I had some ‘fun’, or should I say, ‘engaging’ responses to my post last week about engagement. There were some interesting views about how to elevate participation and to increase engagement as a means of enhancing the learning experience for all, and to impact the outcomes for those making the investments. As you might suspect, virtually all of the feedback was from ‘industry professionals’ and almost none was from the subjects of our work; the people attending classes and expected to make use of the learning. They may have a different view of how engagement plays a role in their success.
Every conversation around the topic dealt with the view from the instructor perspective. This may explain one of the greatest challenges we face in increasing engagement; we’re too focused on the least important element of engagement and not supporting two other critical factors that lead to success; the role of the instructor and the best way for learners to incorporate the materials that are presented to them.
Sage or Guide
People learn best, not by passively absorbing information and processing it, but by interacting with the materials in a way they have typically not done in the past. Getting people to “go beyond” takes more than creative program design and a capable instructor. People need to be challenged in different ways for real change in attitudes and behavior to occur, and while engagement with the instructor is a great start, there is so much opportunity for more. We often miss the potential to have every learner participating in the dual-role of instructor too. Engagement between participants leads to better outcomes than passive attention to the Sage on the Stage. A dynamic facilitator will leverage the entire class to reinforce critical points or help deliver them so that every learner is also a teacher. The instructor who gets their learners actively engaged and involved can transition to becoming the Guide on the Side harnessing the embedded audience energy into a force that extends the learning process well beyond the instruction and leading to the next step; engagement.
Engaging With Course Material
One of the big pluses of peer-driven engagement is the ability to get participants to engage directly with the material itself. Being challenged by peers, having to defend an opinion or challenge a position, demands that people take in the subject matter, and after some critical thought, process it, present it, and potentially to defend it again. I’m not suggesting that learning without this sort of dynamic engagement has no value, but too often it’s the type of education that satisfies check-marks and KPI’s, not the demands of a thriving enterprise.
It takes more than technology to deliver real engagement and relying strictly on technology will always leave you and your learners, short-changed. But building active engagement into the design phase of your Live Virtual, In-Person or hybrid Virtual/In-Person delivery, will allow you to select the tools that drive your desired outcomes. Unless everyone is involved, engagement will continue to be limited, leaving instructors feeling that their classes lack the spark that they remember driving their passion for a career in training, while learners see training as a burden rather than as an opportunity.