Our Thinking

Learning Solutions 2014 Conference Takeaways

Angeline Usewicz

I recently had an exciting opportunity to attend the 2014 Learning Solutions Conference in Orlando. Innovation was the theme of the three-day event. The speakers and exhibits challenged the training norm with new technology and training approaches. The featured trends provide professionals with an arsenal of new techniques for delivering training content to our learners. I’m an instructional designer, so my goal was to discover new ways to engage the learner in order to enhance our eLearning and classroom training experiences.

So what were the highlights?

Gamification –My first thought was “learning can’t always be gamified.” Or can it? Gamification continues to be a buzz word sweeping the eLearning world, but it doesn’t have to mean you are transforming every training experience into a video game. Any training can be infused with creativity and leverage gaming elements. For example, rather than kicking off an eLearning course with the learning objectives, we can engage the learner with a question that results in reflection and gets them thinking about the topic.

Another way to layer in gamelike activity is to offer the learner choices that inspire curiosity in the content. This could be as simple as a “choose your own adventure” approach that takes the learners on a journey of their choice, or just a safe environment for them to take risks. Giving learners an opportunity to fail can help them achieve greater understanding of the content. Lastly, dare them to master the content by offering incentives, whether it is rewards, points, badges, or just kudos!

Storytelling – Learners don’t want “page turners,” (dry boring courses where the content is simply presented in an information dump) so we don’t want to create them. Our goal is to create a learning experience, and the key is to know the audience. Adult learning theory tells us to tap into our learner’s lived experiences. Storytelling gives us the tools to evoke an emotional connection with our learners, spark an idea, or even just recall a memory.

An easy way to deliver this is by implementing case studies that are real and relevant to the learner. Case studies are effective stories that support training in all fields and give the learner a chance to apply what they’re learning. On the other hand, an eLearning experience can be fully immersed in storytelling with a full story scenario starting from the moment the course begins. This requires some creative writing, but can offer significant value and increase learning retention.Bottom line: Storytelling is both an art and a science, and if used correctly, it can take the learner’s experience to the next level and help them improve performance.

Subscription Learning – There are times when content is best learned over time: whether that’s because there is too much content to share all at once or because you want to make sure the content is not forgotten. Subscription learning offers a way to reinforce already learned training content with “nuggets” or “tips and tricks.” This can be delivered by vendors, free online tools, or through universal means such as mobile texts, email alerts, or automatic email/notification pushes from your Learning Management System.

For example, if we’re conducting awareness training, subscription learning would secure the transfer of training by triggering the learner’s awareness with helpful tidbits of information. Subscription learning can also be leveraged to deliver “how-to” information without overwhelming the learner. By introducing the learner to just a few steps at a time, it will allow them to master the skill before learning the next.

Gamification, storytelling, and subscription learning were just a few of the trends featured at the Learning Solutions 2014 Conference and Expo. All of these topics inspired me to think of new ways to engage our learners and improve their training experience and performance.

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