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Experiential learning - What is the key to getting learners back into the classroom?

Experiential learning - What is the key to getting learners back into the classroom?

The RSVP Design team enjoyed a great few days at the ATD in New Orleans in May, meeting L+D professionals from across the world. As ever it was an opportunity to take the pulse of the training industry and listen to the cares, concerns and hopes of the people responsible for the workforce development needs of millions of people. ATD is where we hear the first whispers of trends that will direct our efforts in the coming year; so what have we heard this year that we consider to be significant?

 

Unlike other years when we get multiple, and often mixed, messages, this year it can all be distilled into a single word - motivation.

 

We've come through several years of essential experiments in how to work around the tried and tested model of getting people together in one space - sometimes with great results. Yet there's a recognition that face-to-face learning offers so much more than what can be measured using assessment methods that focus on the achievement of pre-defined learning objectives. The powerful social benefit of gathering people in a shared space where they can get to know one another and talk about their experiences of work is hard to evaluate - but L+D professionals agree on one thing - it just hasn't been happening in virtual learning events. Despite all our efforts, and billions spent on the development of new platforms, the informal chat rooms on our screens don't offer the same quality of interaction that breakfast or coffee conversations with colleagues do.

 

So the push is on to get people back into real shared learning spaces - or is it?

 

Certainly, it's what the majority of L+D professionals seem to want; the buzz at our stand in New Orleans was all around our experiential learning tools and what they might offer. Trainers talked about the need for shared learning experiences that deliver results in an attractive way - attractive for the learners, but also for the trainers themselves. Over the past few years, we've listened to a lot of colleagues who were jaded by the lack of immediate feedback and engagement of face-to-face delivery, so the prospect of bright, engaging and effective tools is very understandable. Yet none of this can happen without the learners buying-in, and that's where motivation is the key concern; the question on many lips is this - 

 

'How do we motivate learners to come back into the classroom?'

 

As I've said, we've had several years to get used to a situation where the vast majority of adult learning happens on-line. For many this has involved little other than tidying the corner of the sitting- or bedroom that has become the home office and changing into a new t-shirt. Required training has demanded little effort or disruption of routine from the participant, it's all been very easy to accommodate and all-too-easy to forget. Yet now we suggest that people make the effort to travel to a designated venue, to dress and behave in a particular way, to clear social and professional diaries, and to actively engage in their own learning. It's a big ask - and the L+D profession is concerned that people are reluctant to respond positively. So once again we have to ask the question 'How do we motivate learners to come back into the classroom?'

 

For many years the answer to this question would have been based on extrinsic motivation - the offer of some reward or benefit that would be realised after attending the learning event- promotion, a pay-rise, access to workplace benefits etc. Unfortunately, the experience of recent years has meant that these rewards don't have the motivational effect they once had, they're either devalued in the minds of employees, or people are genuinely sceptical that they will be delivered. Carrot or stick approaches that use these as rewards or threaten sanctions if employees don't see them as attractive, have the potential to act as demotivators. Extrinsic motivation is a chancy strategy - it's time to look at approaches that lean into intrinsic motivation.

 

What we need to do is offer shared learning events that are so attractive that participants are prepared to clear their timetables and make the effort to attend - they need to want to be there. FOMO needs to be part of our event design without jeopardising the learning outcomes that make the event a necessity. We have to make the learning itself attractive and build around it the space that will allow participants to derive the benefits of face-to-face contact with colleagues.

 

It is in these spaces that RSVP Design has excelled for the past 20+ years. We design and supply experiential learning tools that have become mainstays of the self-facilitated delivery for major corporations across the world. And the key feature of these tools is the extent to which they engage learners - people genuinely enjoy the experience of taking part. It's that enjoyment that is the best demonstration that working with RSVP Design tools has stimulated the intrinsic motivation of participants.

 

The answer to the question 'How do we motivate learners to come back into the classroom?' is likely to be answered in terms of how we seek to intrinsically motivate them. Success is all about making our learning events so attractive that participants keep coming back for more, and taking away learning that they find to be of immediate value. 


Take a look at our catalogue of tools to find a match for the learning objectives you need to address, or get in touch with us at [email protected]

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