Do It - Digital Learning 3.0

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We’ve all been there - the typical learning experience. We sit in a room and we’re inundated with visual and audio information from the ’sage on stage’ and his or her slides and documents. If we’re lucky enough to be part of an “innovative” approach, we might be inundated virtually instead, bombarded with videos and digitised text content, discussions and quizzes.

Once we’ve sat and listened and watched we're then expected to recall and - often - to regurgitate what we’ve “learned” in order to pass an exam and to get a certificate. Once it’s all over, we’re expected somehow to translate what we’ve regurgitated into transformative new ways of thinking and behaving.

Be it online or in the classroom, in formal education or in the workplace learning and development sector, this knowledge-transfer / content-dumping approach to teaching and learning remains the dominant approach globally. But the thing is - it doesn’t work.

When we dump information on humans, we’re working against how their brains work. Cognitive Load Theory has proven again and again that the brain can only take so much at once. At the same time, Constructivist learning theorists have shown repeatedly that, unless we actively recall and do something with what we learn, we won’t retain it.

What’s the solution? For many, it's micro-learning - splitting the stuff up into smaller chunks before trying to push it into learners’ brains. This solution misses the point - it oversimplifies a more complex problem.

However much you divide information up, if all you do is see and/or hear it, you won’t remember it for much longer than a week and you certainly won’t change your behaviours as a result of it. In a micro-learning scenario, the content dump is smaller but you’re still stuck in the same old cycle of cram - exam - forget.

So what’s a better answer? A better answer is Experiential Learning, or learning by doing. Experiential Learning is basically learning by actively doing something in a context which resembles something close to life-like conditions. It’s basically what a flight simulator is to pilots; simulated environments and challenges which, through trial and error and feedback develop the knowledge and skills needed to do it for real.

two men piloting plane during daytime

In the classroom, the Experiential method of learning means replacing traditional chalk-and-talk pedagogy with inquiry, problem-based and project-based learning, transforming the sit-and-listen lecture into the have-a-go, hands-on workshop.

Outside the classroom, Experiential Learning - or Work-integrated learning (WIL) - tends to be about learning through service within one’s area of study and expertise. This might include learning about leadership and innovation through helping business to solve real-life problems or taking part in ‘leadership walks’ which require decision making and team-work.

In the coming years, the Experiential approach will, more than any other single innovation in learning design and delivery, play a disruptive part in the future of both formal education and workplace learning and development globally. Why

  1. Impact - It Works! Close-to-real-life experience + supported reflection is proven to supports learners not just to develop skills but also to understand and retain in the long term complex information.

  2. Demand - It’s Needed! Experiential Learning meets a growing demand from both the global formal education sector and the workplace L&D sector for next-generation learning experiences which support people both to learn and to apply their learning at the same time, inside and outside of the classroom.

Digital Experiential Learning, with its ability to deliver rich, site-free learning experiences at scale and on demand is a little explored but potentially doubly disruptive prospect for both formal learning and workplace training. At Proversity we’re working with key clients from the higher education and workplace L&D sectors to design and deliver pioneering, next general, “digital first” Experiential Learning experiences on the EdX platform. Here are some examples of work already underway:

  • Teach First: working with colleagues at Teach First, we’ve designed and delivered a first-of-its kind experiential approach to teacher and leadership development to enhance the reach and impact of their award-winning Leadership Development Programme.

  • Cabinet Office: working with colleagues at the Government Communications Service, we have designed and delivered a first-of-its-kind,team-based experiential approach to global campaigns and communications training to connect and upskill communications professionals globally.

  • Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU): working with professors of Solar Photovoltaics at HBKU, we have designed and will shortly deliver an Experiential Learning MOOC which supports learners both to learn and apply their learning at the same time. Using immersive video, real-life problem-based challenges, teamwork and coaching, not only hones learners’ knowledge but also develops the skills and behaviours required to apply what they learn.

  • Pearson (Fintech Navigator): in collaboration with Pearson we have designed and delivered a first-of-its-kind Experiential Fintech course which not only hones learners’ knowledge but also, through teamwork and immersive activities with ‘real life’ products (e.g. product prototypes), equips learners with the skills, behaviours and artefacts that they need to apply their learning in the real world.

We’re incredibly excited to continue to push the boundaries of digital-first experiential learning in partnership with the EdX community and with Pearson. We have a number of other projects on the horizon and a comprehensive evaluation strategy in place, so stay tuned to learn more about how this work goes and what the future holds for Proversity. You can do this by subscribing to this blog and by following Proversity on LinkedIn and Twitter.