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Learning engagement: What is it and how to improve it?

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Executive Summary: Learning engagement can be translated into on-demand learning experiences responsive to the needs of rapidly evolving workforces. It requires companies to reimagine learning by creating courses and content that employees can actually use. Learning engagement is proven to increase organizational performance and productivity, while reducing attrition. However, this is only possible if learning supports the immediate application of new skills. In this blog, we focus on explaining what learning engagement is and how it can help turn employees into learners. We will also share strategies to apply learning engagement to create demonstrable business impact.

Learning engagement is influencing motivation and behavior to engage in an effective learning process. It is a critical aspect of corporate learning that can have a wide scale impact. We cover the subject in more detail later in the blog. However, a more pressing issue in this context is the lack of learning engagement and its impact. Let’s analyze the following stats: 

  • According to Harvard Business Review, organizations spend more than $350 billion globally on training, which is ineffective for the most part.
  • A Gartner survey reports 70% of employees felt they lack the mastery of skills needed to do their jobs well.
  • Only 25% of respondents to a McKinsey survey believed that training has measurably improved their performance.

The takeaway from these findings can be boiled down to: 

Learners might feel the information being taught is irrelevant to their lives and jobs, leading to reduced engagement.

Another learning is that the current landscape of corporate learning is more ‘expectation’ than ‘engagement’. This thought leads us to the next important question.

Why is learning engagement missing?

Learning engagement may be missing from corporate learning due to various reasons. Some of these include: 

  • Outdated or ineffective training methods
  • Lack of personalization in learning
  • Low relevance of content to employees’ needs 
  • Lack of feedback or support 
  • Insufficient incentives or rewards for learning
  • Prioritization of other business goals over employee development 

 

The most crucial element could be underestimating the value of engaged and motivated learners. However, let’s take a closer look at the other reasons for dwindling learner engagement. 

It is essential for learners to find relevance and simplicity in the learning content to grasp and retain concepts. Traditional learning methods may not be able to fill this gap in the 21st century, which is why there is an increase in ‘smart’ LMSs in the market. However, what the LMSs cannot offer currently is personalization, active feedback and incentive for learning. Innovation in learning delivery emerges as the need of the hour through these observations.

📣 Message for the reader

People forget nearly 90% of what they have learnt within just 7 days, unless the concepts are reinforced. That’s why employees swamped with documents, presentations, and classroom sessions are not likely to learn much.

However, time constraints make it difficult to reinforce vast concepts.

What can you do instead? Arm your employees with one concept at a time. Studies show the human attention span is only 8.25 seconds, so keep your training concise.

RapL is your software for that.

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Innovative learning delivery to drive engagement

Technology can help drive learning engagement. Technological innovations in the learning delivery space are on a rise to help companies improve learning engagement. These technological enhancements use tools and methods to improve how learners engage in learning and how frequently they revisit the content. One such method is gamification, which involves using game-like elements in a non-game context. This approach can be used to make learning more engaging and entertaining. Another innovative approach is personalization, which involves tailoring the educational experience to the needs and interests of individual employees. This can help ensure employees feel connected to the material and are more motivated to engage with it. In short, the possibilities of improving learning delivery are endless. However, to select the perfect learning delivery, one must understand the nuances of learning engagement.

What is learning engagement?

In the efforts to increase the time learners spend going through learning material, the essence of learning engagement is lost. Usually, course designers would add colors and images to boring, non-contextual information in efforts to make it interesting. However, this is not how learning material is made more engaging. The secret lies in understanding how learning engagement is defined.

According to The Glossary of Education Reform, learning engagement is “the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that learners show when they are learning or being taught.” 

At RapL, we simplify this even more for our customers:

Learning engagement is the ability to motivate and stimulate learners enough to make learning stick. 

Defining the concept in simple terms has helped us gather the attention of leaders in various industries. Read more about them here. However, explaining a concept isn’t enough. We had to compile extensive research on learning engagement to explain the magnanimity of the issue to our clients. The key words here are ‘motivation’ and ‘simulation’. In the next section, we look at the research on how learning engagement facilitates both

Learning engagement research

Learning engagement is a multilayered process that occurs on a cognitive, behavioral, emotional, and social level. Research on the topic can be correlated with papers as old as Alexander Astin’s 1999 paper on the theory of involvement. It states that “for maximum growth and learning to occur, the student must actively engage on their campus. The quality and quantity of a student’s involvement on campus directly impacts the amount of learning and personal development that the student experiences.”

However, this doesn’t establish a direct scientific link between pedagogy and corporate learning. It is essential to mention the landmark Fredricks, Blumenfeld, and Paris’s 2004 paper. The paper focuses on the conceptualization of the three dimensions of engagement, which include behavior, emotion, cognition. 

This research opened avenues for these concepts to be applied to corporate learning. It has also supported gamification to improve learning engagement. Case in question would be a latest paper that states:

The influence of games on the cognitive, emotional and social domains of players increases motivation and engagement of learners.

