Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Inspiring the Passion to Learn

By Donna Bryant

Whether you’re in school or a professional on the job, learning something new can be challenging. Instinctively, we tend to want to stick to what we know rather than making the stretch to do something new. At any age, learning stretches the brain just as much as exercising stretches the muscles. This stretch is sometimes painful, but we all know it’s worthwhile.

Motivation to learn

When you set out to learn something new, what motivates you to even try? Why expend the effort, energy, and time? Often, learners have the same motivation to learn that designers have to design — it’s our job that we have to do. This attitude can sap the passion out of learning. How can we get that passion back?

One major motivator to learn is by gaining confidence as you gain new knowledge. Gagne’s sixth event (of his Nine Events of Instruction) is eliciting performance/practice. You can elicit performance through imaginative, guided play/practice. When learners can play with new knowledge using guided practice within a lesson, they can safely confirm that they’ve “got it.” Learners tend to have more passion and interest in tasks they do well. Successful practice builds confidence and enthusiasm for new knowledge. Also, learners are more likely to remember what they learned because they have actually done it.

How can you build imaginative practice into your eLearning lessons?

Realistic scenarios that relate to your lesson’s subject are a good method, as are realistic games that support your learning objectives. Guided practice using online support information (such as a robust help lookup tool) can also help to provide enhanced practice time for learners. Why is play/practice time so important? Consider that learners:
  • Need a safe place to try out new knowledge and gain confidence using it.
  • Need a place where it’s ok not to have the right answers and they can safely learn to find those right answers.
  • Need an opportunity to develop strategy and ideas for handling situations with a new tool or process.

Motivation to grow

How can learners continue growing in their overall knowledge and confidence as they transition to using new knowledge in the “real” world? Gagne’s event nine, enhance retention and transfer, encourages providing ongoing support for learners as they transition to using their new knowledge in real situations. A few ideas to enhance retention and transfer include:
  • Offer follow-up support via an online Q&A or “community.” Most company intranets have a way this type of site could be set up. Check with your company to see what is possible. You could start the site by posting stimulating, mind-stretching questions related directly to the new knowledge.
  • Set up an expert panel about a month after the transition and arrange for them to be available for a mini webinar or Q&A session. Allow learners to call in with their questions or participate in the webinar.
  • Provide a play “sandbox” where transitioning learners can practice new skills as they have time to practice.

You might have other ideas as to how to encourage learning growth and continued confidence. And if you do, please share them in the comments!

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