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Improve Your eLearning with Experiential Learning

Improve Your eLearning with Experiential Learning

Way back in 350 BCE, Aristotle wrote “…for the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”  And way before that, the Chinese philosopher, Confucius, wrote:

I hear and I forget
I see and I remember
I do, and I understand!

In the early 1900s, Albert Einstein said, “All true learning is experience, everything else is just information.”

The idea of Experiential Learning (EL) as it is formally called today, has been around a very long time.  In simple terms, experiential learning puts experience at the center of the learning process, makes it more hands on.    David A. Kolb created the Experiential Learning Theory and defines experiential learning as “the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combination of grasping and transforming experience.”

Kolb believed that learning was more holistic and his theory of Experiential Learning is based on four factors: Concrete Experience, Abstract Conceptualization, Reflective Observations, and Active Experimentation. According to Kolb, these 4 elements form a cycle or process through which learners are able to observe, understand, grasp, practice (experiment) and learn.

Connecting knowledge to experience is the transformative piece for learners.  The image below makes a clear point—that knowledge is much more powerful once we connect to our experiences.

Knowledge vs Experience

Image Source: Buffer

How can we make elearning experiential for maximum benefit?  Here’s some ideas:


Simulations in elearning allow learners to experiment with situations that mimic real work environments. Experimenting allows learners to apply their knowledge in different scenarios and situations.

In many of Vubiz’s Human Resource online courses, learners are taken through a series of situations and simulations including interviewing a potential employee.  They are given real world scenarios and simulations to prepare for Hiring Right.  In this way, elearning simulations enable learners to be better prepared and master skills before they apply them at work.

Simulations are really effective for health & safety topics, operating instructions and procedures.  Create a simulation for a new machine or process and build in interactivities that let the learners engage with the interface, understand the workings, and see for themselves what happens when they press a button or make a misstep.

Real Life Scenarios

Real Life Scenarios are a great way for learners to connect to experience.   With scenarios in elearning, you can emphasize the practical application of knowledge and skills.  Scenarios immerse your learners in real-life situations so they can experience the consequences.

Branching scenarios work well as they offer questions and demand decisions from employees. Each decision they take will lead them on to a different path. Learners will immediately experience the consequence of their choices and see how it leads them to progress.  In our Harassment Prevention elearning courses, we use many real work scenarios to let the employee experience what the right and wrong actions look and feel like.

Bring everyday situations into elearning. Include experiences like a role play, recording telephone greetings, responding to emails within the scenario. Animated or real-life video is a great way to simulate meetings, interviews, or difficult situations.

Social Learning

Social Learning refers to the idea that new behaviors can be learned by observing and imitating others socially.

In today’s world and especially with a pandemic, social often involves social media.  You can use social media to boost experiential learning in online courses.

Social media apps like Facebook,  TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter can add creativity and connection to elearning.  Social media offers increased student engagement, especially in a virtual environment.   During the pandemic, teachers have gotten creative with new ways to grab and keep student’s attention.   I’ve seen firsthand teachers use tiktok to make art, math and science more interesting.  Can the same be done with elearning?  Absolutely.

Encourage collaboration and interaction by including social networking in elearning:

  • Social learning lets learners observe and share knowledge with others.
  • Group discussions add more engagement and help make elearning experiential.  Blogs, discussion forums, user-generated videos, and podcasts foster discussions.
  • Social media gives learners help on-demand which lets them share success stories enriching the learning experience.
  • Tools like Google+, Hangouts, Zoom nurture connection
  • Live virtual rooms offer role-play opportunities.
  • Use social media to let learners compete with their peers.
  • Many LMS systems have options to offer question and answers.  This adds more interactivity and allows learners to read other question/answers.  One easy way is to add a FAQ document and share on social media.
  • On Twitter, use course hashtags to encourage debate. Twitter is also great for accessing experts or professionals.
  • Use Pinterest to share ideas, inspiration and resources
  • LinkedIn builds connection with the business community
  • Feature small parts of your course on YouTube

Sharing posts and information with other students promotes more engagement.  If learners interact with course materials and each other on social media, the learning becomes more experiential and rewarding.


Gaming is an easy way to experiential learning to elearning. Online games help learners to learn by doing.  For example, there are many ways to add this gaming interactivity:  mysteries, hidden objects, mix and match, online quizzes and knowledge checks.

Gamification is engaging and motivating and challenging to learners.  Offering challenges increases the learner’s investment in the material. Other ideas are creating puzzles, or unlocking sections of the course.

Get Feedback

Experiential Learning relies on feedback from students about their experiences, to ensure maximum engagement.  Make sure you have supplied learners with the tools and motivation to provide feedback on their elearning experience.

You can only improve your elearning by weaving elements of experiential learning throughout your online training.  Experiential learning provides higher engagement, higher retention, and improved student performance.  Research shows that students remember 80 percent of the learning content with experiential learning compared to only 5-10 percent when they listen to a lecture.

Experiential or hands-on learning is effective for both in-house and remote employees – and maybe more important than ever for remote employees in efforts to keep them connected to the experience.  With experiential learning, employees can practice solving real-life issues in a risk-free environment, whether they are working remote or not.

Transform online courses into a real learning experience, and you’ll improve comprehension, engagement and the overall experience for the learner.