Adult life is busy. There’s work with its competing demands and deadlines, the many chores involved with managing a home and raising a family, social obligations, personal time for exercise, and once in a while, a little bit of relaxation.
That doesn’t leave much time for learning and developing new skills. Fortunately, “not much time” may be all that’s needed.
What Are Learning Labs?
A new approach to employee engagement called learning labs combines microlearning lessons with daily, habit-building assignments to practice what you’ve learned and encourage positive behavior change. Learning labs are the ideal way to integrate education into the busy lives of your employees.
This approach of delivering educational content in short, digestible bursts is a perfect fit for today’s mobile culture. People are already accustomed to streaming short videos on their phones or playing a few rounds of a mobile game while waiting in line. Microlearning fits perfectly into those small, idle moments, making it much easier to integrate into the day than an hours-long training session.
Whether video, audio, quizzes, or games, the common element of a microlearning lesson is brevity. With a typical lesson being between 5-10 minutes total, employees can watch a video, take an assessment, and take action on building a new habit all without disrupting their workday. Learning labs can easily fit in between tasks, before heading out to lunch, during a commute, or first thing in the morning before launching into the workday.
How Do Learning Labs Differ from Traditional Training?
Traditional employee training involves learning in a classroom setting or online in a webinar. Lengthy PowerPoint presentations and wordy handouts are the norm.
While this type of learning has its place (particularly for highly technical and complex topics), it can be overwhelming and intrusive. Employees are often distracted by their many work duties and outside obligations and find it hard to focus on the material. Plus, they’re forced to find time in their busy schedules to squeeze in classes.
Learning labs, on the other hand, allows learners to dedicate their full attention to the subject at hand because they know the entire experience will only take a few minutes. And they can choose when and where to consume content.
Most learning lab programs string these short bursts together into larger courses. The idea is to cover a broader topic by breaking it down into individual nuggets of information or skills which, when taken together, comprise a valuable skill set.
Why it Matters to Practice What You’ve Learned
Learning is complex; there are hundreds of theories and even more research on the most effective methods for gaining new knowledge or skills. However, science indicates that learning by doing is more conducive to the long-term retention of information than traditional techniques of simply learning by observation.
One key factor in the retention of information is reproduction, or actually performing the behavior you learned once you have paid attention to the model. Further practicing the learned behavior will lead to improvement and skill advancement. As the saying goes, “Tell me and I forget; teach me and I may remember; involve me and I learn.”
When we’re inundated with information, such as in a long lecture or presentation, we tend to forget a great deal of it. Without reinforcement, up to 60% of what we learn in a day may evaporate from our minds within 48 hours. (Scientists call this the forgetting curve.) So, you may have a beautifully designed training, but as soon as it’s time to put it into practice, employees may draw a complete blank, thinking, “Now...what was I supposed to do again?”
Instead, the learning labs approach allows employees to learn a little bit at a time, and then put it into practice. These repeated cycles of learning plus practice are what triggers long-lasting learning and long-lasting behavioral change. How? By allowing the brain to process things a bit at a time.
First, short intervals of learning make it much easier for the brain to retain information and transfer it into long-term memory.
Second, by repeatedly practicing the activities resulting from these small, short learnings, it’s much easier for employees to reach a state of automaticity, whereby a conscious and controlled process becomes an automatic, unconscious one.
In short, learning labs make it much easier to form new habits, because the learner is engaging in manageable “learning + practice = change” cycles, instead of trying to learn and change everything at once.
What Are Some Examples of Learning Plus Practice?
WellRight’s new learning labs programming combines the advantages of microlearning with the adage “practice makes perfect.” Adding learning labs to your employee wellness program infuses thought leadership to promote healthy behavior change.
A typical learning lab runs four to eight weeks. Each week begins with a short video segment that introduces the topic for the week. Throughout the week, participants practice what they’ve learned by completing quick daily, habit-building assignments—tracking their progress as they go.
The online lessons are available anytime a participant has a few minutes to spare, via desktop or mobile app. Gamification and rewards makes the assignments fun, increasing motivation, and engagement.
By exploring new ideas and putting them into practice immediately, employees develop the capacity to apply what they learn in a truly impactful, meaningful way.
Learning labs allow you, as an employer, to amplify your employee wellness program in a new, practical, and integrated way, based on the latest science concerning how busy employees learn best.
The topics covered touch on the six dimensions of well-being: emotional, financial, social, occupational, physical, and purpose. Recognized subject matter experts lead engaging programs, such as “Work Happier Now,” “Remote Leadership,” and “Your Money Matters.”
Just as many small meals can be easier to digest than one massive feast, small snippets of learning can be much easier to digest and retain than a fire hose-level volume of information. Weekly learning labs may be small in size, but it’s big in impact and can make a macro-sized difference in your employees’ skills and habits.
For more information about WellRight learning labs, click here.