Sometimes, while browsing for novels by my favorite authors, I come across a book which I had intended to read but totally forgot about. My happiness knows no bounds as I take home this book and settle down to read it in my cozy corner with a cup of cappuccino. What just happened to me was a stroke of luck, a serendipitous occurrence, a happenstance. Serendipitous is an adjective that means occurring or discovering something by chance when looking for something else.
I’m sure most of us have had this experience and the things we come across this way are very valuable to us. The very fact that we’ve stumbled upon them when we’ve least expected increases their value to us and we tend to appreciate them a lot. We are all aware of the fact that Archimedes discovered the principle of buoyancy by chance – it was pure serendipity!
This concept of serendipitous learning, when incorporated in e-learning courses, provides the same benefits as in the real world. The impact of learning will increase as learners will be excited on coming across a totally unexpected experience and invest more in the learning. Their engagement levels surge by leaps and bounds. But how can online learning be serendipitous? Let’s find out.
Serendipitous e-learning occurs when learning is facilitated through short learning interventions in unconventional forms that learners do not expect in the course. Break the monotony and do something learners do not anticipate.
E-learning courses can be made serendipitous by providing learners:
- Small nuggets of information to impart knowledge
- Exercises to apply their learning
This training methodology has a two-fold effect.
First, as learners come across learning in an unexpected form, it will immediately arrest their attention, increase their involvement in the course, and facilitate optimum knowledge transfer. They are also bound to retain the knowledge for longer periods.
Second, learners become more receptive to assessments when they appear in the guise of fun activities – they will be less daunted by exercises that help them apply their knowledge compared to the traditional assessments that test and judge them.
Let’s now consider 2 examples – performance management and compliance training – to understand how e-learning can me made serendipitous.
A performance management e-learning generally talks about the importance and benefits of performance management, the performance ratings of your organization, the specific rewards and compensations, and the career paths available. It can also be used to train employees on any specific performance management tool being used in your organization. How does serendipitous learning fit here?
Use mini-games such as a maze, crossword puzzle, match activity, etc. at each level and provide learners opportunities to apply the knowledge they’ve learnt thus far. Provide badges, trophies, or scores that learners will need to collect to proceed further.
b. Virtual Career Paths
Provide interactive career paths wherein learners can check out the various career opportunities they have – both within their department and across departments. Let them chart their own path selecting the available options through a drag and drop interactivity. Give them a chance to take a print out of the same so they always have the path with them.
Compliance training deals with educating employees on the regulations, laws, procedures, and policies dealing with every aspect for their daily jobs. These courses need employees to know and comply with the laws and rules. This involves lengthy, pedantic documents. If your employees are given a course with screen after screen filled with laws and dos and don’ts, they will not be interested in reading and will probably just flip through the course.
So don’t you think it pays use serendipitous learning here?
Present your learners a scenario. Give the background information in the scenario and ask them to make a decision on what they would do in the situation. This will ensure their complete participation – rather than just being passive viewers and reading text, they become active doers and try their learning hands-on.
Similarly, rather than just informing employees about the importance of complying with your industry-specific regulations in a static slide, use a short video of your CEO or a member of the top management talking about the benefits you accrue by following the rules or the potential liabilities you may face due to non-compliance.
This will drive home the importance to employees and get their buy-in when they see that the top management is passionate about the issue.
I hope these examples have given you an idea of how to harness the power of serendipitous learning in e-learning courses. You are limited only by your imagination; but ensure the interventions are relevant and add value to the course. Have other ideas? Do share with us!