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:
- Click here and here to read the previous posts.
- Keep reading this post for a summarised version of the previous posts and some strategies for improving motivation in e-learning.
- 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?