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The Experiential (Micro)learning Cycle: How to Ensure Your Training Initiatives Do Something

Microlearning Cycle
Written by Rae Feshbach

Remember that class—maybe back in high school—where the teacher turned on a video at the beginning of the session, turned it off at the end, and that counted as ‘learning’?

Too often, that’s exactly what L&D practitioners do, too—assigning out online training and just expecting to see results. One solution is Microlearning® content, which is optimized to promote engagement and impact, but even that isn’t magic. To actually see meaningful results, Microlearning training has to be deployed strategically.

To ensure that training initiatives have the desired impact, it’s important to bring employees through what David Kolb called the Experiential Learning Cycle. Kolb theorized that learning is most successful when an experience is followed by processing the experience: Going through the Experiential Learning Cycle means guiding employees through a reflection on what the lesson meant to them, how it relates to their current job or situation, and what they plan to do differently as a result.

The Cycle In Action

Let’s look at an example of how you can use the Experiential Learning Cycle effectively when deploying Microlearning content

You have a problem: As a manager, you notice cliques on your team—subsets of people who silo themselves with others who have similar working styles. You want your team to embrace diversity and seek out different perspectives on their work.

You devise a solution: You assign your whole team training on working in diverse groups which focuses on how to leverage differences on your team to achieve better results.

Instead of stopping there, you complete the cycle: Rather than just ‘hoping for the best’ from that training, you then meet with the team after everyone has completed the training and ask questions to the group:

  • What stood out to you when you went through the training? What was surprising or meaningful? In this example, you’d ask questions until the team comes to the point you’re hoping for: Teams develop better ideas when they seek out different perspectives.
  • What does this mean for us? How does this apply to our team and our situation? Ask until someone points out that your team currently doesn’t function this way, and that as a result maybe they’re not doing as well as they could be.
  • What should we do differently going forward? How can we change and be better? Ask until the team comes to the conclusion that they need to be less siloed.

Voilà! Through strategic use of the Experiential Learning Cycle, you’ve helped your team process their online learning experience, allowing them to see what actions they need to take. Instead of the new behaviors coming as a mandate from you, they come about through the team’s collective realization. Now you as a manager can reinforce these learnings in group settings and review progress towards your outcomes over time.

Through Microlearning, your employees have easy access to expert, consistent content. And by processing it live, you access the effectiveness and personalization of in-person interaction. Bring the training from the computer to your meetings and conversations, and your employees will be more likely to actually learn from it and transfer those learnings into their jobs. For more advice on how to incorporate a Microlearning strategy in your team’s day-to-day, download our white paper, Microlearning: The Modern Strategy for the Modern Workplace.