Thursday, August 6, 2015

Ground Zero---Designing Irresistibly Engaging Learning Experiences--Part I

In the last post I suggested that engagement in learning experiences has to happen on a deeper personal level. If you observe a person who is strongly engaged in an event, the realization that you come to is that their response to the event is not just on an intellectual level but also includes a response on an emotional level. You can see in their faces a whole continuum of emotions that wash over them as they proceed through the event. This can be seen when people watch their favourite sporting event or play a competitive online game.


 They become a part of an unfolding story and take on the role of a collaborator with others in that story. This explains part of the addictiveness of role playing video games. The games take you from an intellectual participation and translates it into total participation where you receive immediate feedback from the decisions that YOU make and YOUR decisions and actions influence how the story unfolds.

Without this level of engagement, learners or employees are just going through the motions and will not incorporate what they learn from training or education sessions into their mindset or repertoire of doing things. In the past, a "carrot or stick" approach was used in the corporate organization and also in the education sector. In this digital age, the use of negative motivators does not work with respect to learning and actually results in the learner covertly seeking ways to undermine the initiative out of a combination of frustration and fear while maintaining the illusion that they are on board with the knowledge and skill sets being presented. For a company hoping to engage its employees, such a toxic relationship will lead to disaster.
In education in an E-Learning environment, it means that the learners will quickly disconnect from their learning and seek diversions.

The point is:

"Engagement will not happen unless the design has the necessary elements in it to engage employees. The design of the learning experiences and the nature of delivery is ground zero for engagement."

Understandings About Multilevel Engagement

If we learn anything at all about engagement at a personal level is that it is important to know the learner. This is something that instructional designers, corporate trainers and instructors have known and it is a given for any training professional who is engaged to design learning experiences for a company.

However, the mistake that some trainers and instructional designers make is the belief that knowing the learner is a single static event from which they may move on to starting the design.

"The simple truth is that the learners themselves are not completely aware of what engages them in learning. Surveys and one to one interviews are only snapshots in time and are not a dynamic picture of ongoing personal learning."


One suggestion on how to arrive at a solution to this problem is to consider giving learners what may be called a "test drive" of a variety of interactive, collaborative activities in order to gauge their responses to different types of engaging activities. For the designer this will accomplish the following:

  •  It will highlight potential problems in the use of interactivity
  • It will give you a reading on the kinds of collaboration configurations that will produce the best results
  • It will give you a picture of performance benchmarks which you can realistically compare with other companies in your sector
  • It will give the learner an opportunity to discover interactive activities that perhaps they had not experienced before and learn more about what they find engaging in an non-threatening environment. From this you and they can begin a learning profile for the learner and plot a path for growth to the benefit of the individual and the business


Next----Specific Interactive Learning Activities, the Importance of Creating Flow and E-Learning

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