How We Went From eLearnings to Better eLearnings
I have worked for one of the biggest online learning companies in the Netherlands, Icademy, for many years now.
At Icademy, we have continuously tried and tested the possibilities and boundaries of blended learning programs within companies and organizations.
We ran into a problem. Well, we ran into several problems. But there was one problem so big that it has been given its own name.
The transfer problem.
How can we transfer the newly-acquired knowledge to the offices and stores we work in? How do we get knowledge from the classroom to the actual employee applying their newly-acquired knowledge in real situations?
The odd thing was that our approach was good, it was often even praised, yet we didn’t get the effects that we had aimed for. Luckily, our trial-and-error structure of constantly returning to the drawing table allowed us to track what worked and what didn’t when trying to optimize the effect of the learning programs.
Do you recognize that? Giving it your best to teach, yet not getting the desired result? Well, if you’re one of those teachers, trainers, educators, or simply just someone who’s interested, I will tell you about the couple of years we spent learning and growing ourselves.
Our solution? Triple Blend Learning!
What is it? I will tell you. Because before today you knew about blended programs. But after reading this article, you will be familiar and also excited about what we call Triple Blend Learning.
A mentor! That was our first thought at least. Based off the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) concept of learning at the workplace.
The learner would pair up with a more experienced colleague, who would serve as their mentor. They would then provide a detailed plan that would cover only a reasonable timespan and would act as their guide and oracle.
The mentor would be instructed by means of an elearning and the rest would show itself.
It sounded like a perfect plan. That is also why many companies were enthusiastic about this new program.
But in reality, almost all of these programs fell flat. This perfect plan never really had the perfect execution.
But why? Well, the most basic of reasons: time constraints and just plain neglect.
The advantages of this program were acknowledged and even praised, but the advantages never really showed themselves in reality.
The knowledge all these companies wanted their employees to know was readily available, but it still didn’t reach the offices and stores. There was no actual transfer.
Enter New Technology
These programs and all the previous ones all relied on one thing. Personal guidance.
But as evident from situations such as these, it was obvious that a personal and practical approach was never going to work.
At the same time, technology was developing itself faster than most people could keep up with it, we realized that rather than seeing that as something for the future, we had to start using new technology right away. We had to keep up!
To fix this transfer problem, we had to change how everyone went about online learning. We didn’t have to just change our customers’ way of thinking but also our way of thinking.
So change it, we did.
The Turning Point
The key turning point was when we attended the Elliott Masie Learning Consortium in Orlando in 2013. That is when we learned about interactive video.
At the same time, Charles Jennings 70:20:10 model started to gain a following.
Put two and two together and voila!
With the foundation of our company’s work and marrying the ideas of both Masie and Jennings, we suddenly took the company into a different direction.
With these three pillars in the back of our minds, we started thinking about how we could actually get that knowledge to the workforce. And we asked our workforce to come up with ideas.
Our developers started working on a software tool that would allow anyone to have access to interactive video. And we called it HiHaHo Video Enrichment.
Our editors brainstormed about the new concept and how it could be used to not replace the current system, but to improve it and amplify its effects. And we called it Triple Blend Learning.
HiHaHo was officially born.
What the heck is triple blend learning?
Well, so far we had been working with blended learning programs. When we added a third component. It became a triple blend.
Easy! But I’ll elaborate.
All forms of blended learning relied on two extremely different ways of learning. The physical reality of a classroom or work environment versus the virtual reality of an elearning.
What we’re trying to do with the triple blend is to smoothe out the difference and bridge the gap between the two of them.
We’re not saying that either of the vastly different approaches are wrong, though. We believe in and support the need for both aspects of learning, whether it’s working with concrete and cooperative learning in a classroom or theoretical practice.
But it will leave you wondering, as soon as you’ve finished a blended program, whether it will actually have had any significant effect. Do all the effort and work really contribute? Well, not for a cheap price.
If you want a truly effective elearning, you often have to move towards the more expensive simulation programs. But how effective are they?
The Long-Awaited Third Component
What we need to keep in mind is, that we learn by doing. That thought is what is often missing in common elearnings and what we aim to solve with the third component.
So what is this third component we’ve been previewing this whole time?
The third component consists of a series of short interactive video clips that repeat the most important skills but only in a context that will be familiar to those watching. You learn while you’re doing it in a context similar to yours.
