Enhancing Learning Experiences

13 Mar

At a recent L&D Meetup, we were talking to each other about what we’d been working on since we last caught up. A couple of friends were discussing changes to the Privacy Act and the e-learning courses that have been developed to communicate these changes to the employees in their respective workforces.

The industries I’m talking about here are finance and insurance so I’ve no doubt each of the Legal Departments have been frantically enforcing the necessary amendments to the systems/policies/procedures across each organisation. It also sounded like the e-learning modules contain everything there is to know about the privacy legislation! They were saying that there hadn’t been too much direct focus on privacy for a while but these changes had breathed some life back into the area and now it was more urgent to make people ‘aware’.

I was reflecting on this on the weekend (actually, I was vacuuming my place at the time and I was thinking about the night before) and I know these legislative/compliance type topics are generally quite dry – although it’s no excuse to blame your content  – and normally compliance means that employees will be ‘forced’ to complete the learning. So, we’re already on the back-foot because most employees won’t really want to do it to begin with. This highlighted to me two important and often neglected areas of learning design – motivating people and sustaining the learning afterwards.



I’ve written a couple of posts about motivation and Ryan and Dec’s self-determination theory (SDT) of motivation before. At this point feel free to do one or more of the following:

  1. Click here and here to read the previous posts.
  2. Keep reading this post for a summarised version of the previous posts and some strategies for improving motivation in e-learning.
  3. Scroll down to the Sustaining the Learning section.

Essentially, the SDT focuses on the degree in which behaviour is self-motivated and self-determined. We all have three basic psychological needs:

  • Autonomy (a sense of being in control and having freedom)
  • Competence (a sense of being able to do something), and
  • Relatedness (a desire to be associated or connected to others).

Contexts that satisfy these needs will result in more sustained motivation over time. If we apply this theory to e-learning and we use strategies to support these needs in the design of the course, we can improve learner motivation even if they are required to complete a course by their organisation.

How can this be achieved in practice?

Here are five examples, with some practical applications that I came up with:

1. Give people some control as they work through the module or course.

  • Let them choose how they navigate through the course
  • Give the option to skip parts that they already know
  • Provide opportunities to explore different parts of the course.

2. Allow people to make meaningful choices and pursue challenging goals

  • Use branching scenarios that have consequences for decisions made
  • Increase the difficulty of challenges as the person works through a topic
  • Offer rewards based on challenges completed rather than screens visited.

3. Provide opportunities for collaboration between learners

  • Get people working together on tasks/activities that help develop competence
  • Provide topic discussion areas and space to share resources or to ask questions.

4. Keep the stakes low and allow practice

  • Provide multiple opportunities to apply the material they are learning to context specific situations
  • Give them time to repeat practice activities until they succeed
  • Provide tools and aids that can be used during the course and then back on the job.

5. Provide regular, meaningful feedback throughout the learning experience

  • Let people know how they are going and where they are up to

Motivation is important in any learning experience. If we can help satisfy the psychological needs of our people, we can improve their motivation towards the course they are completing even if they have to complete it.


Sustaining the Learning

Often when we complete an e-learning course (or classroom course, for that matter) it’s confined to a defined period of time. There may be a build up to the course but then once learners complete it, and are deemed ‘competent’ it’s back to work. Move on. They’ve been trained. The box has been ticked.

Sustaining the learning after an event, be it online or classroom, presents a real opportunity for us in L&D. All too often, in my experience, after people complete a learning event they go back to work and it’s business as usual. Surely we can do more to sustain what has been delivered and bring about some meaningful change? If we just do things once in a course, it will be forgotten if the information is not reinforced.

Last year, I read some interesting blog posts by Craig Taylor who implemented a campaign approach to compliance training in an organisation he worked for. I thought this was a wonderful idea so I floated doing something similar with our compliance program to our risk and compliance officer. It hasn’t been done before in my organisation and the good news is that I’m getting support from others and things are building (I’ll write a dedicated post about it in the next month or so).

Using social tools and creating opportunities for networking and sharing knowledge are other powerful ways that can sustain learning over the longer term. Maybe if we did this, we wouldn’t need so many courses?

