Building the Bridge to Performance in the Brain

Isn’t it interesting that neuroscience has become a buzz topic of the L&D space? The brain itself has always been a part of learning and yet there has been a resurgence of research regarding learning, memory and cognitive approaches in neuroscience. There are many neuroscience tools that we can use to assist us in designing better learning and I find that the best come from science, not vendors trying to sell you neuroscience. Read on.

Everlasting performance

Knowledge retention is a huge factor when designing learning. It can become a challenge because we have to come up with ways for successful knowledge transfer. There needs to be techniques that shorten the transfer rate from learning to application. Once employees retain this information, it can be retrieved quickly when they need it to perform. Thanks to science we can rely on some cognitive learning strategies that can be applied to the learning solutions we are creating.

Repeated Retrieval

This is an approach where learners will recall information from memory. The learner does this a few times to help strengthen the connection of the information stored in memory. This allows the curve of forgetting to become more gentle.  An example of this is bite sized pieces of Q&A being sent to learners to reinforce what they learned. This enables them to practice retrieving the information while they are in their jobs rather then taking them out of the contextual environment. This could be an app on their mobile device or even an email to them.

Duolingo is an app that does this very well. It starts out the learning with an assessment and asks questions upfront and based on the answer either moves them to the next question or provides them with remedial training until they are successful. It also requires them to use the language in all modalities, speech, reading and writing for full comprehension.

The Spacing Effect

Also known as spaced practice, this proven method has a learner review the same information or slight increase of information in specific period of time. We all know how cramming is the college method, this is the antithesis of that. I have seen many solutions where the learner is given short bursts of information for as little as 5 minutes a day. Then the next burst will be the same information to help strengthen that connection so it can be stored into long term memory. This also allows the learning to be embedded into their work day, keeping them in context.


The process of reflection allows learners to stop and digest the information they were given to learn. So perhaps after taking that elearning course or session they will be given time to review what they learned but also will create their own understanding of it as it resonates with them. When you can understand something in your own way, there is better encoding of the information. It’s easier to retain your own understanding than someone else’s because you’ve re-wired to your brain.

These are a just a few of the areas that I am working on implementing into my work everyday. I continue to do research on various neuroscience topics in the areas of memory, learning, cognitive load, and theories.


Let’s Get Serious About Mobile Learning and Performance Support!

One of the amazing ways to learn is mobile learning. I think it’s great that someone who is 200 miles away from their desk can easily go to their smartphone and learn or get the support they need from it. The implications for performance support are staggering for so many professions, not just the typical corporate sales, marketing, etc. So many people can benefit from mobile learning as a performance support tool.

Here’s a thought: an electrician who has been in business for 15 years has a challenging job today. He must change a bulb that if not done correctly, will blow the breaker for an entire warehouse that is producing retail items for stores causing a major production loss. Instead of that electrician taking a chance on memory he can go to his mobile device and watch a video of an electrician change that exact bulb correctly and then he can change it himself. Or he can view steps to replace the bulb successfully. The great part about this piece of performance support is that it’s right there when he needs it, at the moment of need. Additionally, once he watches the video or views the steps, he might not need to access that content again because now he remembers how to change that bulb because he has completed three replacements already.

If we go about our day and start to count how many times we Google something we don’t know whether it’s a recipe or a fact about a person in the news, or how to get rid of fruit flies (personal experience), we access this content at the moment of need. Once we get what we need, it is unlikely that we will need to access the content again once we have encoded this knowledge into our working memory. So I start to think about what forms does this come in? I can say that when I didn’t know something that I needed to complete my job I did Google it. But for more specific and organizationally mandated content, companies will have to develop this in-house.

One of the ways we as learning professionals can start deciding on whether mobile will be effective is knowing what the context of this support or learning the performer will need and how they get it. Mobile is great as a performance support tool, but that’s not all! We need to decide if mobile is the right solution to the problem. We should’t start investing in making all of our content mobile ready because probably half of it will not be used. That being said, mobile is anything that is not a desktop in an office and stationed. So a laptop, tablet and smartphone are all devices for mobile. But the context of what the learner will need and how they are going to get it is more important than how it’s being delivered. Once we know what context the learner will be in, we can then decide the appropriate medium for the solution.