Levels of learning engagement

There are various models and frameworks that describe levels of learning engagement. For the scope of this article, we have condensed them to the main pillars of learning engagement. 

  • Cognitive level

    1. This refers to the level of intellectual involvement in learning. It includes a degree of critical thinking, analysis, and reflection that learners employ. 
    2. Cognitive engagement requires learners to feel good about their work and their ability to master new knowledge. Engaging learners on a cognitive level can be achieved through robust course design and consistent training content.

 

  • Emotional level 

    1. This refers to learners’ affective responses to learning, such as their interest, enthusiasm, and motivation for the subject matter.
    2. Learners who know why their training is important are more emotionally engaged with the content. It also helps them connect better with other employees. 

  • Behavioral level

    1. This refers to learners’ active participation in learning activities. These activities would include going through content, completing tasks and participating in discussions.
    2. Behavioral engagement can be superficial. Learners might complete a whole course without improving their skills and knowledge.
Image showcases the different levels of learning engagement. These include: cognitive, emotional, behavioral.

Learner engagement is paramount in corporate training, as it determines whether learners simply participate in activities or actively acquire knowledge. However, behavioral engagement alone is inadequate in measuring overall engagement. For learners to thrive within the organization, they need to engage at the cognitive, emotional, and emotional levels. This is essential to enhance learners’ skills and knowledge, which can be applied directly to their job roles.

Social engagement: The learning engagement superpower

The types of engagement we discussed above are interrelated and can reinforce each other. This leads to deeper and more meaningful learning experiences. However, one way to supercharge learning engagement is to utilize social engagement

Social engagement refers to the degree to which employees interact and collaborate with others. This interaction can be through group projects, peer feedback, and discussion forums. When learning is incorporated into work, as well as day-to-day experiences, concepts become ‘unforgettable’. This is because adult learners become more emotionally and cognitively invested in such learning activities.

Social engagement brings cognitive, emotional and behavioral levels of learning. This helps supercharge learning engagement in the workplace.

Learning engagement improves in corporate environments, when experiences are shared with others. Social engagement involves networking and learning from other learners’ experiences. This makes it a crucial aspect of adult learning, and can serve as motivation. Let’s take a look at other factors that increase motivation and drive learning engagement.

Most important factors in learning engagement

There are several important factors that contribute to workplace/corporate learning engagement. Here’s an overview:

  • Relevance: Employees are more likely to engage in learning when the material is relevant to their jobs and career aspirations. Learning programs should be tailored to the employee’s specific job functions and career path.
     
  • Accessibility: Learning should be easily accessible and convenient for employees. This could include on-demand training modules, online courses, or mobile learning applications. Microlearning has proven helpful to our customers in this area. Microlearning helps break down learning content in bite-sized pieces to make learning more accessible and easy.

  • Feedback and support: Employees need feedback and support to stay motivated and engaged in learning. Feedback can come through assessments, quizzes, or surveys. However, peer-to-peer learning is a good alternative to support learning.

  • Incentives: Offering incentives for completing training programs can help motivate employees to engage in learning. Incentives can include rewards, such as promotions, bonuses, or recognition.
     
  • Personalization: Personalized learning experiences can increase engagement and motivation by tailoring the learning experience to the individual’s needs and preferences.

  • Collaboration: As we shared above, collaboration and social learning can enhance learning engagement. It helps foster a sense of community and provides opportunities for employees to share knowledge and ideas.

  • Gamification: Incorporating game-like elements into learning programs can make learning more engaging and fun. Gamification elements can include points, badges, and leaderboards. Gamification has proven to help improve learning engagement multifold.
     
  • Continuous learning: Encouraging continuous learning can help employees stay engaged and motivated. Continuous learning, mixed with gamification and rewards, helps foster a sense of progress and achievement in employees. Spaced repetition helps learners imbibe continuous learning. 

Organizations can design and implement effective learning programs by prioritizing the aforementioned factors. These factors are essential for driving learning engagement and in-turn business results. But is there a direct link between learning engagement and organizational performance? Read on to find the answer.

Why is learning engagement important?

Workplace learning programs focus more on topics than employees. The effectiveness of these programs is however directly linked to learning engagement and motivation. 

Courses that engage audiences are more likely to attract learners. Moreover, an enjoyable learning experience makes employees eager to learn and helps retain information. This is directly associated with the performance of the employee and the company.

An enjoyable learning experience makes employees eager to learn and helps retain information.

Learning engagement and performance

‘Measuring’ is the bridge between learning engagement and performance. Companies with a system to impart knowledge and test it can measure employee learning. This allows them to improve in two areas: 

  1. Improve course content and delivery to drive scores, and in turn drive learning engagement. (As higher scores and increased number of test takers are good metrics for learning engagement.) 
  2. Find overlaps in learning areas that employees lack in, but are crucial for the company’s growth. This can help companies train employees in these specific areas and drive improvement in performance. 

Highly engaged learners have the opportunity to apply their newly acquired knowledge and skills in the workplace. They are more likely to perform better on their job. Improved course and job performance combine for a positive return on the training investment for companies. Moreover, it instills confidence about the company in the employees and in their abilities.

