How do Learners behave within a learning environment? What do they choose to learn and what grabs their attention? These are questions that L&D managers are often grappling with. It is very difficult predict learner behavior and define ‘How they learn’. This is because the way we learn is often an intuitive and subconscious process. However, there are some identified approaches to learning that most corporate learners tend to adopt – stemming out of their learning environment, preferred way of learning as well as the ways that they approach other technologies. By studying these learning approaches, it is then possible to ascertain learning strategies that will ensure that the learner chooses to learn through an e-course and is comfortable within a technology-enabled learning environment. Here are some learning strategies that you can utilize that align to specific approaches that most corporate learners adopt:
A time-based approach
Most corporate learners are busy professionals, chasing deadlines and subs. Learning can be a disruptive event in the midst of all this. Even though the learner may embark upon an e-course, if he perceives it as ‘too long’ or ‘too detailed’, the chances of completion are less.
- The learning strategy that can overcome this is to provide learners with ‘bite-sized’ learning. Instead of a single extensive course, it can be broken down into small nuggets of learning – not more than 15-20 minutes long.
- The length of each learning nugget can be shared – so that the learner can decide how many to consume at one go. Apart from having a sustained and stronger impact, the bite-sized learning strategy thus allows the learner to plan the learning event as per availability of time.
- Within learning module, features like Bookmarking can also be helpful for learners to suspend learning and then come back to it later when time permits.
Working Environment approach
Even though it is proven that corporate learners embrace asynchronous learning very well and are attuned to self-paced learning, there are many external forces at play which affect the impact of learning. Studying at the work-station might not be the ideal for some learners, with the demands and disturbances of the background.
- Providing an audio background to the e-course can often shut out background noises and disturbances. The learner can put on headphones, and then concentrate on the course. The audio provides necessary learning impact and also helps the learner to concentrate more.
- Another strategy is to create Learning Labs. As fancy as it sounds, it need not be so. It can simply be a room with computers where a learner can access learning in peace. Away from the workstations, this environment would enable the learner to concentrate on the training course and get away from the demands of his work – like the ‘ping’ indicating another mail in your inbox or the co-worker in the next cubicle popping in with a query!
Most corporate learners know what they want in terms of learning. Many learners embark on a training event with considerable existing knowledge on the subject while some are complete novices. So when there is a sharp dichotomy in the learner group to include experts as well as novices – there needs to be strategy in place which caters to both.
- A course menu can be created that allows the learner to see all sections within an e-course. Thus learners who have some knowledge can skip basic introductions and go right ahead to sections which provide them with additional knowledge. The others can follow the courses structure as is to assimilate more.
- Within the course, explanatory elements can be embedded – not as part of actual text. This also gives the learners the freedom to read and learn to the extent that they perceive as useful. For instance, interactivities like ‘click-to-reveal’ can be added which can provide detailed information if so required.
While providing choice, it is also necessary to make sure that there are some parts of the course which have to be read by all.
- For some courses, introductory pages form the foundation for the course. The course structure can be created in a way that does not allow the learner to choose his path before completing the necessary introductions. The choice is still given, but only after it is made sure that most relevant points are read by all.
- Within a page, important text can be displayed in prominent fonts or highlighted to make sure that the learner perceives it as ‘key content’.
- Diagrams or images can be duly labeled to with explanatory text which calls out for the learners’ attention.
An e-course like any other learning event has several parts. The pace that a learner takes within the course is a personal choice – aligning to the way he feels most comfortable. Whatever the approach, avenues for moving about freely or ‘exploring’ should be kept open to suit any and all approaches that a learner chooses.
- Navigation features like ‘Next’ and ‘Back’ within the course enable learners move back or ahead the course as per need. Similarly, the ‘Pause’ button enables learners to give due attention on a particular page and its content before moving ahead. This assimilation time is necessary for some learners and this simple feature can increase the learning impact manifold.
- Most of the explanatory features within a course are self explanatory, but keeping new users of e-learning in mind, a help manual can be included in the course to help learners understand all the navigational features and proceed.
- Another strategy to encourage learners to explore all the facets of a course is to conduct a small demo consisting of screenshots from the course and the various exploratory features. However, this approach does not work if most of the learners are familiar with technology-aided learning – they will just get bored during the demo! It is then prudent to keep the demo optional, allowing the learner to move ahead to the course if he chooses.
Approaches that learners take inside an e-learning environment are varied. It is the subject of continuous studies by researchers of the Training and Learning industry. By identifying the approaches, we can form strategies that suit them. Thus we are closer to creating more impactful e-learning. For more information on learning strategies, write to in**@gc**********.net or fill the form below:
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Source and suggested reading: Approaches and Strategies for Choice of Actions in Self-Paced E-Learning in the Workplace by A. Wiklund-Engblom