When thinking of learning systems, you probably think of the traditional method where you sat in front of a teacher or professor and listened as you took notes. We have all had similar experiences at some point during our time in the education system.
Those styles of learning often translated into the learning systems of organizations as well. But as new generations are entering the workforce and as technology changes systems in organizations, the old way is not seen as the best way anymore.
Many companies are now turning to active learning.
Also read: How to Build an Active Learning Culture
What is Active Learning?
Active learning is a learning process that sits in contrast with passive learning. The process of passive learning is one in which the learner listens to information and is supposed to passively absorb it.
Active learning, on the other hand, as the name implies, is more active. Learners read, analyze, discuss, and evaluate information. They absorb knowledge through action and reflection.
Active Learning Principles
Leaders need to present information that is relevant to the learner; it has to have some purpose. Most often, learners will discover the purpose by learning through doing and relating the information to their daily tasks.
In order to absorb the information, learners need to have time to reflect on what they have learned. By thinking about or discussing the importance and relevance of the material, they will learn information more deeply and be better able to move through the training program successfully. They will also be able to apply the information to their jobs to a greater degree.
For learners to be active in the process, they need to have some control of what they are learning and when they learn it. While absolute freedom is sometimes not possible, leaders and managers can work with employees to help them create goals for their learning.
Learning programs that are too simple are usually not as helpful as they do not inspire active learning. Information needs to have the same complexity as the real world and the delivery of material has to have some complexity to relate to real world situations. The real world is rarely simple, the type of information should reflect the real tasks of an employee’s job.
Learning and training are more active when they relate directly to an employee’s job. When creating learning programs, managers should assess what needs to be learned and by whom. That way they can match employees with the type of learning they need most.
The most effective learning requires engagement. Learning activities that accompany the information must be engaging or employees will become bored and learn less.
To make learning more active, companies can form small working groups to allow employees to communicate, solve problems, and learn from the experience of others.
Enacting Active Learning Principles
When putting the principles into action, leaders can focus on several elements of active learning to create a learning system based around engaged and active participation.
Goals - When creating a system of active learning for employees, leaders also have to be in the same process. They need to be looking at business goals to see how they align with the active learning culture they wish to create.
Science - There has been a lot of research into how people learn. Leaders should use that knowledge to help guide them in the creation of the program.
Opportunity - During the learning process or soon after, employees need to have opportunities to use the information they learned. They will better absorb it and use it when they are able to practice it.
Simplicity - When presenting information, especially complex topics, simplicity is key. It may seem like lots of colors, fonts, or attention grabbing materials will keep people focused, but it can actually backfire. There can be too much of good thing. Keeping things simple can help people focus better than too many design elements.
Technology - Technology can be a powerful tool in creating opportunities for active learning. Learning management systems, social networks, videos, and collaboration tools can all help employees interact and reflect on the information.
Emotions -When learners are emotionally attached to the information they are learning they will be more likely to learn it and absorb it.
Moments - Employees need to have time to participate in learning without having to worry about other aspects of their work. This in-the-moment attention helps them focus on learning.
Continuous - To make learning active, it should never stop. Leaders need to create an atmosphere where learning can take place anywhere, at any time.
Personal - Managers and leaders need to make sure that every learning moment is relevant to every learner in some way.
Engagement - As stated above, engagement is a crucial aspect, not only for employee learning, but also for leader involvement and commitment in creating active learning.
Variety - In order to keep interest in learning at a high level, leaders and managers need to have a system in place that varies the way learning is delivered. Combining audiovisual materials, hands-on activities, online platforms, and more traditional learning environments can add variety to learning systems.
Measure - For learning to take place across a long term period, employees need to take assessments to help them know what they have learned and what they still have to learn. This helps them stay active in the learning process by reminding them of how far they have come related to goals they have.
Peer learning - A way to keep learning active is to have employees teach their peers about certain topics.
Active learning is the style many companies are going to when creating online training platforms or in-person training sessions.
While the list of principles may seem long, starting small is a great way to incorporate active learning into your existing structure. Your employees and your profits will thank you for it.