For centuries, education theorists have promoted the value of hands-on learning. But how is it relevant for today’s remote workforce? Find out how you can empower your people to learn, anytime and anywhere.
In the age of information overload, hands-on or experiential learning can break through the many barriers of distraction and empower people to absorb, retain and apply knowledge more effectively. The learner plays an active role in their learning journey – they learn by doing, rather than by passively receiving information. In fact, people can remember as much as 90% of what they learn through experiential education programs, compared to only 5% for traditional learning.
The challenge today is working out how to deliver experiential learning programs effectively in a virtual environment. Given the urgent need to shift to new ways of working this year, more and more organizations are turning to technology to provide employees and customers with a platform to learn through practice, from any location.
Here, we’ll discuss the ways in which technology can enhance experiential learning, leading to better engagement, knowledge retention and performance.
Theory + Experience = Knowledge
The idea of experiential learning is not new. The term itself is several decades old, coined in the 1970s. The underlying concept, ‘learn by doing’, dates back to at least 350 BCE when Greek philosopher Aristotle said: “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”
There’s even a Chinese proverb that captures the essence of experiential learning: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”
The four stages of experiential learning
According to psychologist and educational theorist David Kolb’s experiential learning cycle, there are four stages of learning:
- Concrete experience (feeling) – Learner engages in an activity or experience
- Reflective observation (watching) – Learner reflects on the activity or experience
- Abstract conceptualization (thinking) – Learner gains knowledge or skills from the activity or experience
- Active experimentation (doing) – Learner applies new knowledge or tests new skills
If these four stages are grounded in ‘real-world’ experience, how can experiential learning be digitized and generate the same positive learning outcomes?
The answer is the powerful capabilities of technology.
For example, flight simulators have been used to train commercial pilots for decades, preparing them for a range of real-world scenarios while away from an aircraft.
Reimagining hands-on learning, from a distance
The challenges of 2020 have forced a rethinking of how experiential learning can be delivered remotely – not just to school students, but also to employees and customers.
Some organizations reimagined how they equip their staff with the knowledge and skills they need to successfully perform their roles in a digital work environment, while others focused on transforming how they help customers navigate new products and services remotely.
If impactful learning experiences require a combination of feeling, watching, thinking and doing, then experiential learning can certainly be delivered in a digital environment. The role of technology becomes increasingly clear when you look at how the four stages of experiential learning can be delivered, enhanced and accelerated by virtualization, cloud computing, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), among other trends.
Simulating the real world
Experiential learning can be facilitated by simulating relevant real-world scenarios for learners to navigate, such as with AR and VR-powered activities. Or, you can use straightforward synchronous tools, like videoconferencing, and asynchronous tools, like discussion forums for group work, e-portfolios for reporting, interactive questionnaires or games for skills testing and remote labs for experimental work.
For example, with VMware Learning Platform (VLP), you can easily spin up a virtualized learning environment – whether it’s an on-demand or live lab, an instructor-led classroom or a software or hardware demo – without the cost of managing physical infrastructure. We made VLP capable of delivering these diverse learning environments, because people learn in different ways and some subjects are better suited to instructor-led sessions than others.
The ability to receive instant, automated feedback on performance in virtual environments – for example, in cloud-based games and tests – improves learners’ awareness of their strengths and weaknesses, leading them to autonomously boost their own performance. The learner is encouraged to reflect on their performance as they engage in the activity, absorb knowledge of what works and what doesn’t, put their new skills to the test and adjust their behaviour to get better results.
As they are personally invested in the activity, the learner is forced to take responsibility for the outcomes.
Accessible learning needs to be user-friendly
Technology is great at taking people out of their real world and allowing them to participate in a visceral experience, from anywhere – whether that’s through social media, video games, on-demand TV or other types of content.
Despite the promise of accessibility, technology used for learning has not always been intuitive, flexible, and scalable. Without a seamless user experience, experiential learning activities cannot be designed or delivered effectively, especially at a time when people expect their devices and applications to work perfectly at all times.
This is why we designed the VMware Learning Platform to be so easy to use. Used internally at VMware for seven years by more than 40 teams, VLP allows you to create a virtual lab or classroom, large-scale event or forum in 12 languages, and make it accessible on demand across the globe. You can enjoy the flexibility of choosing to extend your own cloud infrastructure or use a hybrid model with VMware to host your lab environments.
Learners access feature-rich training with just an internet connection – no installers or plugins – while course managers access real-time statistics, historical data and detailed reports about learners’ progress.
As teachers, businesses, and innovators continue collaborating to incorporate the best of technology, such as VLP, into all forms of education, the future of experiential learning is looking bright.