I think when an organization says they are mobile-ready this should mean they have identified several opportunities where mobile can be a successful solution. It should’t mean that they are going to take all the eLearning courses in their LMS and make then accessible from a smartphone through an app. They should have a plan of how the content will get to the learner and quickly.

Their are some great opportunities for mobile to be integrated into a learning solution. Mobile can also be just one component of the learning solution. What it really comes down to is making sure that we identify gap in performance or the learning opportunity. If mobile doesn’t fit the bill then that is ok, as long as we are doing our due diligence to the learner by giving them what they need to succeed and not just creating a solution for mobile’s sake.

We recently had a #lrnchat last Thursday and the topic was on the Forgetting Curve. A great way to reinforce learning is the use of performance support. Due to the fact that training is viewed as an event, the forgetting curve kicks in and the learner cannot recall what they have learned during the training session. Another great implication for not just mobile, but performance support in general is that it now becomes part of the learning “process”.  Instead of having the single or 3-day training event with no follow up, we can give our learners performance support to combat the forgetting curve and also give more value to how we provide solutions. They can continue to build on what was learned during the training event or course. A entire training event may not even be needed!

As a side note, wearable technology is another great opportunity for performance support and learning. The Apple Watch was unveiled this month. It will be exciting to see what this will bring to our profession. I promise this is not the beginning of “wLearning” (Sorry David Kelly, I used it!) I am still so amazed how quickly everything is changing with how we gather and learn information, perform, and share curated content.

I would love to know what everyone else is doing and talking about in the mobile area and performance support. If you have a comment or would like to add your thoughts, please add to the comments below or tweet me and we can open up the conversation.



Welcome to LearnHaus

For years, professionals in the learning field have worked very hard to design and deliver training that is effective and increase performance improvement all while meeting the goals and needs of the organizations they serve.  Each professional has a different skill set that can help improve the deficit that is occurring across all organizations. We have been calling this the skills gap. As my career has taken me this far I have observed the different types of learning professionals. Some are coaches, some are facilitators, and some are talent managers. What I have been fascinated by is how we design and create learning. Instructional design has been around for quite some time and the different approaches to it are well founded. I would like to take these and use as the situation calls for it.  I also find that adding technology to learning can enhance the overall learning experience. eLearning and mobile are highly valuable. But something struck me one day that I think changed the way I view the learning profession: Neuroscience and technology.

To understand how the mind and brain function are somewhat of a mystery to us who are not a scientist or behavioral health professional. The impact of memory and learning is profound in our profession. The knowledge we intend our learners to use to perform to make the organization successful won’t be learned because we are forgetting the actual body part that makes this possible. It’s not just about knowing that chunking information is helpful for the learner, but it is also about how the different processes in the brain interact and can counteract the ability to effectively learn new skills and competencies.

Some of you like me are taking a leap into this area so we can make a difference in the learning and performance process of our learners. I am just scratching the surface on the brain. There is so much that we know and that we don’t know. I intend to use this information to create learning experiences and environments that will help our workforce to be better.

Along with the research that I pick up I also plan to apply this to a variety of mediums. Technology will be coupled with this research to create and construct these learning experiences. I think that eLearning and now mobile learning can enhance these experiences. I don’t think that technology alone is the solution. A blended learning approach is what I think will have the most impact. The important thing is that it depends on what the learner needs. This is what will unlock learning’s impact on performance. A 3-hour eLearning course will be  a waste of everyone’s time if that is not what the learner needs, if it’s even learning at all. We can actually make learning experiences personal by designing for the brains of the individuals that require it. Of course what someone might need is just a 20 minute course or a performance support tool on their device. For that 20 minute course it should engage our brains (learners will not be alerted that their brains are engaged, they will simply click through the course). Without the brain we would not function. The networks in the brain are the lifeblood of successful memory and performance. By re-enforcing these networks and creating new ones effectively, performance will increase. The secret is how we build learning that will foster the brain’s strength of these networks.

There is a lot to uncover and redefine in this profession. I will be learning a  lot about these areas and I intend to share my journey with you. I also hope that we can learn something through this experience as well. This is an exciting time in our profession and the engagement I am seeing in the field right now is incredible. I am excited to take this leap into the new age of learning and performance. The conversations that I hope to have will impact our field in many ways that will once again change the face of learning. Welcome to LearnHaus.

BRAIN                                         TECHNOLOGY                                    PERFORMANCE