How To Enhance The Learner Experience
Centering on the learner’s experience is vital in designing, developing, and delivering effective learning for an organization. Many organizations make the mistake of focusing solely on the content they provide to learners, neglecting the crucial role of creating an enjoyable and practical learning experience. Today, more than ever, learner attention spans are short, and learners are bombarded with information from multiple sources, which makes it difficult to discern value-adding and credible learning sources from the mass-production, unreliable and mediocre ones. Designing and curating an engaging and personalized experience is paramount to engaging learners and achieving learning outcomes. Research conducted by Harvard Business Publishing offers key tactics to optimize the learner experience. This article centers on four tactics to ensure that learning is contextual, actionable, collaborative, and engaging in order to optimize the learner’s experience.
The 4 Key Tactics
Learning must be contextual because it allows us to understand and apply knowledge in real-world situations. When learning in a specific context, such as in a workplace or a particular discipline in it, learners are more likely to remember and use that knowledge because it is relevant and applicable to their daily lives. Contextual learning also helps learners make connections between different pieces of information and apply them in various situations. Contextual learning connects new information to prior knowledge and experiences, which can help learners better understand and remember the material. Research by Bransford et al. highlights that “contextual learning is more effective than rote learning because it helps learners to understand better and remember the material by connecting it to prior knowledge and experiences.” When learners are able to see how the information they are learning is relevant to their lives, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated to learn in the workplace.
Actionable learning is the application of knowledge and skills gained from learning to solve problems, improve performance, and achieve goals. It is a crucial component of successful learning and essential for achieving results. The importance of actionable learning lies in translating knowledge into tangible outcomes. Without action, learning remains theoretical and abstract, and its value is greatly diminished. A key benefit of actionable learning is that it promotes skill development. According to a study by Petty et al. (2016) , “Actionable learning involves the acquisition of skills and knowledge that can be applied in real-world situations.” When learners can apply what they have learned to solve problems, they are more likely to develop a deeper understanding of the subject matter and develop the skills necessary to succeed in their chosen field. Actionable learning can also help learners to become more engaged in the learning process. Furthermore, as the study by Frey and Fisher  reveals, “actionable learning helps learners to see the relevance and applicability of what they are learning, which can increase their motivation to learn.” When learners see how the information they are learning can be applied in real-world situations, they are more likely to be interested in and engaged with the material.
It’s important to create a learning environment that fosters collaboration and social interaction. Employees who feel connected to their colleagues are more engaged, productive, and less likely to leave their jobs. A key benefit of collaborative learning is that it helps to develop teamwork and communication skills. A study by Johnson, Johnson, and Smith (2014)  shows that collaborative learning can improve students’ ability to work effectively in teams and communicate with one another. These skills are valuable in the workplace, where collaboration is vital to achieving organizational goals. Collaborative learning can also help to enhance critical thinking skills. In a study by Michaelsen, Knight, and Fink , learners who engaged in collaborative learning were more likely to think critically and solve problems creatively. Collaborative learning encourages learners to explore different perspectives and ideas, which can lead to more innovative solutions. Providing opportunities for learners to collaborate, share ideas, and provide feedback can enhance their experience, improve learning outcomes, and, ultimately, business performance results.
Engaging learning is essential for learners to succeed in the workplace. Learning and Development teams have a fundamental responsibility to create an environment where learners can enjoy the process of learning, stay motivated, and retain information better. There are several strategies to make learning engaging, including gamification. By introducing game-like elements, such as badges, leaderboards, and progress bars, learners are motivated to complete activities and progress through the learning journey. This approach has been proven to increase learner engagement and retention. One of the key benefits of engaging learning is enhancing learner motivation. According to a study by Schunk and Zimmerman , “Engagement in learning activities creates a sense of competence and autonomy, which, in turn, leads to greater motivation and effort.” When learners are engaged in the learning process, they are more likely to feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in their achievements, which can motivate them to continue learning. Another benefit of engaging learning is that it can improve learners’ retention of information. A study by Hidi and Renninger  found that learners who were engaged in learning activities were more likely to remember and apply what they had learned. This is because engaging learning activities require learners to actively process and apply the information they are learning, which can enhance their long-term memory. Engaging learning can help to cultivate lifelong learning. According to Csikszentmihalyi’s seminal study on flow, “engaging learning activities can create a sense of flow, which is a state of total immersion and enjoyment in an activity.” When learners experience flow, they are more likely to develop a love of lifelong learning that can carry them through their learning journeys and professional careers.
The learner experience is a critical factor for the employee experience, which, in turn, is vital in achieving successful business performance results. By focusing on making learning contextual, actionable, collaborative, and engaging, Learning and Development leaders and their business partners can create an engaging and effective learning environment that optimizes the learning potential of their learners and maximizes the performance results of their organization.
 Petty, T., Good, A. and Putman, S.M. (2016) “Handbook of Research on Professional Development for quality teaching and learning,” Advances in Higher Education and Professional Development [Preprint]. Available at: https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-5225-0204-3.
 Fisher, D. and Frey, N. (2021) “Better Learning through structured teaching: A framework for the gradual release of responsibility.” Alexandria, Virginia USA: ASCD.
 Johnson, David & Johnson, Roger. (2015). “Cooperative Learning: Improving university instruction by basing practice on validated theory.” Journal on Excellence in College Teaching. 25. 85-118.
 Michaelsen, L.K., Knight, A.B. and Fink, L.D. (2004) “Team-Based Learning: A transformative use of small groups in college teaching.” Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub.
 Schunk, D. H., & Zimmerman, B. J. (Eds.). (2008). “Motivation and self-regulated learning: Theory, research, and applications.” Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.
 Hidi, S., & Renninger, K. A. (2006). “The Four-Phase Model of Interest Development.” Educational Psychologist, 41 (2), 111–127.