Spaced Learning, to be effective, needs to have a planned rollout, where the initial concepts are reinforced and expanded upon. It needs a good grip on a sustained campaign, as our brains can only learn a little bit in each instance. Thus, it’s not a matter of just breaking content up into chunks, but evaluating how to build upon a foundation and when to reactivate.
In this case study, a major airline wanted to initiate a new focus on safety. The goal was to create a culture of safety and security, where each individual took responsibility for their practices separately and together.
Learning needs to have an initial emotional hook, followed up by some clear concepts, examples, and then sufficient practice. Spaced learning needs these as well. While spacing out learning is actually better aligned with how human brains learn, there are nuances that matter.
The right development of awareness is critical, as is the appropriate spacing and sufficient quantity. All learning initiatives are changes, and so people need to initially buy into the change, and then be supported through it. Subsequent information gives details, and then the opportunity to practice. The ideas need to be reactivated regularly, and strengthened, to create persistent change.
The business need
In this case, a culture change is a big initiative, and so an initial emphasis on awareness and buy-in was needed. Thus, a five-step program was developed:
- Awareness of the initiative
- Motivation for the initiative
- Preparation for action
- Demonstration of the change
- Commitment to ongoing participation
Each of these elements was addressed in multiple ways over time. The awareness was triggered by curiosity over the outcomes of some emotional situations, and direct information presentation. This was followed by information on the outcomes of an action and steps an individual could take. Learners then were asked to make choices and experience the consequences. Subsequently, they were asked to take action, before being asked to commit on an ongoing basis.
The timing was developed to hit several times each week. Each stage occupied several weeks, so a variety of materials were developed, addressing the requisite elements of each stage.
The media were mixed up, as well. Posters with QR codes triggered initial awareness, along with animated videos. Interactives helped generate awareness and developed learner abilities. Traditional eLearning nuggets also played a role, as did actual contextual activities.
The mixed mode and continued presentation and development are hallmarks of a successful spaced microlearning campaign. The development of awareness, ability, and ongoing continuation are ways to sustain new abilities and commitment.
Developing programs that are designed to actually achieve outcomes is a desirable direction for learning. Too often, there appears to be a belief that information will achieve new behaviors, but the evidence is to the contrary. Instead, we need to gradually build up abilities over time, with an initial launch and then ongoing reactivation and broadening capability.
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