Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Will Thalheimer, Subscription Learning: A Fundamentally Different Form of eLearning #LSCon

These are my live blogged notes from a session at the eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions 2014, happening this week in Orlando, Florida. Forgive me any typos or incoherence.

Will Thalheimer, PhD. Will at Work Learning.

Every year Will reads over 200 articles on learning and learning research. He's been talking about subscription learning--moving away from single learning events to provide experiences that ensure better retention and on the job application.

Explore the Concept

Research tells us that if we surface a learner’s prior knowledge, they will learn more deeply.

What does it mean to subscribe to a magazine?

Scheduling of learning events:
  • One-time events
  • Multiple events
  • Subscription 

A subscription model—nuggets of learning that are five minutes or less, over time.

Characteristics of subscription learning:
  • Learners are subscribed or subscribe
  • Many learning events
  • Usually short
  • Usually tech enabled
  • Usually relies on push technology
  • Usually utilizes the spacing effect
  • Engaging any particular learning event may be optional
  • Usually good to vary the types of events

The Learning Landscape

Learning (build understanding)> Remembering > On-the-job performance (apply what you've learned) > individual results/organizational results.  There's also prompting (job aids, signage, performance support)

Learning and Forgetting Curve:
During Learning/After Learning -- if people start at one point, ramp up through the learning process, and then end up only slightly ahead of where they started -- have we maximized learning?

We better design learning and include after learning follow-up.

The Decisive Dozen
  • content
  • exposure
  • guiding attention
  • creating correct conceptions
  • repetition
  • feedback
  • variation
  • retrieval practice
  • context alignment
  • spacing
  • persuasion
  • perseverance
Research -- repetition works! The more we repeat, the better. (Example: low volume hospital has more cancer deaths in surgery - the more we do things, the better we get).

Repetition is better when the same learning content is in a slightly different form -- flip things around more.  By switching the words around you can more the double the learning impact.

Why is repetition so powerful? Helps us absorb what we missed earlier. It strengthens and enriches what we know.

"The spacing effect is one of the oldest and best documented phenomena in the history of learning and memory research." (Research -- he cited the author but I missed it).

So why don't we use it more often?

Widely spaced repletion can provide the best retention results.

Over time we get gradually better.

Ethical moments -- simulations and spaced experiences to keep people above the retrieval threshold. (Dr. JC Kinnamon). 

During initial learning -- when we give people non-spaced learning, it LOOKS like they get it better. But if, on day 3, the learning was actually spaced--they retained it better 3 days later.

A few summary points:
Repetitions support learning
spaced repetitions are generally more effective
Spacing helps minimize forgetting
wider spacing are generally more effective...

You can use lots of different tools and tech to provide spaced learning:
email, text, e-learning

Use delayed emails (this is easy to set up in Outlook).
Email marketing platforms. 
Send out a question in the email -- then send the answer the next day.

Duolingo -- a subscription learning app won Apple's App of the Year.

Tools that can support spaced learning: 
  • NexLearn's Simwriter platform (incudes microlearning objects)
  • (an open source tool)
  • More providers here:
Of course, good instructional design still counts in subscription learning.

"This won't work. I need proof they've taken the course!" You can provide a test -- give them a subscription learning thread and then give them an authentic test to "prove".

What if the subscription learning materials "comes out" of the CEO's office.

How to get good at subscription learning? Try it out! Use different approaches. Get feedback, then improve.

"Just because people are resistant, doesn't mean you should give up."

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