Experiential Learning – Highly Abused Word in Training?

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All of us as L&D professionals have been exposed to a host of so-called experiential learning programs. Unfortunately, however, most of them are junk – they just add a layer of gamification to a traditional program and claim to be highly engaging.

What would truly break the clutter would be ‘immersive gamification’ which basically is about imparting experiential learning through business simulations. These simulations are compatible with both online and instructor driven formats and have a universal appeal for most age groups and industry types. What truly differentiates such programs?

Firstly, they are close to real life. The storyline of the game is rich with constraints and opportunities which the participant must be facing in real life. He is expected to deal with the same kind of stakeholders and emotions as in real life. This ensures that the participant relates the learning directly to his life and doubts about ‘What is in it for me’ are dispelled right away.

Secondly, these simulations are like a real game. The participant is playing the game in the first person mode; the progress of the game is based on the action taken by the individual, and this affects the outcome dynamically.

Thirdly, these simulations involve real-time decision making. During the simulation, a participant is expected to display his skill or knowledge by taking a decision at various points in time. His expertise is judged by the repercussions of the decision. Making the participant take real life decisions in a safe learning environment immediately drives the learning into the participant’s mind.

Finally, these simulations cause tangible behavioural change. Participants internalize learnings by applying them immediately and  the resulting behavioral changes are effectively retained as they are a part of an experience – not a course!

Every L&D professional must use these four principles to test the efficacy of any experiential program and only then invest the time, energy and effort of the learners in order to derive maximum output from the learning program.

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