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Stephanie Morgan Are you neglecting experiential learning?

There has been a movement towards digital learning in L&D over the last 5 or so years. In fact, Fosway’s research tells us that currently 71% of L&D professionals are already progressing in their digital transformation journey.

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It’s not surprising that so many of us are getting behind digital learning, as the benefits are significant, including a 69% increase in employee capability and a 55% increase in learner engagement (to name a few).

The benefits of digital learning transformation are clear, but what about any potential risks involved?

Towards Maturity’s latest benchmark report, The Transformation Curve, highlights one potential roadblock some are facing when starting out their digital transformation journey. The research shows that we in L&D can fall into a trap of thinking the more technology used the better, which can lead to neglecting other – equally important – methods of delivery.

And it seems that one method in particular is the first to let slip… I’m talking about experiential learning.

Experiential learning

Unlike digital learning, experiential learning is all about learning through experience, so can be anything from traditional face-to-face delivery to forum theatre and training with horses.

Certain aspects of experiential learning tend to be labelled as old-fashioned, or even outdated, perhaps because it’s not as accessible, fast paced, or as ‘on-the-go’ as it’s digital counterpart.

Despite this, experiential learning has some really fantastic benefits that shouldn’t be ignored.

The benefits

The human factor

Experiential learning adds a human factor to the learning process. In fact, it’s generally a more personal form of learning, as Envision Experience says:

“(a person) learns more quickly and retains more information when the subject matter pertains to them personally. The act of doing makes learning extremely personal.”

Time to reflect

Reflection is a key part of experiential learning. Delivering experiences alongside theories or concepts and then providing your learners with time to reflect actually engages more parts of the brain and establishes a stronger personal connection.


Experiential learning can give learners more opportunities to practice the skills they have learned. Take forum theatre for example, where a person who is learning how to manage difficult situations has the opportunity to practice these skills in a ‘real life’ setting. And, practicing a skill actually strengthens the neural connection in our brains, making us learn faster and better.

Peer learning

Many forms of experiential learning include group activities and peer learning, which has a host of its’ own benefits. Going back to the human factor, experiential learning provides team bonding and professional networking opportunities for your learners. Your learners are also likely to be more focused and engaged when they are working alongside their peers.

The blend

Now that we have looked at the benefits of experiential learning, I want to emphasise what I think is the most important thing to take on board when creating digital and experiential learning solutions. And that’s blended learning.

What we learned from the Towards Maturity data is that it’s not about swapping one for the other. The most successful blended learning solutions will incorporate all kinds of delivery methods into a blend, in a way that suits your learners’ needs and meets your organisation’s objectives.

Take DGP for example - in a recent case study published via Towards Maturity, they demonstrated how they used online communities to introduce the trainer and learners to each other before the classroom learning took place, creating more engagement and a greater commitment to learn before the learning even began. This is a great example of how important creating a well-balanced blend is to successful digital AND experiential learning.

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If you’re interested in finding out more about blended learning, take a look at our recent whitepaper on the Fatal Errors of Blended Learning. We take a deeper look into how to avoid errors in your blended solution and provide some practical tips on how to incorporate current learning trends.

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Stephanie Morgan FLPI, Director of Learning Solutions, Bray Leino Learning

Sharing ideas and observations to help improve performance.

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