Likely, we’ve all had to learn something by rote memorization, by having information repeated for us over and over by a teacher. That’s no surprise, really, as much of the education that occurs in our school systems is Direct Instruction. Direct instruction is a teacher-centric method for imparting information or teaching a specific skill. Using this method, the learner is sometimes considered to play a more passive role. Think of it as learning by being told something.
It is equally as likely that we have all learned something because we’ve had to dive right into the task with little or no instruction. Consequently, we have learned either by succeeding right away (rarely) or by failing and learning from that failure (most often). This is called Experiential Learning, where the learner takes on a much more active role. Think of it as learning by doing something.
In the e-learning industry, we are beginning to see a shift in emphasis from showing to doing, from direct instruction to experiential, simulative learning. As a result, direct instruction is becoming increasingly facilitative in nature. This does not mark the end of direct instruction, nor does each method need to exist in a vacuum. Thinking in blended terms can yield a hybridized approach to knowledge transfer, which is the act of passing skills or information on to someone else. When executed correctly this is highly productive, leading to significant increases in certain types of learning transfer, which translates to how well those learners demonstrate proficiency in real-world applications.
Productive failure is a conceptualization of researcher and academic Manu Kapur. He is a passionate advocate for finding and illustrating the value of failure in learning. He examines the learning benefits of trying to solve a problem using only the knowledge and skills you have at that moment. He believes that when problem-solving is followed by instruction, retention and proficiency skyrocket. One study he cites uses mathematics instruction as its core. When students were compared in areas of conceptual understanding where students have both understanding and the ability to transfer that knowledge to new situations – the study indicated that the productive failure model proved nearly twice as effective.
Consider a flight or space simulator that teaches pilots and astronauts complex routines and systems. Safe failure is the learning delivery mechanism in that teaching. Now what was only available to large corporations or government agencies is becoming more commonplace for all other players. Learning by doing in a safe space is the core of simulation, and more companies are taking advantage of this methodology and the principle of productive failure as a highly valued approach.
One such approach to experiential learning utilizes Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality technologies. Without judgement on the virtues on one technology over the other, it is without question that both play – and will continue to play – a part in a simulation-based learning experience. Virtual Reality allows for learning and instruction to occur in a completely simulated version of a real-life experience. Augmented Reality has the ability to lay digital constructs over an existing reality, enhancing learning in the real world. In either case, it is apparent that the technologies will be useful for creating environments that replicate the real world in a safe space. We believe that, moving forward, these technologies will be key tools in experiential learning and productive failure models. For a glimpse of VR and AR applications in education, check out this eLearning industry article.
It is important to remember that while we are moving quickly to adopt experiential learning models, it will be critical for direct instruction to be married to experiential learning so that true knowledge and learning transfer occur. Direct instruction will be necessary to continue its function as an organizer and facilitator of learning; best practices must continue to be applied and developed for its use and future growth. In a highly experiential learning environment, the instructor will be present to help make sense of the failure that is so crucial to the experience. They will be the conduit by which knowledge and experience flow and inform together. Organizations that flex their learning cultures to adopt this hybrid approach and engage technology for that purpose will be poised to be on the cutting edge of professional development and training practices.
In each issue of our newsletter, we’ll spotlight one of our team members. Next up is Mike Knorr, who serves as Neunoia’s Creative Director.
From time to time, Neunoia hears from our customers about how our e-learning tools have provided a solution to meet their needs. Recently, Neunoia worked alongside PGA of America to develop an e-learning platform that helps to train volunteers in advance of the large-scale events that the organization hosts.
“I was amazed by how simple and quick it was to develop our volunteer e-learning solution. Throughout my years of training volunteers, I had always used a PowerPoint presentation. I quite literally handed over that PowerPoint presentation to the team at Neunoia and they were able to create an engaging and dynamic e-learning module to train our volunteers. It was that easy.”