We learn by making hard choices. Every mistake is a lesson, every failure a chance to improve. Scholars recognize this process as experiential learning and define it as learning by doing. Its main medium is experience and its dominating technique is trial and error. We try, we fail, we overcome, and eventually, we succeed.
Experiential learning is traditionally associated with applicable knowledge and practical skills, which makes it an almost perfect knowledge acquisition practice for a work environment. We say almost because mistakes cost money.
But real-life experiences can be simulated. This helps companies create a safe environment for their employees to make mistakes and learn from their experiences. They combine traditional training with exercises that prompt employees to make decisions and act.
The process of acquiring knowledge through simulated experiences is a special, but equally effective variant of experiential learning called interactive learning.
Here’s how to incorporate it to your online training modules and why.
Switch to Interactive Training Software
It’s safe to presume that your company creates courses using one of many eLearning tools. Every successful business relies on this technology to create and deploy training programs. Whether or not you’ll need to upgrade your online training solution depends on whether your existing tool includes features for adding interactive elements to modules and slides.
Some basic features of interactive training software are:
- The ability to create and edit multimedia content.
- Social learning features such as discussion groups.
- Authoring tools for tests, quizzes, and surveys.
If the tool you’re currently using doesn’t offer at least these three capabilities, you’ll have to invest in a more feature-rich training solution. The good news is, there’s a lot to choose from.
Include Interactive Elements to Every Module
The main idea behind interactive learning is to boost knowledge retention by making trainees actively participate in courses instead of passively acquiring knowledge. Passive learning is not the best approach to knowledge acquisition in the work environment, as it is better suited for learning theory than for developing applicable skills.
As an employer, you want your employees to apply knowledge to everyday tasks. Training should help them develop these skills, but it can hardly be of any assistance if it offers nothing but dry facts, extensive blocks of text, and nothing to exercise on.
That leads you to the question: how can you encourage active participation?
The trick is in creating courses that require trainees to take action in the middle and at the end of every module. In other words, to interact with their learning material. Active participation can be encouraged with something as simple as a button that must be pressed or something as challenging as a test that trainees must take to unlock the next module.
Use Real-Life Scenarios to Boost Engagement
Relatable educational content is just as effective in boosting engagement. As employees, trainees experience problems, dilemmas, and challenges on a daily basis. How they tackle these obstacles is what makes the difference between stagnation and development.
Let’s take your sales reps, for example. Their job requires them to solve problems and make decisions on the spot. One mistake, and they can lose a customer. A lost customer is lost time, energy, and revenue for your company. Because this is a lot of pressure, your sales reps are sometimes compelled to take the easy way out. By avoiding risk, they are avoiding a potentially valuable learning experience.
But if you ask them to record these obstacles, you can turn them into interactive simulations in which your employees can feel much more comfortable making expensive mistakes. Real-life scenarios should be an integral part of your employee training.
Invest in VR and AR Training Technology
Go one step further, and you can make these real-life simulations even more engaging. World’s leading brands are already using virtual and augmented reality as a way to encourage active participation in employee training, but they are not the only ones.
Thanks to recent technological developments, the tech behind VR and AR is no longer as expensive as it used it to be. SMBs are experimenting with its application as we speak. The only advantage of VR simulations over traditional roleplaying is that technology helps us create more immersive experiences. VR training feels authentic and true to life.
The effect is the same as with offline simulations, only more intense. As a result, trainees absorb information faster and retain what they have learned longer. Once again, the pressure-free environment allows them to pursue creative, high-risk solutions.
Let Trainees Choose Their Own Adventures
Speaking of creative solutions, VR training and old-school simulations can stimulate out-of-the-box thinking when they allow trainees to choose their own adventures. Choose your own adventure (CYOA) is one of many gamification techniques.
If you’re unfamiliar with the phrase, let us explain it before you add it to the extended list of employee training software features you’ll need for making your modules more interactive.
Gamified learning uses various elements and aspects of play games to encourage active participation and increase engagement in students and trainees. Point scoring comes to mind, along with contests, rewards, and other techniques that make learning seem more like playing. CYOA is another fine example of this learning method. In this type of exercise, trainees are required to make a choice that causes irretrievable consequences to their career paths and thus learn the effect of decision-making on long-term goals.
Using a smart employee training software enables you to add as many interactive elements to your modules as possible, but also to create your own engaging learning methods. Whichever of these interactive approaches you choose, remember the purpose of this technique is to help your trainees learn through experience, by taking action and making mistakes.
About Kamy Anderson
Kamy Anderson is an ed-tech enthusiast with a passion for writing on emerging technologies in the areas of corporate training and education. He is an expert in learning management system & eLearning authoring tools - currently associated with ProProfs.