Asha Pandey

How to Design eLearning Programs that Drive Deliberate Practice

Asha PandeyBangalore (IN), March 2022 - Deliberate practice is an effective strategy that can be employed to develop and improve skills through eLearning. Let's explore some methods learning and development (L&D) teams can use to implement deliberate practice when developing asynchronous training solutions.

Companies are investigating why most upskilling and re-skilling initiatives fail to create the desired impact, and an increasing number are recognizing the advantage of upskilling employees versus hiring for new talent. However, skill requirements are evolving very rapidly. Not only does this mean that organizations should hire people who are flexible, adaptive, and know how to learn, but training efforts - either upskilling or re-skilling - should be able to build employee capabilities that drive performance.

Most training is information heavy, but lacks direction and deliberate practice opportunities. Some L&D teams tend to focus on basic metrics such as number of attendees, consumption, and reaction results instead of measuring the impact on business performance, but it doesn't matter how much instruction takes place if employees are not given ample opportunity to practice what they learn in progressively higher stakes and realistic situations.

Learning should be designed for specific skills, leading with information acquisition but followed by deliberate practice. Deliberate practice is most effective when coupled with robust feedback loops.

In most organizations, learners can build expertise when employees share a common set of core capabilities and skills, including things like innovation, creativity, communication, stakeholder management, and business industry knowledge. Beyond a wide-ranging, limited working knowledge of those shared competencies, the most effective employees identify specialized competencies and skills on which they should focus and deepen their expertise.

Designing learning programs to drive deliberate practice and improve the application of learning on the job is founded on the following principles:

  • breaking down training programs into clearly defined specific skills. These should be concrete skills that can be explained, modeled, and practiced.
  • creating specific learning solutions that build the foundational knowledge of defined skills. This is the knowledge acquisition phase of learning.
  • adding deliberate practice of those skills, initially in low-risk situations where participants are safe to ask questions, experiment, fail, and try again. During these deliberate practice sessions, employees should receive honest and clear feedback from coaches or mentors to help drive progress and development.

The following strategies have been shown to be effective when supporting deliberate practice:

  • microlearning - Using short bursts of easily consumable content allows learners to acquire new information and skills on the job and in the flow of work.
  • gamification - Gamification is a great way to engage learners in non-threatening ways that helps them apply what they've learned and encourages them to come back to learning content as often as they need it.
  • simulation-based learning - Using simulations is another way to give learners a low-stakes opportunity to apply new information. Simulations are helpful, either done asynchronously or with live coaches and mentors, because learners can receive immediate feedback on their progress, reassess their approach and then try again.
  • blended learning - Approaching learners from a number of modalities reinforces newly gained knowledge and creates opportunities for subject-matter experts to give feedback during practice sessions.
  • social learning - One of the best ways to solidify knowledge is when it can be shared with others. Social learning allows participants to learn new information, apply it, assess their rate of success, and share lessons learned with others. This also promotes the effectiveness of training and encourages others to actively participate.

Deliberate practice (practice that includes coaching, feedback, and iterative application of new knowledge) can greatly increase the upskilling and re-skilling of employees. Training teams can use the strategies listed above to build eLearning and include directed practice to decrease learner time to proficiency.