Avoid Passive Learning Moments with Friction


Interrupt the "flow" to help learners retain for the long-term.

Changing behavior is ‘messy’ but resolving that messiness can help learners retain information in their long term memory. When we create a reinforcement course we want learners to engage with the material. The Reinforcement Specialists at Mindmarker are avoiding reactions like a head-nodding, eye-glazing “yeah, uh huh” from learners.

Passive learning experiences -- for example a "page-turner" elearning course, where the information is just being channeled to the learner -- can also flow smoothly right by the learner. If the learner is actively engaging with or interested in the material, then a passive information delivery system can still be an effective tool.

Knowing that not every learner will be actively engaged or highly interested, the development of every reinforcement course should create opportunities for interaction with the material to make a lesson even more engaging and motivating for learners.

To avoid that "smooth flow" past or around learners, consider creating a little friction, something that requires learners to chew on the material. The most effective reinforcement courses feature a balance between a channeled "flow" program and " friction" to make it interesting.

In previous articles I mentioned ways to make your training stick or how to use the perfect flow.

Now, here are some ideas for ways to create some helpful "friction" in your reinforcement course:

  1. Don’t tell, show!  The difference is that in telling there’s absolutely no role for the learner to put anything together. In showing (or inspiring) the learner has a chance to put stuff together himself and to be active during the learning journey.
  2. Writing scenarios - Let the learner make connections himself (less is more). It’s likely they’ll remember more later. Don’t try to write a film script.
  3. Encourage social friction - Another way to add some friction to the learning is to use personal interaction. Each learner is going to bring his own perspectives and experience to a discussion. Reinforcement is also to ‘force’ the learner to have social friction.

I always ask my Reinforcement Specialists: “How much guidance?” A junior Reinforcement Specialist who is building a course is always anxious when giving people directions. He will worry that he isn’t clear enough, and the learners will wind up hopelessly lost, wandering in circles and cursing his very bad-directions-giving existence.

Sure, giving directions is an important part of a reinforcement course, but don’t spell out exactly all the details, leave some friction!

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