Two options that frequently come up when examining learning methologies are case studies, and experiential learning. Case studies are a well known methodology from higher education business schools, but experiential learning is a little newer to the corporate world. To help you make the best choice, here is a breakdown of the two methodologies, as well as the benefits and potential drawbacks of both.
- Creating a sense of personal experience of the situations presented
- Allowing participants to more deeply understand training content when cases are carefully chosen to be highly relevant
- Providing a chance for collaboration and group discussion so individuals can learn from different perspectives on the situations
- Active participation because the case study concludes with presenting findings
- Creating an understanding of the ambiguity and complexity of the given situation because the focus is on the process rather than on the solutions the groups arrive at
Case studies can be a really helpful way for participants to test their judgement on how they would handle the scenario at hand. However, one possible limitation of case studies is that they are theoretical – you can have deeply valuable discussions about what you would have done, but there is no opportunity for learners to put the theories to the test and practice the concepts discussed.
While the experiential learning methodology itself is nothing new, adapting it to corporate training and development is a relatively recent development. In the mid-1980s, David Kolb published his theories that learning requires the understanding of abstract concepts that can be adapted and applied to various situations. The driving force behind the understanding of new concepts is learning through experience.
Since then, this methodology has only grown in popularity among organizations around the world and become an essential part of many practical training and development solutions. Through the use of interactive, hands-on exercises that mimic the workplace, employees learn practical and relevant skills and behaviors in a way that builds conviction to change, and the confidence and competence in applying those changes back on the job. This methodology goes beyond knowledge transfer; it supports real behavior change, mindset transformation, and skill mastery. Talk about a powerful approach to corporate learning.
Other benefits of experiential learning include:
- Relevant for a modern workforce
- Appeals to a variety of learning styles
- Improves employee performance across the organization It builds competency in soft skills applicable for any role at any level within the organization.
- Uses hands-on activities to promote engagement in the classroom
- Creates a safe environment to practice training content and as such, builds confidence to apply the new knowledge and skills back on the job
Experiential learning is valuable and engaging because enables employees to make direct connections between their own actions and desired performance outcomes, resulting in better performance. This hands-on approach allows participants to not only apply the lessons, but to experience the results of applying those lessons.