While reading, lectures and slide decks have long been a part of the typical learning experience, new training methods are quickly gaining traction and providing innovative ways to engage learners. As video and other communication technology capabilities become commonplace and interactive technology gains ground, the industry is taking a fresh look at how to integrate a variety of training methods to provide people with more interactive and impactful learning experiences. Increasingly, this fresh look involves pursuing blended learning experiences that meet learners where they are, motivate them in new ways and offer unique approaches that improve learning retention.

Meeting Learners Where They Are

Everyone prefers to learn differently, and the most effective training programs address these differences by providing a mix of methods. Some people prefer to learn by digging into a text document, others like to have conversations and discussions, and yet others learn best by “getting their hands dirty.” So, how can we accommodate all of these preferences in a training setting?

Businesses need to provide a variety of mediums within their training courses to meet the diverse needs of their learners. By casting a wider net, companies also experience better training outcomes, because they are meeting the learning needs of a broader audience. For example, if a course has historically relied on 20 pages of background reading and a lecture, perhaps the background reading could become an interactive e-book with live links to short videos and quick quizzes that check learners’ knowledge as they progress through the reading.

With technology capabilities expanding training options, the possibilities are endless. Consider these examples of dynamic solutions that are taking hold in the industry and improving learning outcomes.

Gamification for Motivation

Motivation is key in ensuring that learners complete and understand training. For many, gamification can create a powerful motivator. Consider how many people play games on their phones, computers and mobile devices — and the possibilities for turning those games into learning opportunities.

Gamification-style leaderboards and the integration of mobile games into the learning experience can turn training into a friendly competition and improve motivation, knowledge absorption and retention. In fact, some learners can become so engrossed in a game that they forget they are completing required training.

Technology for Hands-on Experience

Technology creates opportunities for hands-on virtual experiences, which has become especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, when most training has happened remotely. This type of experience enables learning by doing, seeing and hearing. 3D training environments can simulate real-life experiences that bridge the gap between reading or lecture-style lessons and real-world application.

From simple to sophisticated, these tactical experiences allow for interaction that extends beyond the page. Instead of showing learners a picture of an object, they are able to interact with it and think through the steps of action that they would take to use it on the job. This type of learning is especially important in applied industries, such as cable telecommunications, where the training teaches technicians how they will need to complete tasks in the field.

Content for Short Attention Spans

With learners’ short attention spans and the reality of being pulled in many directions, organizations are using new training methods to provide content in short, digestible formats. Meant to supplement more in-depth courses, microlearning can provide a brief refresher on a topic or information on specific topics that do not require a full training course.

Microlearning lessons are typically short videos lasting 10 minutes or less. When employed effectively, they provide access to easily digestible content for learners when they are unable to commit to longer sessions or when they need to reinforce what they learned in previous training.

Improving Training Outcomes

Ultimately, the goal of diversifying learning experiences boils down to improving training outcomes. By creating content that meets a litany of learners’ preferences, companies can ensure that their training investments are resulting in enhanced knowledge and providing value to the company. In a small initial study of 300 learners, we found that if they engaged in a gamified experience or a 3D learning environment more than twice, their average score was 3% higher than other learners’ average score.

As technology continues to create new opportunities for content diversity and sophistication, training programs must continue to adapt and evolve to provide content that engages the modern learner.