In recent times, corporate learning has taken on many formats — from classroom instructor led training complimented by online components to more on-demand content like Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and video-enabled micro-learning.
All of these learning formats have their own merits, but according to a recent joint-study conducted by researchers at MIT and Harvard, learner engagement has fallen slightly between 2012 to 2016, with only around a third of all participants completing their programs. While many workplaces require 100% participation in at least some employee training, it’s not uncommon for employees to ‘check-out’ and not get adequate training that prepares them for the rigors of their job.
Increasing employee engagement with role-playing
Now, another new learning concept emerges. Skillsoft is rolling out scenario-based course content that’s directed at employee learning. The global leader in e-learning announced in a press release that it had launched a more innovative learning format that presents short yet impactful topics to learners in the style of role-playing, carried out by professional actors. By using this format, Skillsoft’s goal is to engage learners as they view new concepts as they happen in real work environments.
HR Dive asked Heide Abelli, VP of Product Management (Leadership & Business Skills Portfolios) at Skillsoft, a few questions to probe deeper into the shift to role playing.
HR Dive: Why do you think we are moving away from traditional ILT and into more role-playing and scenario based training?
Abelli: The heavy use of role-playing and scenarios in our new 242 business skills and management courses enables us to better situate and contextualize the learning. Research shows that when learning is contextualized it is more effective. The focus is on the learner and conveying meaning rather than on an instructor and rote information transfer.
Authentic scenarios that closely mirror actual issues, problems and situations anchor the learning. The scenarios must be authentic and realistic enough for the learner to be able to imagine himself or herself in the situation. When learners are able to do that, their motivation for learning goes up.
HR Dive: Why is this approach to learning more effective?
Abelli: Scenarios are a particularly effective approach when capturing the human interaction component is critical to conveying the learning objectives. One of the toughest challenges we face in cultivating interpersonal competence in the workplace is being centered and skillful in the midst of difficult and upsetting professional encounters. Among our new courses using the scenario-based approach is a course called ‘Being an Effective Manager when Times are Tough’, a course that lives in our Managing in Difficult Times course series.
Using the scenario-based approach helps learners internalize why certain behaviors are appropriate, as well as how to perform those behaviors for success. The approach also invites reflection on the part of the learner, who might ask in reflection to observing a scenario: “I wonder how often I do that in a meeting?” Instructor-led training is simply not as effective in addressing these kinds of behavioral learning objectives.
HR Dive: Is the effectiveness of role-playing due to the learning style of Generation Y & Z?
Abelli: The goal is not to create content for a specific generation X or Y but rather to create effective content for all learners — content that offers the best learning experience for the modern learner, regardless of “generation.”
Before implementing role-playing in corporate learning
Managers must understand the daily experience of employees in order to create accurate role-playing scenarios for employees. This format of learning should be combined with other types of learning because each individual learns in a unique way. Lastly, there should be a period of open discussion with peers following each scenario based module so that employees can process the new information.