Top strategies to unlock the full potential of action-based learning
Interviews / Opinions

Top strategies to unlock the full potential of action-based learning

, Content Writer at Epignosis

Imagine this: You’re at your desk, juggling tasks like a seasoned circus performer—joining meetings, answering emails, tackling a mountain of to-dos.

Amid all this multitasking, a reminder pops up: “Complete cybersecurity course.”

In this moment, is it really possible to switch gears, slow down, and dive into a “learn” mindset? And is that learning going to be effective?

Attention is a precious commodity for today’s employees and time is a luxury. If you want to engage your team in training, action-based learning is the key.

If you want to master this technique, your traditional way of presenting course content might need a little upgrade. Consider the ways employees learn best and brush up on the interactive eLearning strategies that can help you give them what they want.

How employees (want to) learn

In our State of L&D in 2022 report, we found that the majority of employees (64%) report that their preferred training format is simulation and learning by doing.

When asked about what features they’d like to see in training, employees cited a number of interactive elements, including:

  • Discussions (41%)
  • Quizzes (37%)
  • Chat (33%)
  • Gamification (29%)

The data speaks volumes. Employees are raising their hands for more engaging and hands-on learning experiences.

Why? Because it aligns perfectly with their dynamic, multitasking lifestyles.

Passive learning can make it easy for employees to get distracted during online training. They end up simultaneously sending messages, answering emails, working on other assignments—maybe even joining a virtual meeting.

If you want employees to be engaged in your content, increase interaction.

In a recent episode of our Keep It Simple podcast, we discussed this topic with renowned learning expert Karl Kapp.

According to Kapp, “If we think of any kind of corporate environment that we’re in every day, we’ve got to take actions . . . We’ve got to make decisions. We’ve got to interact with our peers.”

But when it comes to learning, “We slow down and we just kind of absorb information. And it’s not really as effective as putting us in situations where we’ve got to take action.”

The solution?

Interactive training methods, a.k.a. “action-based learning.”

Top strategies to unlock the full potential of action-based learning

What is action-based learning?

Action-based learning is an instructional approach that prioritizes hands-on learning over passive information absorption.

It encourages learners to actively engage in tasks, simulations, and problem-solving scenarios relevant to their roles.

“The idea,” says Kapp, “is that we make the learner do something immediately. So as soon as you get into the instruction, you answer a question, you make a decision, you guess, you decide what’s happening, you choose option A or option B.”

Employing these kinds of experiential learning techniques takes training beyond a check-the-box experience. It makes it more dynamic and memorable.

Action-based vs. traditional learning

Traditional training methods rely heavily on lectures and theoretical content. They often involve a one-size-fits-all model with little room for personalization.

Action-based training, on the other hand, encourages learners to actively participate, solve problems, and make decisions.

Think of it as the difference between reading about how to ride a bike and actually getting on one to feel the wind in your hair. Action-based learning is about doing, experiencing, and learning from the process.

The rise of eLearning presents a good opportunity to boost employee engagement in training. But you have to move beyond throwing content on the screen. Instead, learn to use online learning methods to immerse learners in the course.

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Why action-based learning is effective

Asking learners to engage with the training fosters a sense of empowerment and accomplishment. It also makes it more likely they’ll learn and retain the content.

Here’s how:

1. It grabs (and holds) learners’ attention: When you ask learners to do something, you engage critical thinking or deep recall. Even simple things that make learners think can appeal to short attention spans and keep employees hooked.

For example, rather than starting a course by stating “We’re going to learn the top three sales techniques,” start by asking, “What’s the top-performing sales technique in our organization?”

They’ll instantly start to think more deeply about the topic as they consider their own experience.

2. It helps them understand the value of the content: When you ask learners to interact with your content, it helps them see how it relates to them.

You may have them apply the skills in a familiar scenario or answer questions about relevant struggles they face on the job. This ties the content to something relevant to employees’ daily work and makes it automatically more interesting to them.

3. It gives learners a safe space to try out their skills: According to Kapp, “At work, if I’m negotiating with the client, it’s not okay to be wrong. But in a learning experience, it’s okay to be wrong and to gain that experience.”

In a simulation or role-play exercise, people have room to experiment. When they can safely fail, they can learn from their failures. Practice also means they’ll be more confident using their new skills or knowledge back on the job.

Examples of action-based activities

Here are some ways to seamlessly incorporate interactive learning methods into your training:

  • Interactive elements: Include quizzes, discussions, and group activities. These foster engagement and collaboration, making the learning experience more dynamic.
  • Simulations: Whether it’s navigating a cybersecurity challenge or mastering customer service, simulations provide a safe space for hands-on learning.
  • Branching simulations: Apply a “choose your own adventure” style to simulations, allowing learners to see how their choices play out.
  • Problem-solving challenges: Pose challenges that demand critical thinking and problem-solving. Encourage learners to collaborate, brainstorm, and apply their knowledge to overcome obstacles.
  • Virtual escape room: Give employees a task they may face in real life and add a ticking clock to immerse them in skill application. For example, you might give an IT team a simulation that asks them to get a server back online before an impending cyber attack.

6 tips for incorporating action effectively into training

You may be ready to give action-based learning your full support. But it can be hard to know where to start. Here are some strategies to help you create engaging online courses with action-oriented content.

1. Be clear about your goals and measure success

Every training has a purpose, and you want to make sure you’re getting a good ROI from those you implement. Start by setting goals. Then, see whether you’re meeting them by measuring related KPIs.

Say you’re rolling out leadership training to help improve employee turnover numbers. Follow up after the training to measure improvements in employee satisfaction scores and attrition rates.

2. Play games

Gamification makes learning fun and compelling. An element of competition, whether with their peers or with themselves, can inspire learners to dive deep into the content. But it can be easy to get stuck in a rut, using the same game models over and over.

Try playing different games within your design team. Get familiar with a variety of gaming formats—card games, role-plays, etc. to give yourself a broader foundation to draw from.

3. Make content meaningful and relevant

Your learners are intelligent employees with lots of real-world knowledge. Take advantage of their experience by challenging them to combine their existing knowledge with what they’re learning.

Immerse learners in scenarios they might encounter in their roles. Help them see how the content applies to them and what value they’ll get from mastering it.

4. Provide reflection opportunities

After each learning activity, create moments for reflection. Ask learners to ponder on what they’ve learned, how they can apply it, and what strategies worked best.

Generalizing the principles helps them see the value of what they’ve just learned and understand how to transfer it to real life.

5. Vary your learning resources

Combine different media such as videos, infographics, and case studies to cater to diverse learning styles. This ensures participants stay engaged and can approach the content from various angles.

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6. Get feedback for continuous improvement

Gather feedback from participants on their experience with the training. Look for places to continually refine and improve the training program.

Online learning makes it easy to make regular updates, ensuring the training remains effective and relevant over time.

Create engaging training by keeping the focus on the employee

Action-based learning helps bridge the gap between knowing and doing. It makes learning a natural part of the job, which is critical when you remember what’s at the root of your training strategy: your employees’ success.

Kapp encourages leaders to design training with a focus on the employee experience. “Remember the human elements,” he says. “When we keep the human in perspective, that allows us to create meaningful instruction for our fellow employees.”

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