Deep Dive: What is Experiential Learning?
Hands-on learning is much more effective than boring your learners with a PowerPoint presentation, where they only remember an average of 4 slides from a 20-slide deck.
Learning by doing –– which has proven time and time again to be the most effective form of learning –- is the foundation of what is known as experiential learning.
Experiential learning differs from traditional forms of learning like Instructor Led Training or ILT. ILT often takes place in a classroom and is led by an instructor who teaches the same material to all students at the same time. Learners typically consume course content in a set way, rather than understanding or applying it in the way that works best for them.
Experiential learning is not just the same as deploying a learning management system; instead students can learn through immersive, real-world experiences in a virtual setting, working at their own pace and in their own time.
This concept dates back to 1984 when David A. Kolb published his experiential learning theory. Kolb split the learning cycle into four stages, with a learner being able to enter the cycle at any one of the stages:
- Concrete learning
- Reflective observation
- Abstract conceptualization
- Active experimentation.
Kolb’s theory defines experiential learning as: “the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combination of grasping and transforming experience.”
One fun analogy that I read puts it this way: even if you watch hundreds of episodes of “The Great British Baking Show” (if you’re not familiar, I suggest you add to your Netflix binge list)..you’re still not going to know if you can make a perfect cake, free of soggy bottoms, until you do it yourself.
Watching someone bake a cake, is not the same as trying to bake a cake yourself.
In this article, we’ll explain what experiential learning is in more detail, as well as provide some practical use cases.
Experiential learning benefits and trends
Forward-looking companies are shifting from classroom and instructor-based theoretical learning to hands-on, experiential learning delivered online because of the tangible benefits it provides their businesses.
These benefits include:
- Improved learner engagement with interactive and immersive training activities
- Increased flexibility, enabling learners to move through courses at a pace and a time that suits them
- Increased product adoption with higher volume of training to more people in more locations
- Increased adoption of new workplace technologies and personalized learning experiences
As adoption of experiential learning increases, the way it is used and its benefits will continue to develop. Some future trends that we expect to see include:
- Shared learning – working in an experiential learning environment with coworkers and peers to better understand how a product is used, or to experiment with building projects collaboratively
- Micro learning – learning will be delivered in increasingly small chunks that are adjusted to the needs of today’s modern learners
- Virtual reality and virtual software labs – if you want to learn by doing then you need to be able to work in a real-world environment that simulates situations that will actually happen in your job.
Experiential learning use cases
If you’re wondering how you can use experiential learning in your company, here are some use cases where it can prove beneficial.
- Testing your software’s API and integration capabilities: If you’re building an API for a SaaS product, you need to check that it allows your customers to easily integrate their third-party software, or build custom integrations. Experiential learning enables you to quickly and easily try out the API in a pre-sales scenario to check it works properly.
- Setting up more third-party software integrations: If another SaaS company wants to integrate their product with yours then they will need to learn how to use your software developer kit. Experiential learning lets them do this in a virtual environment without putting your company’s product or infrastructure at risk.
- Providing developer access to a test environment: If you want developers to recommend buying a commercial license for your software, a good way to do this is by making it easy for their bosses to understand how to build integrations themselves. With experiential learning, you can provide the C-suite with a step-by-step guide, while the developers can play around with the capabilities themselves in a test environment.
- Offer more specific technical and product training: If you want to train your staff (both technical and non technical) in a new or emerging technology then you can send them on a generic course. The problem with this is that they will learn the basic skills, but they won’t learn how to use the software in a way that relates to your product. With experiential learning, you can provide customized hands-on learning experiences that will offer the exact skills and experience needed to work with, and use, your software.
Are you interested in making your training program more hands-on? Take a tour of our experiential learning platform, today.