Reinforcement as Part of a Holistic Instructional Design Strategy: Part 1

This is the first post in a three-part series on Holistic Instructional Design Strategy written by Lois Goldsworthy. Lois is an Instructional Designer at Axonify with over fifteen years of experience in the fields of Learning and Instructional Design.

holistic instructional designIn June, I had the opportunity to attend the mLearnCon 2013 in San Jose, and while the main topic of conversation centered on mLearning and best practices in leveraging mobile devices for teaching and learning, the experience was a bit eye-opening for me in terms of addressing the entire learning ecosystem. One of the concepts that really spoke to me as an Instructional Designer was the idea of a holistic learning continuum, one that encompassed formal learning, knowledge retention and performance support.

As Instructional Designers, our goal is to apply learning theory while creating instruction and activities that are targeted to our audience and satisfy defined learning outcomes. But no matter which learning theory you subscribe to, experience shows (and research supports) that most people retain as little as 10% of the knowledge gained from a training event and very quickly revert to their existing on-the-job behaviors – the very behaviors that it’s our goal to change. This “forgetting” happens even when we do a great job with Instructional Design and our learners are motivated, engaged and can demonstrate proficiency with the material immediately following the classroom session, eLearning or mLearning module.

To make learning design even more complex, I think most learning professionals will agree that not all technologies or strategies suit every learning situation, and it’s the job of the Instructional Designer to distill these available methods down to those that best facilitate the learning of any given topic area. In other words, there’s a time and place for all strategies and when used as part of an overall learning design, the whole can be greater than the individual parts – something that can be said for utilizing all parts of the learning continuum as well.

As Instructional Designers, creating formal learning is what we do – we know it well and how it works. And Performance Support provides learners with the information they need, when and where they need it. So, how to deal with the reality that your learners are going to forget?

For me, the missing piece is the ability to reinforce knowledge, helping our learners to retain and apply their training on-the-job. More on how knowledge retention fits as an essential part of the learning continuum next time.

why do employees forget

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