For years, clever learning professionals have strived to find the perfect balance of instructional integrity and amusement. Many took to framing what they did as educational entertainment or "edutainment." They integrated games, jokes, construction activities, theater and more into their workshops and sessions in an effort to capture imaginations and retain the attention of busy learners.
In today's workplace, however, every minute matters. Many organizations can no longer afford the luxury of education as entertainment. Given contemporary time pressures - and stiff competition for mind-share - forward-thinking learning leaders are trading gratuitous "fun and games" for what's more essential and effective: authentic engagement.
Education that engages
Authentic engagement in the learning process may have fewer bells and whistles... but it delivers greater results. It allows people to connect with new ideas, consider and internalize what they need for improved performance, and commit - really commit - to the changes necessary to put new skills and knowledge into practice on the job.
Whereas edutainment tends to be limited to the training experience, authentic engagement in learning (or "engagucation") is broader and more expansive. It starts long before someone arrives at a workshop or begins a development activity, and extends into the fabric of the work that can be enriched by the learning.
engagement is not available upon demand. It's less like today's Keurig and more
like the old-style percolator: instead of coffee at the push of a button,
coffee grounds and water were put together, with heat applied and time allowed
for one to permeate the other. Sustainable
learning that delivers tangible results operates similarly. It prepares
people for a learning experience in advance, planting seeds that can begin to
grow well before the actual event or activity ever begins and laying the
foundation for acceptance and integration.
Preparing employees for sustainable learning
To get people ready for an engaging learning experience, try:
1. Connecting the dots. There's little that's more valuable to behavior change than helping people proactively put what they'll be learning into context. Relevance is a key driver of engagement so it's essential to ensure that everyone knows what's in it for them to participate, invest their energy, and embed new skills and knowledge into their work.
2. Flipping the classroom. Rather than spending valuable face-to-face time on lectures, group reading, or even videos, authentic engagement can be engineered earlier by providing content in advance. When people have the opportunity to individually explore new ideas, acquire a base of knowledge and consider how this information connects to the work they do, the quality of any learning experience they engage in is elevated - right along with their engagement.
3. Holding up the mirror. Data speaks volumes, especially when it's data related to the individual. Feedback from employees, customers, peers and supervisors can be just the reality check needed to activate authentic engagement in a learning process. It can provide the clarity and motivation required for learning and change. And knowing it's possible to revisit the process at a later date to get a "then and now" snapshot can help people sustain their attention and commitment over time.
Why engagucation trumps edutainment
With a firm foundation of engagement established in advance, both formal and informal learning activities can more focused, application-oriented and even shorter in many cases. This leaves learners not just more informed about the topic, but better able to incorporate it into the work they do... and more energized to do so.
The pressure to do more with less is not letting up. Every function must find ways to drive efficiency while at the same time dramatically enhance the quality and quantity of results. Learning is no different. Shifting from the edutainment to engagucation model is a significant step toward making this happen. Tapping the authentic engagement required to ensure sustainable behavior change is the most powerful and cost-effective strategy available for ensuring organizational success in today's competitive environment.