In the 2020 Workplace Learning Report, learning and development professionals named learner engagement one of their main challenges. Given the changes that have occurred both personally and professionally over the past year and beyond, many learning professionals have had to pivot accordingly to deliver employee training in an online setting, thus putting increased pressure on the methodology selected. Many online learning curriculums tend to simply provide knowledge by having learners read, watch, or listen, thereby turning training into a purely intellectual activity. While important, this passive learning methodology does not lead to true learner engagement and behavior change.
In order to increase learner engagement, online experiential learning has quickly become a popular option. Online experiential learning is a training methodology that utilizes interactive, immersive, and metaphorical activities to mimic the challenges of the real world and get learners actively involved in their own learning. This makes the learning experience fun, engaging, and with the help of a debrief to tie it all together, relevant for everyday application.
If you are keen on improving learner engagement with your company’s virtual learning initiatives, here are 5 reasons why online experiential learning may be the answer.
Online experiential learning is masked in an all-encompassing theme, which could include a mission in space or solving a museum heist, which leads to an immersive experience that ensures total engagement by taking employees out of their day-to-day work life. Because experiential learning is fun, learners want to participate. They want to win the challenge and are only thinking about the task at hand. On the other hand, passive eLearning options can too easily allow learners to mentally (and sometimes physically) check out. With experiential learning, learners are all-in for the duration of the experience while having a great time!
It’s Interactive and Team-Oriented
Rather than listening to a presentation or reading a case study, individuals in an online experiential learning session learn by doing while working together as a team. Most of the time, they’re having fun working together to overcome a challenge they are not even aware that they are learning valuable new skills. For this very reason, online experiential learning leads to higher learner engagement because employees are focused on completing a challenge as a team and are unaware of the skills they’re developing.
Experiential learning is also a great online learning methodology because an intense, shared experience fosters new connections between team members that carry through to the workplace. Coworkers gain a new sense of trust and also encourage each other to continue applying their new skills.
It Creates a Safe Environment for Practicing New Skills
The use of a well-crafted metaphor allows learners to test new skills and behaviors in a safe setting outside of typical workplace scenarios. Learner engagement increases when the fear of failure in a work situation is removed and everyone is free to truly immerse themselves in the online experiential learning session to test new skills.
It Quickly Shows Learners the Results of Their Actions
An accelerated timeline like the ones in online experiential learning sessions allows learners to quickly see the results of their actions, make corrections, and learn from their mistakes and successes. The intense, fast-paced nature of online experiential learning does not leave the opportunity for learners to check out because before they know it the experience has concluded.
It Connects Their Actions in the Experience to the Real World, and How to Improve
At the end of an online experiential learning session, a facilitated debrief links the lessons learned in the experience to situations in the workplace. Learners are actively involved in reflecting on how their new skills can be applied in the situations they experience on a daily basis. All of this leads to higher learner engagement and ultimately behavior change because individuals have personally experienced the results that come with applying their existing skills (both successes and failures), and they are then more inclined to do things differently next time. They draw their own conclusions about the power of applying new approaches and behaviors back on the job, which is why experiential learning has a higher retention rate than other training methods.
When making an investment in training, you naturally expect to see a return. Online experiential learning provides better ROI than other training methods because of higher learner engagement, learning retention rates, and strong motivation to apply new skills in the workplace.