Knowledge Retention vs. Behavioural Change

Picture: Michael Cooper

Gavin Woods and representatives from the Sensory Engagement Programme

We were recently posed the question; “How can I use E-Learning as a way to create behavioural change and not just knowledge retention?”

As anyone who is involved in creating and implementing a learning strategy will know, there is often a gap between knowing and doing.

Regardless of the quality of the content, the delivery, or the rate of repetition, many learning and development professionals are faced with the challenge of turning knowledge into actions consistent with that knowledge.

‘When all is said and done, more is said than done’ (Aesop 7th century BC)

Earlier this year, the Sensory Engagement Programme (SEP) commissioned Aurion Learning to develop a new online training toolkit to raise awareness among service providers, in particular, banks, libraries and colleges of what it is like to be blind, partially sighted, deaf or hard of hearing and using every day services.

The online resource comprises a series of short films demonstrating the personal experience of those with sensory loss using everyday services; exemplifying best practice to improve service provision and help make their services more inclusive.

Central to the success of the training resource is behaviour change. To meet the learning objectives of this project, we knew that the online resource had to make genuine and relevant connections with service providers.

In this blog, I’ve used SEP’s online training resource as an example of how E-Learning can be used to create behavioural change, not just knowledge retention.

At Aurion, we believe the key to creating behavioural change through E-Learning is to ensure participants:

 

  1. Understand,
  2. Memorise and
  3. Are motivated to take action

 

Understanding

The creation of great E-Learning hinges on the creator’s ability to identify knowledge gaps and find a way to present content clearly to the learner. A part of this process lies in the identification of functions that aren’t happening the way you would like them to. In the example of the SEP online toolkit, the best people to highlight these knowledge gaps were individuals who were blind, partially sighted, deaf or hard of hearing as it demonstrated their personal experiences using everyday services, making it more authentic and pertinent.

Picture: Michael Cooper

Discussing the tangible benefits of the online training resource

Once these knowledge gaps have been identified, the challenge lies in finding the best format you can use to convey the information. Content delivery should never mean the regurgitation of large pieces of information and compliance documents but instead the delivery of small amounts of information in an accessible way.

In the creation of the online toolkit for SEP, it was important for us to ensure accessibility both practically and instructionally. Instructionally speaking, there are a few points to consider when presenting learning content:

  • you must ensure that learning content is broken into bite-sized pieces and
  • is in an easily readable format and presented in a logical order.

On a practical note, we wanted to ensure that the programme would be accessible to individuals with visual impairments and therefore chose highly contrasting colours for the background and fonts.

Memorising

Persuasive Information Delivery ensures that content is communicated in a way that resonates with the learner. It is paramount that information delivery is gripping and encapsulates learning in a way that makes it easy to remember.

Interactivity is key, learning becomes memorable when it captures the interests, minds and imaginations of learners. This means that the goal is to present information in a way that is refreshing and creative, utilising all of the resources at your disposal and may look like the use of images, videos, storytelling, problem-posing and real life examples.

Through the online Sensory Engagement toolkit, our intention was to use real life instances, stories and individuals to make learners see mundane, everyday interactions in a new light. By introducing individuals and allowing them to share their experiences and emotional responses, we were able to appeal to the learner in a manner that was beyond just knowledge retention.

Far beyond just sitting down and memorising a set of rules or policies on how to approach an individual with a hearing or sight impairment, the online learning toolkit for SEP presents learners with a problem or situation that they must learn how to deal with. Situations like these are far more memorable than a set of rules.

Motivation

For example, a child may have been shown how to wash his hands; he may have even practiced it with his parents on a number of occasions but repeatedly fails to do it when left to his own devices. This is because he lacks the motivation. Learners are similar – it is important to build into your e-learning the reasoning of why it matters in the real world or learners will fail to apply newfound knowledge in everyday life.

It’s important to bring out actions and consequences. We applied the strategy of authentic learning or ‘real-world scenarios’ as our main approach as it is a very effective tool for learning and driving behavioural change.

Picture: Michael Cooper

Gavin Woods from Aurion Learning and Stephanie O’Kane from RNIB at launch of Sensory Engagement Programme online toolkit

Through the use of short films and storytelling, the learning content for SEP contained the motivation for learners to change their behaviour the next time they find themselves interacting with an individual with a hearing and visual impairment.

We were really pleased to get to work alongside four of the largest organisations who provide support and advocacy services for people with sight and hearing loss across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; the Royal National Institute of Blind People Northern Ireland (RNIB NI), Action on Hearing LossNational Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) and DeafHear.

Our hope is that this free, online toolkit will make it possible for service providers across Ireland to provide basic Deaf and Visual Awareness training for their staff. With easily downloadable resources, engaging stories and bite-sized learning content, the toolkit promises not just to create more head knowledge but instead create awareness for staff working in service providers to not only know, but to do something with what they know and ultimately change the lives of those living with sensory difficulties.

The SEP online training toolkit was launched in Derry-Londonderry on 21 October, 2013. We will continue to work with the partners to monitor and assess the impact that it has had on both organisations and those with hearing difficulties.

Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this. Follow us on twitter @aurionlearning for our latest blog articles and updates.