Stop Making Theoretical Learning

adult learning course creator course design learning development learning experience design Jul 02, 2021

Create experiential learning. Stop lecturing at people with theoretical concepts.

Unless you've got skin in the game, got boots-on-the-ground, got your hands dirty, or whatever you want to call it, it’s not possible for you to truly understand how to do something. This is essential in creating courses and recreating this for our learners.

Let's tackle both sides of this topic: getting your skin in the game as a course creator and making experiences to get your learner's skin in the game.

Getting your skin in the game

It's impossible to truly realize how to do something or how hard it is until you're in the middle. Like calling emergency services. It seems straightforward until it's a high-pressure situation. That's when it's not theoretical, it's practical.

And when it's all theoretical, how do you sell something? Or how do you create a business?

You need to know how hard it is to make a sale or to build a business before you start instructing other people. Have you ever tried to create learning for something but you've never tried doing it?

Wrong Approach. When creating a learning experience that requires someone to get messy and actually do something hard, I want to observe those learners out in the wild. I want to watch a struggling banker have that awkward sales conversation using the model that they're supposed to use. I want to watch a really great salesperson have a successful conversation. I want to watch a tradesperson, feel that piece of wood in my own hands, see how heavy it is, look and see what it takes to turn it into a piece of furniture.

I want to see the nuances. That's how you can get really deep into that learner's experience to find what their needs are, how you do the activity, what they're going to experience and feel —only then can you actually start to create an authentic and substantial learning experience.

Don't do to others what you wouldn't already have done yourself.

You need to already have tried something, have figured out your process of what has worked and what hasn't worked, before you can start to teach other people.

Getting your learner's skin in the game

Even if you've got your own skin in the game and you have the lived experience, it can be so easy for us as learning professionals to create theoretical learning.

But theoretical learning is only so effective and putting theory into practice the first time can be hard and scary.

There's no better way to push a learner to get their skin in the game than creating a scenario or an environment where they have to test what they're learning. People love when learning is relevant for their work —when it feels "real-world." So be careful not to use outlandish scenarios; instead find opportunities for practical scenarios.

The more that we can create these environments for people to successfully practice on the job, the better. If we have the opportunity, we need to bring that training to the job and create a learning experience outside of the classroom. This could be something on the job working with a mentor, working with a peer, or some other way to actually try stuff out.

This topic isn't going anywhere my friend. We're going to talk more about how to create these kinds of experiences in upcoming podcasts and upcoming blog posts.

Through conversations with global leaders and the credibility of personal industry, Your Greatest Work digs deeper into learning design in useful and applicable ways. Listen to more of this talk in Episode 4. Let's start the conversation about making your current work into your greatest work. Listen to the most recent episode here.


We love to hear from our community.
Let's talk about your course, program or learning offer.

Get in Touch

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.