let form follow function for the best results!
Including these strategies in your eLearning courses will definitely go a long way in bridging the gap between learning and doing at the workplace. What are you currently doing to address this gap? Are there any ideas you would like to add? What is the first strategy you would choose from those discussed in this blog, and why? Share your thoughts with us!
Would you like to know about more such tips that will help you deliver better training through eLearning? Download our free eBook “32 eHacks to Jumpstart Your eLearning”.