Tip #835:  Virtual Learning Success

young black businesswoman

“Virtual learning, when done right, can be dramatically more effective than in person workshops.”  David Rock

Our ultimate intent when we design and deliver training programs, whether face to face or virtual, is to change behavior. We want this behavior change to last and to quickly and easily come into play even when the individual is under stress and feeling anxious.

According to David Rock, who is the director of the NeuroLeadership Institute, easy recall of new skills under pressure only occurs if four conditions were present when the skill was first learned: Attention,  Generation, Emotion and Spacing (AGES).

He mentions research findings that the key to effective learning is activating the hippocampus. This is a brain region that helps consolidate new information into memory. All four AGES components need to be optimized for ideal activation of the hippocampus.

Attention means that participants have a clear focus with no distractions.

Generation involves participants generating their own connections to the content, “linking new ideas to their own existing knowledge.” This is important because memories are formed by making associations.

Emotions mean that participants experience strong emotions, which will activate the hippocampus, resulting in memories that stick.

Spacing means that participants learn best when learning sessions are spaced out over time, particularly including one or more nights of sleep between sessions.

Mr. Rock makes the somewhat surprising (at least to me) statement that: “When deployed correctly, virtual learning is capable of activating high levels of attention, generation, emotion, and spacing. Even higher levels than you can in a single half day or day long [face to face] workshop.”

I’m surprised because I am a proponent of accelerated learning, which can engage all the senses when it is face to face. But Mr. Rock further explains that strong memory encoding will occur in virtual training if:

  1. Sessions are 50 or 55 minutes long and are designed to help participants gain intense insights. [Emotion]
  2. Learning is stretched out over three or more weeks. [Spacing]
  3. Participants are encouraged to share what they’ve learned with their social networks, because when learning is social, “learners encode more richly, recall more easily, and act more often.” [Generation}
  4. Skills are taught and the program’s effectiveness is determined by measuring behavioral change.

I don’t think Mr. Rock entirely achieves his point, because he doesn’t seem to address Attention explicitly. And that is a major issue with online training. It is much easier to notice a participant’s lack of attention when the training is face to face. At this time of sheltering at home, it is very difficult to get and maintain participants’ total and undistracted attention.

Since virtual training is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future, we will have to struggle with the issue of Attention. Perhaps if we make the virtual program emotionally engaging, teach necessary skills relevant to the participants, and keep the session short enough, we can gain and keep their attention.

I’d love to know your thoughts on this.

May your learning be sweet- and safe.


#virtuallearning #memoryencoding #AGESmodel #virtualtraining

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