How can a learning facilitator bring both excitement and engagement into global training classes? This can be challenging when the learners are all together, let alone when they are not in the same room, yet it is essential to a productive learning environment in organizations with global employees and hybrid work models.
It is first important to understand what learner engagement is and why it is necessary to a global learning environment. As defined by HR.com, there are six types of learning engagement that facilitators must appeal to make the experience beneficial for the learner. They are as follows:
- Cognitive interest in the learning.
- Emotional feelings towards the learning.
- Social interactions throughout the learning.
- Behavioral involvement in the learning.
- Physical activity during the learning.
- Culture surrounding the learning.
This article aims to define each of these and the impact they have on learners who are dispersed on a global scale.
A facilitator must recognize the cognitive involvement their learners have with the content and delivery thereof. This is true of any facilitation; however, it is indispensable to global participants because there needs to be a clear connection with the content and the learner’s function in the organization. An example of this could be hosting a training class for an organization’s learning management system (LMS) to international participants. If the facilitator only discusses the system while failing to demonstrate the impact of the LMS on every learner’s role, the LMS could be underutilized due to the learners not seeing the benefits they would get by implementing the change. When considering a global learning environment, cognitive engagement is the foundation for successful training initiatives because it allows learners to understand the impact of the initiative in their location, not just as a general concept or practice.
This foundational understanding is supported by an excitement for learning with emotional and social engagements. It is important to note that this is not discussing the learner’s feelings towards the content; instead, the Asian Journal of Distance Learning clarifies, “the term ‘learning emotions’ refers to the feelings of the learner during the process of learning.” Imagine it is irrelevant whether or not the learner enjoys what was said by the facilitator — the question is, did they enjoy the process of learning it? Facilitators can encourage this through confidence in their delivery, relationship building with learners, and social activities such as paired or small group discussions. In doing so, they encourage social interactions during training which goes hand-in-hand with the emotional engagement found throughout the learning process.
To stop the learning engagement here would create cognitive, emotional and social fatigue for the learners, especially those who are only seeing each other on a screen. To avoid this detriment, facilitators should ensure they tap into both behavioral and physical learning engagement. Behavioral engagement is broadly defined and, according to the American Journal of Community Psychology, often includes the “attention, participation, and effort in academic activities.” For global learners, this is a critical dynamic to ensuring they can apply the content in relevant, real-world situations. By creating training scenarios for the learners, facilitators can observe the behaviors used and reinforce them so that the learner has a tangible and individualized idea of what real-world application looks like. Similarly, facilitators should encourage physical engagement through global training sessions to simulate true experiences for learners. This is arguably the hardest engagement to achieve in virtual training because it requires extensive coordination and clarity. Returning to the global LMS integration example, learners should physically demonstrate how to utilize the system rather than simply observe how it is done. This action-based learning builds kinesthetic behaviors that can be better interpreted and recalled by learners when they complete the training.
The final element of learning engagement is the culture of the learning environment. Culture is a defining characteristic of successful global trainings because there needs to be some understanding of the learning culture before learners can act on the other engagements. To ensure this happens, facilitators can set the stage early and often for a mutual respect of ideas and an open line of communication throughout the session. By doing so, they can encourage learning engagement in the other five areas as well.
The six types of learning engagement each offer an important perspective to consider when working with global learners. By having opportunities for each throughout a training program, facilitators can create both excitement and engagement into even the most geographically dispersed training cohorts.