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



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.


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.


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.

Strategy formation is the topic of discussion at our Masterclass: E-Learning Journeys

The latest in our series of Masterclasses took place in Glasgow last week. Learning and development, training and HR professionals from over 30 Scottish organisations gathered to explore how to get the best out of learning technologies and blended classroom practice.

In this post, we give an overview of presentations from our keynote speakers, the topics discussed and useful tips from our recent Masterclass: E-Learning Journeys #ELJ13.

Masterclass: E-Learning Journeys Glasgow

The purpose of our Masterclasses is to provide an open forum for learning and development professionals to discuss how to make E-Learning as effective as possible.

The theme of our Masterclass was E-learning Journeys and topics discussed during the interactive session included:

  • Mobile learning
  • Tin Can API
  • E-Learning trends and insights 

Attendees also benefited from ‘real life’ case studies from The Gleneagles Hotel and Action for Children who shared their experiences and journey to date of E-Learning.

With attendees involved in E-Learning at varying levels, some new to it and others more accustomed, there was one prevalent topic at the Masterclass – strategy formation, knowing where to start an E-Learning journey and why it’s important to get the basics right. In the rush towards adoption of the latest trends, it is easy to lose sight of what the actual aims and objectives of implementing E-Learning are. Throughout the Masterclass, attendees heard why it is important to understand what the needs and challenges are within the organisation and ensure that the proper structures and technology are in place beforehand.

Mary Scott, Learning and Development Manager at The Gleneagles Hotel was first to present and discussed how the world-famous 5 Star Luxury resort is using E-Learning as part of a blended learning strategy to improve the delivery, flexibility and consistency of employee learning and training. Although The Gleneagles Hotel have just started on their E-Learning journey, this was an interesting insight and shows that using E-Learning can have a great impact no matter what type of industry you are in.

Next to share his E-Learning journey and highlight the great work carried out by one of the UK’s leading children’s charities was Learning and Development Consultant, Andy Napier from Action for Children. Throughout his presentation, Andy shared some great insights with the room and showed how far the leading children’s charity has come in a short period of time.  Andy also shared the details of the charity’s E-Learning Journey, the challenges they faced and how they were able to overcome them. Like The Gleneagles Hotel before him, Alan was keen to emphasise the benefits of getting Aurion Learning on board to help guide them through their E-Learning challenges.

Andy Napier discussing how far Action for Children have come on their E-Learning journey

Andy Napier discussing how far Action for Children have come on their E-Learning journey in a short time.

E-Learning trends and insights were next on the agenda, with our very own E-Learning Strategist and Managing Director Dr. Maureen Murphy, discussing what impact digital technology will have on learning and development strategies in the future.

With discussions on content curation, increase in virtual classrooms, social learning and the need for further integrated talent management, Maureen also shared her fascinating vision and experience of how stories can be used for learning.

After a caffeine boost, attendees were able to mingle with like-minded professionals to discuss how they are using E-Learning within their organisations.

Mobile Learning and Technology was next on the agenda with Liam Butler, EMEA General Manager at NetDimensions, a global provider of performance, knowledge and learning management systems, sharing global industry insights and discussing the impact of mobile learning and advancing technologies.  With digital technology changing the world we live in on a daily basis and learners looking for information immediately and on the go, attendees were eagerly absorbing the nuggets of information from Liam who talked about mobile options that are available today and the type of content that works well on mobile.

What was interesting to discover is that 12 months from now, it is likely that mobile learning will look completely different. Whilst many organisations have been slow to adopt mobile learning on a large-scale; Liam discussed how mobile learning is starting to come into its own and shared the innovative ways that NetDimensions is delivering mobile learning solutions.  Of note, Liam noted that technology isn’t hanging around and that technology road maps have changed from 12 to six months.  As more people pursue to use personal devices to learn, it’s time to start considering the mobile learner and ensure their user experience is a good one.

Attendees then took part in one of three hands on E-Learning clinics:

  1. Building Internal Capacity     
  2. Managing Learning Beyond the Technology    
  3. Using Stories for Learning
Storytelling for learning clinic

One of the hands-on E-Learning clinics in action.

During the sessions, attendees were able to delve deeper into the barriers and challenges that they are currently facing in their organisation, discuss the strategies to overcome them and at the same time gain actionable tips and strategies to improve learning and development.  The morning was quickly drawing to a close when the panel discussion got underway and attendees asked the panel what were the most pressing issues in learning and development and how best to overcome them. Tips from the panel included:

  • Involve IT from the start of your e-learning journey – prepare key stakeholders within your organisation – help them structure your approach/get buy-in/use subject matter experts within your organisation.
  • Be aware that different e-learning models can be used for different/various stages within your organisation

There were plenty of questions at the end with many attendees extremely interested in finding out more about topics like Tin Can API, managing learning and simply finding out where the best place is to start.

Planning for our 2014 E-Learning events is already underway. If you have any suggestions for things you’d like to see, please do let us know.

Presentations and resources shared during the Masterclass are now available to view and download. Visit Aurion Learning’s website.