The Case for Technology-Mediated Immersive Learning Programs

Learning and development is too often a discipline relegated to the back burner of organizational priorities.

As a result, many organizations still rely on an outdated programming model: one-off sessions that are face-to-face, instructor-led, content-heavy and low technology.

There are several issues with the ‘traditional’ model of learning delivery.

Firstly, a one-time session rarely is able to solve what are often complex learning needs. Secondly, one-off sessions are often targeted only to a specific skill and are not integrated into the larger workflow of the target audience.

Thirdly, the instructor-led modality is necessary in some instances, but is rarely a model for engaging learners, building on prior knowledge, and creating relevancy to work.

Finally, organizational resource constraints, workloads, and work schedules make it difficult to schedule learners face-to-face on a regular basis in many contemporary workplaces.

So, what is the difference between the all too often utilized outdated model and a technology-mediated immersive learning program?

Let’s look at an example to model the difference. Khalil, Jamison, and Hamad are a new Project Management team for an organization. As part of their duties, the Project Managers (PMs) are required to utilize Microsoft Visio.

The PMs have a diverse range of experiences with project management tools and are also learning their new roles at the same time.

The all too often utilized outdated model would likely be structured in the following way:

The learning need would be identified as simply Microsoft Visio skills. The Visio skills would be chunked into skill levels.

A one-on-one or small group session would be offered for each level of Visio skills, primarily led by the facilitator.

The sessions may integrate some return demonstrations to show whether or not the learners gained the skills in Visio.

Once the sessions for each level were complete and proficiency was demonstrated, the learning program would end.

A technology-mediated immersive learning program could be structured in the following way:

An analysis of learning needs identifies Microsoft Visio.

However, the analysis also recognizes understanding how Visio and other role relevant technology tools integrate with the day-to-day business processes of the PM role are vital to learner growth and development.

When considering technology skills, business process analysis is done to see which business processes utilize Visio and other relevant tools, and learning content is based on the business process rather than a software solution(s).

Instead of one-off sessions on Visio and other tools, a long-term development program is created.

Learners attend a series of short, face-to-face modules that discuss key business processes and relevant technology skills to the business process covered in the session.

Participants work through provided business process cases during the session and discussions are held to address any issues or concerns.

After each module, learners are provided with additional e-learning resources related to the skills covered in the session.

Learners also are given scenario-based assignments to work through utilizing the skills covered in the sessions. Discussion forums offer an opportunity to ask and receive answers to questions.

After the last content module, the learners are put in a team and are assigned a project in the workplace that will encompass using all of the skills learned in the program. The learners present the final project as a comprehensive summative assessment.

Technology-mediated immersive learning programs offer a number of advantages in the support of workplace learning and development.

Learning needs are often complex and require ongoing support and development for successful growth. Immersive programs integrate technology with varied learning modalities that are more efficient and effective uses of resources than traditional face-to-face sessions alone.

Adult learners need to know why what is offered is important, how it relates to their work, and how it builds off of their prior knowledge.

Programs that integrate workflows and are case, scenario, and/or project based engage learners and provide meaning and context to their learning.

Benjamin Franklin said “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

As you consider how to best address the learning needs at your organization, reflect on whether a technology-mediated immersive learning program that is workflow based could offer a way to truly engage your learners in their work and generate the desired learning outcomes.

Joshua Mathews Ailsworth currently serves as Informatics Educator Lead at Sidra Medical & Research Center in Doha, Qatar. Joshua is an experienced learning and development professional with a background in higher education, long-term care, and medical centers. Joshua is passionate about the philosophy and psychology of learning, learner engagement, and the role of technology in enhancing the learning experience.

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