In recent years, online learning has become a popular method of learning. In CIPD’s 2015 learning and talent development study, 74 percent of companies reported using some sort of digital learning. The advantages of e-learning are numerous, from lower costs to accessibility and flexibility. However, when it’s not delivered well, online learning can have many limitations.

The Limitations of E-Learning

There are several problems associated with e-learning. Firstly, learners can feel isolated and frustrated due to a lack of human contact. There often isn’t a place for online learners to interact with their peers or with their instructor to receive feedback, encouragement or support.

Secondly, the e-learning process is often not experiential. Learners don’t always have the opportunity to practice what they learn so they can apply it to their daily work. Most online courses ask learners to watch videos and read information but don’t prompt them to experiment with their new knowledge.

Finally, the engagement and completion rates of online courses are low, and learners often don’t accomplish their goals. For example, research on massive open online courses (MOOCs) shows that 85 to 96 percent of learners don’t finish those types of courses.

The AFT Learning Model

The AFT model was designed to solve these problems. When used correctly, it can increase engagement and completion rates and knowledge retention. The model is made up of three factors. Each is important on its own, but when combined, they create a powerful learning method.

  1. Action: Transform Lessons Into Activities. The first step of an effective learning experience is to make sure learners take action. Rather than delivering knowledge through videos or written texts, encourage learners to experiment with what they have learned. Breaking down the content into micro-actions allows learners to easily digest information and internalize the skills they acquire. Through experience-based learning, they can establish lasting behavior change and develop new habits.
  2. Feedback: Tell Learners How They Did. After a learner takes an action, it’s crucial that he or she receives feedback. When feedback is given immediately after showing proof of learning, the learner responds positively and confidently. The absence of feedback can lead to frustration, lack of engagement and depleted motivation.
  3. Trigger: Help Learners Take the Next Step. After giving your learners feedback, make sure you prompt them to take another action to keep them engaged throughout the entire learning process. Use triggers such as reminders, messages and notifications to motivate and encourage them. The more triggers you use, the more automatic the process will become, and the less dependent they will be on those triggers to move forward.

The trigger begins a new AFT cycle, and the momentum learners create as they move through each cycle propels them toward success. Organizations using the AFT model have reported completion rates five times higher and knowledge retention rates 10 times higher than in their traditional online courses. Their learners also interact with each other and with instructors 30 to 60 times throughout the course.

Here are some tips for implementing the AFT model in your e-learning programs.

Encourage Learners to Take Action.

Set up lessons as “missions,” each a bite-sized action that learners need to take in order to move on to the next step. These behaviors turn into habits when learners repeat them on a daily basis. Remind them to log in to the learning platform every day, and acknowledge that they completed their daily habits using tools such as reminders, notifications or emails.

Provide Personal Feedback.

Give personal feedback to each learner to keep them motivated, and give it as soon as possible after he or she completes an action. Form an online community where learners can ask questions, share their progress and encourage one another. Set up one community for all of the course participants, or divide the community into sub-groups, allowing each course’s participants to give honest and immediate feedback to each other.

Trigger the Next Step.

The most effective way to prompt learners to take an action is to send push notifications or messages directly to their phones. Mobile learning is also effective, as it enables learners to carry the course in their pocket. When they receive notifications, reminders and messages, it will prompt them to return to the course, so if the course is also accessible on their phones, it will make it easier for them to respond.

When applied correctly, the AFT model can be a powerful tool to deliver information online. If you’re looking to increase engagement and completion rates, and grow your business, give the AFT learning model a try.

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