Learning engagement and employee engagement

By now, we have established that engaged learners are more likely to enjoy learning, and stay committed to completing courses. They are also more likely to engage with other learners and spread their newly acquired knowledge through peer-to-peer interaction. As employee engagement is about inspiring your people to care about what they’re doing. Driving learning engagement is simultaneously driving employee engagement. Employees feel appreciated, positively challenged, and better equipped to successfully follow their personal improvement path. They become more efficient, more productive, and less likely to take sick leaves! However, the benefits of learning engagement are not limited to individual employees.

How learning engagement affects the workplace

Leveraging learning engagement’s positive influence on employees leads to a more constructive workplace. Here are some ways in which learning engagement can positively impact the workplace:

  • Creativity and innovation: Engaged employees are more likely to come up with new and innovative ideas. Learning can help expand an employee’s knowledge and skills. This allows them to think more creatively and solve problems in new ways. 

  • Better customer service: Employees engaged in learning are better equipped to provide excellent customer service. They are more knowledgeable about the products or services they are selling. This allows them to anticipate and meet the needs of their customers.

  • Culture of learning: Engaged employees are more likely to encourage their colleagues to participate in learning activities. This helps instill a culture of learning among employees and across the workplace.

  • Productivity: When employees are engaged in learning, they are more likely to be motivated and energized to complete their tasks. As a result, they tend to be more productive and efficient in their work.

  • Job satisfaction: Learning engagement can also lead to greater job satisfaction among employees. Employees who feel their employers are investing in their professional development feel valued and appreciated. This can lead to greater job satisfaction and commitment, as well as reduce attrition.

Learning engagement strategies

If you have made it this far, you probably believe in the power of learning engagement as much as we do at RapL. We are working with companies across industries to create smarter, more efficient workforces. Contact us here to create personalized learning paths to help increase learning engagement at your workplace. However, we are happy to share certain strategies that you can apply and transform learning.  

What’s great about these strategies is that they can be applied across different courses. In fact, these learner engagement tips can be considered best practices for any learning program you are running or plan to run. 

  • Create a great learning program: A good learning program would only give you unpredictable results. Why? Because the focus of good learning programs is on what topics are covered, rather than how they are covered. A great learning program has creative course content that includes audio-visual elements as well as interactive exercises. Hop on here to see how RapL focuses on both to create great learning programs!

  • Experiment with content formats: Focus on creating content that learners enjoy and can return to easily. These formats include infographics, and short video content. Mixing it up with scenario-based training activities that simulate real-life high-stakes decisions is even better.

  • Include microlearning: Combining creative learning material with microlearning principles is a sure shot way to increase learning engagement. It helps deliver the most important content up front. This helps increase accessibility and makes revisiting easy. Doing the same with assessment activities is also essential. When an assessment takes less than fifteen minutes to complete, completion rates always increase.

  • Make learning a habit: Convenient and easy to grasp knowledge is essential to drive learning engagement. Shortening and contextualizing content will only help if learners don’t forget what they learn. Spaced repetition can help information stick and create a learning habit in employees. We have compiled our learnings on spaced repetition here

  • Gamify!: Leaderboards, badges, and certificates are simple but effective ways to incorporate rewards into learning experiences. We have discussed at length how gamifying learning is a sure-shot way to increase learning engagement. Start by understanding the things that motivate and inspire learners to continually improve themselves.

Learning engagement activities

Activities such as ‘create your own solution’ or ‘hackathons’ might be helpful for employees to test their knowledge. Such team projects can provide employees with the opportunity to collaborate and learn from each other. It can also help employees develop new skills and gain a deeper understanding of the organization’s objectives. Learning circles and workshops are also good ways to drive learning engagement.

Learning Engagement: a quick review

Simply put, learning engagement as a concept can be challenging to comprehend and even more challenging to put into practice. Nevertheless, the numerous benefits associated with having engaged learners make the extra effort worthwhile. It is the product of instructional strategies that promote active learning and provide learners with constant motivation. As a result, engaged learners exhibit desirable characteristics including:

  • actively participating in the learning process
  • demonstrating eagerness to learn
  • putting effort into improvement
  • displaying motivation and inspiration towards achieving goals.

Besides, innovative learning delivery methods are necessary to ensure learners are engaged with the material. By utilizing gamification, personalization, and technology, it is possible to make learning more engaging and personalized. 

At RapL, we create learning experiences that lead to better outcomes. Our deployments combine modern learning software with personalized content. Log on to getrapl.com to learn more about successful learning engagements and contextualized learning.

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Thanks for being with us all the way here

Dear reader, thanks for being with us all the way till the end. We suggest 2 things from here

1. Speak to us if you want a microlearning strategy deep-dive: Microlearning is extremely effective, if approached sensibly. Microlearning is the answer to today’s shortening attention spans and we know how to make learning successful via microlearning. Drop your context here and we shall partner with you for the rest.

2. Lap up more content: We have written some intense literature on how microlearning is the superglue between people and successful business operations. Access all of it here.

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