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4 Ways to Make Formal Learning Stick

It's official, formal learning is here to stay. There are so many benefits and advantages: networking, coaching, practice, and tried and true methods. But the reality of today’s learning is that formal learning is not scalable nor the only solution. Overall, the disadvantages include: the forgetting curve, the cost, scaling, scheduling, and time. Today, digital learning can help make formal learning better. Think of the Bionic Man (Six Million Dollar Man, TV, late ‘70’s). The catch phrase at the opening said “We can rebuild him; we have the technology" – true today of modern learning. And in the process, we can make formal learning stick.

There are a few approaches or ideas that can help.  

Flipping the Classroom

The idea of flipping the classroom comes from the effort to take the best parts of classroom training (coaching and practice) and move the more boring or time-consuming parts out to virtual or self-paced efforts. Typically, it means that learners do some pre-work before class to “learn” and go to the facilitated portion for real practice and help. Great concept, not always easy to execute.  

First of all, you need a good methodology to encourage people to actually DO the pre-work. That also means it must be well designed and engaging. Here is where micro learning can be effective, especially with video, immersive, and interactive creation tools. It is also helpful to have tools to enable analytics.  

Given those parameters, the classroom (or formal piece) can be extremely effective. We are all familiar with the 70/20/10 principal. Flipping the classroom allows the whole program to use both the experiential and relationship-based techniques, thus increasing effectiveness.

The last part of flipping the classroom involves tacking on content for retention. This includes more practice and coaching as well as references and resources. Altogether, the elements build stickiness.  

      RELATED ARTICLE: Instructor-led to Instructor-less

Blended Learning

Those of you who have read my other blogs know that I am a big proponent of blended learning. While this idea is not a new one, how we implement it in digital learning does change. In general, blended learning involves mixing modalities or types of learning. We have done this for a while by addressing the different learning styles. People learn through auditory, kinesthetic, and visual (some add reading). Most of us have a preference, but it is that mix that helps to make a string of elements engaging.  

In Digital Learning, that mix also means blending formal, informal, internal, and external content. A true blended learning experience would provide a path with as many elements as makes sense, without overwhelming the learner. Thus, to help make formal learning stick, add in some informal content. That would be content like articles from the web, videos, podcasts, blogs, and more. Most of these elements adapt well to micro learning.  

For example, when building a skill such as a global mindset, you can bring in articles from trusted resources, videos from thought leaders, and an interactive SCORM eLearning to build the knowledge. Then you can run a virtual class to practice the concepts and to get coaching, followed by resources and reminders and virtual labs.


A hot topic now, retention tools and ideas fight that forgetting curve. These come in many shapes and sizes. The most simplistic would be emails after a class to reinforce the key points.  But today, there are tools to build virtual labs and assessments. There are tools to automatically send information out to restate key points. And there are practice tools for many disciplines. You can build great retention reminders using tools like knowbly™ by creating micro learning that focuses on key points.  

Regardless of how you create the content, this is an important step. How many of you have been to a great two-day class that you have forgotten in a month or less?  

      RELATED ARTICLE: Micro Learning for Macro Results

Executing a Plan to Make Learning Sticky

Work with your objectives for the whole program. If you have been able to create a blended approach that breaks the learning down into pre-learning, practice and coaching, followed by retention, stay true to your goals. For micro learning, have just one objective. Prepare your facilitators for new coaching roles.  

Digital Learning provides those of us who are designers or architects with new opportunities. We can upskill and learn new methods. In the process, we will be creating more engaging content and building skills that stick. Have fun with it!

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