Technological advances are challenging learning professionals to rethink how they approach more traditional methods of delivery, such as e-learning.
Studies have shown that e-learning is one of the most effective methods of learning delivery, especially in safety and health care compliance. Studies also have shown that the method is cost-efficient and saves time over classroom training.
For example, according to a client study by UL Workplace Health and Safety, workers’ compensation insurer Workforce Safety & Insurance (WSI) implemented a program to provide safety training to policyholders, including access to more than 300 e-learning health and safety modules. The results showed savings to employers of more than $3.6 million in training costs and a decline in work-related injuries demonstrated via reduced workers’ compensation premium charges of 72.3 percent.
Three technology trends can help learning professionals aiming to increase the quality and use of e-learning programs. They are gamification, scenario-based learning and informal learning.
Organizations have worked game-based learning into their e-learning programs because evidence suggests that the immersive and engaging nature of the method accelerates learning, improves skill acquisition and retention.
Karl Kapp, professor of instructional technology and assistant director of the Institute for Interactive Technologies at Bloomsburg University, writes frequently about gamification. In his 2012 paper, “What Every Chief Learning Officer Needs to Know About Games and Gamification for Learning,” he urges learning leaders to embrace gamification. He writes: “Games in our training programs are not a break from learning — they are learning. They are everything we say should be a part of great instructional design. They engage the learner, are interactive and they enable the learner to get immediate feedback and to demonstrate mastery.”
The following examples demonstrate game-based learning’s effectiveness.
In 2012, Deloitte published an article by Doug Palmer, Steve Lunceford and Aaron Patton titled “The Engagement Economy — How Gamification Is Reshaping Businesses.” Included are case studies and examples from numerous organizations such as SAP, Cisco and Samsung. They all cite improved employee performance through implementing a game-based learning initiative.
Traci Sitzmann, assistant professor at the University of Colorado at Denver Business School, found in a study that learners’ “post-training self-efficacy was 20 percent higher, declarative knowledge was 11 percent higher, procedural knowledge was 14 percent higher and retention was 9 percent higher for trainees taught with simulation games, relative to a comparison group.”
Finally, a paper published by e-learning production company Digitec Interactive showed a significant reduction in training time through gamification, with one organization citing a 50 percent decrease when it implemented game-based training.
As with gamification, technology is making it easier to create more context-rich scenario lessons.
Scenario-based learning presents learners with a situation and guides them through choices and decisions to navigate the task or problem. Instead of showing learners the best way to complete a task and then having them repeat that activity, learners are directed through the scenario and allowed to make choices.
In her 2012 book Scenario-Based E-Learning, Ruth Clark makes the case that scenario-based learning accelerates expertise by providing opportunities for learners to gain experience in a controlled and safe environment.
Separately, in a 2009 article Clark asserts that scenario-based learning, when applied with solid instructional design methodology, can dramatically decrease training time. She cites a U.S. Air Force case study in which “25 hours of scenario-based e-learning that simulated multiple electrical equipment failures raised the expertise of two-year Air Force technicians to the same level as 10-year veterans.”
Additionally, companies using e-learning have taken scenario-based learning to technological heights by allowing learners to become active participants in a simulation video and see firsthand the consequences of choice and behaviors.
One organization, video simulation company Will Interactive, uses a virtual learning simulation tool to team up with organizations including the U.S. Army, National Football League and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to create video vignettes in which learners choose a character and proceed through scenarios, making choices and seeing the results.
Formalizing Informal Learning
While gamification and scenario-based learning are enhancing our formal learning programs, informal learning can be a relevant and valuable mechanism for effective retention as well.
Learners experience moment-of-need learning opportunities as a matter of routine in daily life. Picture a driver with a flat tire. Instead of calling for assistance, he or she uses a smartphone to watch a short YouTube tutorial on changing a tire.
But how do learning professionals plan for random and unexpected moments of need in the workplace? Informal learning means finding ways to capture these personal “aha” moments and allow learning to occur on demand.
Mobile technology is being integrated into health and safety products that allow workers to use their mobile device and a QR code to access moment-of-need information. A worker might encounter a jammed piece of machinery and need to know the appropriate and safe method for locking out the equipment. A quick scan of a well-placed QR code on the machine immediately pulls up useful information such as specification data sheets and a video tutorial on the proper lockout procedure.
Another way to use informal learning is through an incident management system, which allows workers to report incidents or unsafe practices in the workplace.
When there is an incident and investigation, the details are recorded in the system as an event and can be automatically turned into training modules for the entire organization. Additional training modules can be created as part of ongoing curriculum development related to the specific topic. This is an effective blend of informal and formal learning.
Holly Howell is director of professional learning services for UL Workplace Health and Safety. She can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.
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