However, an important aspect still is that the Interactive Micro Learning Videos have to work together with the other two components almost seamlessly. But it works! We tested it several times.
We saw great results, especially when people could watch these learning videos on the job in the right environment. With these videos, the viewer is conditioned to recognize and abandon bad habits and undesirable behavior at work.
And there is no one that has to personally intervene. The charm of this third component is that the change will come from within as they learn to recognize these types of behavior.
The best part of it is that they will see these videos in their actual work environment. There is no need to transfer the knowledge to the workplace… It is happening in the workplace!
The So-Called Online Learning Boosters
An idea as such needs a name, obviously, so we dubbed these series of short videos Online Learning Boosters. And these boosters are made up out of three layers.
- The introduction: A colleague, or actor dressed as a colleague, briefly introduces the subject at hand.
- The situation: A situation that can occur in their own context, shown in an environment similar or identical to theirs.
- The call to action: The same colleague repeats the main points to remember and calls for the viewer to start implementing these points at work from now on.
Often enough, companies rather saw a visualization of the bad behavior or bad mannerisms instead of an introduction. That way, the viewers were triggered to think critically about that behavior. The “right” way of action would be shown per usual afterwards.
We often agreed to this, because, as they say, der Kunde ist König, but from our own principles we would prefer not to explicitly show the “bad” behavior.
By showing what can be done wrong, you run the risk of that being memorized rather than the desired behavior, especially since you can never foresee what is going to be interpreted as extremely funny or hilarious.
That is not what you want your viewers to remember from the video and that is why we always prefer to tell, rather than to show.
The third layer, the call-to-action, ends the video with a concrete and determined message. By choosing the phrasing carefully, we hope to motivate the viewer to implement this behavior right away to help them grow at their job.
Since the videos are short, you shouldn’t want to add too many interactions. What kind of and how many interactions you will use has to be thought out beforehand.
A video about a specific situation that lasts two to three minutes cannot be interrupted by questions and assignments all the time.
It’s messy! It’s counterproductive!
The way that we solved that is by carefully planning the entire video, interactions included, during the scriptwriting already. That way, you avoid out of place and irrelevant questions and interactions.
So what can I do with it?
So let’s come back to the tool we created especially for this triple blend learning: HiHaHo Video Enrichment.
It currently has the following interactions
- Questions (multiple choice and response questions, open and essay questions)
- Pause screen (for reflective questions, notifications, and summaries)
- Jump to (jump forwards or backwards to relevant parts of the video)
- Menu (adds structure to your video and makes it easier to navigate)
- (Scroll) Text (for subtitles or other textual support)
- Images (for additional photos, images, graphs, logos, etc.)
- Hotspots (adds clickable areas to the screen)
- Links (adds a hyperlink to direct viewers to additional information or downloadable content)
- Highlights (adds a highlighted area for focus)
Over the years, I’ve noticed that some interactions lend themselves to learning boosters more than others. For instance, we often used the question, pause screen, hotspot, and highlight interactions. What can also be extremely useful is the use of the link interaction.
But obviously, all of these interactions are useful in their own respect nonetheless. It all comes down to how they are used in the video that determines their benefit in the video.
Why do we need to integrate?
Well you don’t have to if you don’t want to. We won’t force you. We have already seen several instances of Micro Video Learning being used by itself.
Think of instances where you would only need instruction in the form of, say, customer support. This could be things such as using a new machine or tool. In these cases, you wouldn’t need an elaborate learning program.
But I truly think that if you want the make the best of your Micro Video Learning in the form of performance support, then you will have to integrate it in a much broader program.
If you are able to seamlessly incorporate Online Learning Boosters in a blended program in order to create a triple blend learning program, I think you will never want to go back to the old ways again.
To see an example of one of these videos, please check out one of the videos we made for Scapino in 2015. They are a well-known Dutch retailer. In a future article, we’ll tell you more about how Scapino used interactive video to train personnel. The video is in Dutch, but with HiHaHo interactions, we have created subtitles for non-Dutch speakers.
Our triple blend learning model is based on the ST-A-MP model, in which several different ideas and models for learning and training have been brought together. I will soon elaborate on this model in a future article. So keep your eye on the website! I will also be writing two case files of two great examples of implementing Micro Video Learning.
If you’re interested in learning more, keep an eye on our blog!
Since you have reached the end of this article, we’re wondering, what would you want (your employees) to learn with interactive videos?
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