Knowledge for the sake of knowledge is all well and good, but that is not the point of eLearning. It should result in the transference of knowledge from the course to the real world. Learners should be able to take the information gained from a course and apply it to tasks, responsibilities, problems and challenges in their day-to-day lives. After all, what good is learning something if it cannot be applied? Of course, this requires more than just the right type of content. It also requires that a learner is engaged with the experience enough to modify or change his or her knowledge structure. Otherwise, learning is not transferred.
Change Things Up
One way to keep learners engaged and provide the opportunity for learning transference to happen is to change things up from time to time within the course. Nothing but text is boring, dull, and creates a lackluster experience while increasing the chances that learners will mentally “check out.” If this happens, there is almost no chance for learning transference. Change the modalities from time to time. Mix things up. Use text-based content, but also use audio content, video content, animations, games, complex simulations that apply to real-world experiences, and more.
Combine Text with Relevant Visuals
Even if video or animation are not used, it is still important for designers to use relevant visuals to tie into the text. Explanatory pictures can provide invaluable insight and engagement, improving the chance for learning transference. Think infographics or step-by-step illustrations of a process or concept. Not only is there evidence that visuals can improve cognition and information retention, but there is evidence that including visuals in content can actually make information more easily digestible, including complex topics.
Let Them Reflect
Designers of eLearning courses should provide periods for learners to reflect and monitor their own progress in absorbing the content. This can be done in a number of different ways, including using a questionnaire, or requiring them to give reasons for specific choices, decisions, or answers within the course.
There’s a reason that random drug testing works in the workplace and the same principle can be applied to training and education. By implementing random practice sessions after completing training, learners are forced to recall information learned previously, helping to ensure better learning transference. This flies in the face of conventional practice task segmentation, but research has shown that not only is it more effective, but that learners actually retain and apply more of the information learned this way.
Integrate Social Learning Transference
Humans are social animals by nature, which makes the solo education experience something of an anomaly. Integrating social learning into an eLearning course can have dramatic repercussions not just for individuals, but for the entire group. Learners are able to share information, learn information from one another, explore new ways of applying knowledge to challenges and problems, and more. Ultimately, this actually builds a sense of community within the learning group, which fosters better performance and cohesiveness in the workplace.
When everything is said and done, measuring information retention after concluding an eLearning course through testing is not necessarily the best way to gauge the effectiveness of that course. Learning transference from course material to real-world activities and challenges is a much better metric, although it can be difficult to achieve without the use of crucial strategies. The five tips listed here should provide designers with the means to increase learning transference and ensure that learners are not simply going through the motions and retaining information learned just long enough to complete the test and finish the course material.