How do you motivate your people towards learning and sustain it afterwards in your organisation?


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6 responses to “Enhancing Learning Experiences

  1. Ryan Tracey

    March 13, 2014 at 11:17 pm

    Motivation is so important in workplace education, even – as you say – for mandatory training. SDT looks like a useful framework to apply, so thanks for sharing that Matt.

    I also agree with Craig’s idea of a campaign for compliance training. The “learning” doesn’t begin and end with the online module, assuming anyone takes notice of the content anyway! Compliance is culture, not a training event, so much more needs to be done to cultivate the right behaviours.

    • learningsnippets

      March 14, 2014 at 8:42 am

      Cheers for the comments Ryan.

      I had my annual flu shot today, and in many places that’s what compliance training is like too – an annual dose of info that you only think about when it’s happening and then it’s forgotten.

      You’re spot on in that compliance should be the culture and there’s so much more that can be done to make it part of everyday activities.

  2. bnteglinton

    March 14, 2014 at 4:48 am

    Thanks for sharing, Matt!
    I enjoyed our discussion that night – I wish we had more time to chat…
    In our industry, compliance is so heavily driven that staff are constantly ‘bombarded’ with refreshers throughout the year about dry & boring topics that seem to intrude on their daily work. I can see why they’re so excited to do it all again the next year – NOT!
    We’re all way overdue to change how our learners experience this. Wouldn’t it be great if learners actually wanted to learn, practise, refresh (& repeat!) compliance, and see/embrace it as part of “what they do”…
    I was particularly interested in what you were planning with your Compliance Campaign – looking forward to seeing how you go with that.
    I might also explore a way to combine some of these topics – that way, if they’re doing something that’s (hopefully) interesting they can also kill 2 birds (so to speak).
    I’ll work on that & keep you posted.
    Oh & thanks for Craig’s post too – this’ll help!

    • learningsnippets

      March 14, 2014 at 9:00 am

      Thanks for your comments Brendon!

      Having come from finance myself I can relate to the topic areas and I reckon this is where a campaign approach will help to spread the messages out over a period of time. Then maybe we could have assessment only modules which will keep the box tickers happy?

      I really like your idea of combining topics because in reality situations that staff might face are often a combination of ‘compliance’ areas. I’d be interested to see how that goes. I’ll keep you posted about the campaign.

  3. Kristy-Jai Chantrey

    March 14, 2014 at 6:51 am

    What a thought provoking article Matt – thanks for posting.

    Agree that the training session itself can not be stand alone. I am often asked why i have worked on so many compliance projects over the years and i always reply that you need to think beyond the content of what is being devliered and to the people who are going to receive it.

    In my experience, I have found sustainability comes down to a number of things but a big one for me is involvement – and i mean early involvement. This is more than people turning up for training, sitting through the course, completing their assessment then popping back to their desks.

    Get them involved and get them involved earlier…. when people are apart of creating their future, they are connected, engaged and take ownership of what it is they are creating long after the final assessment. This energy & modivation is infectious, so identifying those early adopters and getting them onboard to champion your cause is vital and a step on the way to success.

    Ensuring you have monitoring and controls in place also plays it’s part, as does leadership alignment, but getting people apart of the conceptual stage, design, testing and rollout they are more likely to champion something they are connected to. This is when it switches from being a tick box exercise to something more meaningful.

    I agree with Ryan, compliance must become apart of the culture. Behavioural change is a seperate issue altogether but it must start with Leaders demonstrating the values/behaviours you wish to have amongst your staff..(and genuinely!).

    …Looking forward to our next meet up & your next post. KJ

    • learningsnippets

      March 14, 2014 at 8:50 am

      Thanks for reading and commenting KJ!

      Thinking beyond the content of what is being delivered and to the people who are going to receive it – if more people in L&D/OD thought like this compliance probably wouldn’t have reputation is has now!

      I really like the idea of getting people involved as it’s a great way to get buy-in. It’s also something that we need to do (and will be doing!) as part of our campaign project.
      Thanks again 🙂


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