What a Two Year Old’s Learned About Learning
April 15, 2011
Last month, Unboxed Technology turned two—past infancy and well on the road towards toddlerhood, to borrow the terms of human development. We’re mobile, verbal, curious about everything, and growing like mad. So in the minutes between naptime and bottle feedings of Red Bull, we thought we’d reflect on what we’ve been learning—about learning.
Context Is King
Context is a pervasive and potent force in any learning event. . . . Context has a complex and powerful influence upon successful performance-based learning, and yet it is largely ignored.
—Martin Tessmer and Rita C. Richey, The Role of Context in Learning and Instructional Design
If terms like “learning event” and “performance-based learning” are not part of your lexicon, please accept this translation: CONTEXT MATTERS. We had a strong hunch about this when we started Unboxed, but now we know that context trumps just about everything. In fact, our insistence on tailoring every learning tool to the particular settings and situations of each client is one of the key reasons for our success. Just ask any of our clients—they continually tell us that our custom-made, context-rich approach is a key feature separating us from the competition.
Many of our competitors have canned training modules sitting in a virtual box somewhere, ready to be “customized” for your company. This generally entails popping your logo in and maybe changing a few phrases of text. Our modus operandi is just the opposite: we start with the specific context of your business and build truly customized training for your employees. In fact, most often we even build it with your employees—they tell us real stories from the “front lines” of retail counters and call centers, and they often star in the videos we create for our scenario-based learning modules. You might say that the secret of our employee training is that it’s made with real employees.
Testing Is Learning
Testing has such bad connotation; people think of standardized testing or teaching to the test. Maybe we need to call it something else, but this is one of the most powerful learning tools we have.
—Henry L. Roediger III, PhD, Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits
Cognitive scientists have known for some time that testing can be more than a method of evaluating students—it can be a powerful learning tool. In a recent study, students who were tested on material remembered it better in the future than did students who had not been tested. While students may hate practice tests and pop quizzes, those who take them as part of the learning process can at a later point in time recall the material better than those who don’t.
This phenomenon, known as “the testing effect,” is not well known outside of cognitive psychology circles. But the logic behind it is fairly straightforward: the very process of retrieving data changes and strengthens the way the information is stored. In as sense, forgetting and then remembering an idea or fact helps you remember it better in the future. So the more times you’re asked to recall something, the more likely you are to remember it. That’s why every custom eLearning course includes quiz questions throughout the training module, rather than just at the end—we know that the process of testing reinforces the material tested. By using real-life scenarios interspersed with challenging questions, our unique quiz engine combines the power of context with the benefits of the “testing effect.” But the proof is in the pudding: using Unboxed Analytics, our clients have measured the ROI of our training and determined that our training sticks.
Two (or More) Modes Are Better Than One
Most people have a preferred method of learning—some people like to read instructions, others like to hear explanations, and the hands-on types among us do better with live demonstrations. While there are a few folks with marked deficits or strengths in visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning modes, most of us do best with a blended approach—particularly an approach that combines words and pictures.
In fact, in a recent and rigorous review of secondary research, the Metiri Group found that students of all ages retain more verbal information (textual or oral) when it’s supplemented with visual examples. “As we strive to make sense of unimaginably large volumes of data,” the report emphasizes, “visualization has become increasingly important. Why? Our brains are wired to process visual input very differently from text, audio, and sound.”
It’s really simple when you think about it—if we present information to you using more than one “channel,” there’s a better chance that some of that information will stick. That’s why a fully loaded Unboxed curriculum can include interactive workbooks, elearning courses and simulations, and live, instructor-led training.
Are you still there? Did you read this far? If you have stayed along for the ride, you must be interested in what Unboxed Technology’s training can do for you. To learn more, and to learn it in the manner you prefer, drop us a line or give us a call at 804-888-6222.
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