6 Benefits Of Vicarious Learning In eLearning Courses

6 Benefits Of Vicarious Learning In eLearning Courses
Summary: Some of the most powerful educational experiences of our lives are those that have nothing to do with hands-on instruction. By observing behaviors and watching others completing tasks and tackling challenges, we have the opportunity to build new skill sets and broaden our knowledge base through vicarious learning. In this article, I’ll give you some valuable tips on how to take full advantage of the many benefits of vicarious learning in eLearning courses.

Vicarious Learning Benefits in eLearning

Every day we are given the gift of knowledge. Even if we may not be receiving direct instruction, through observation we gain the ability to expand our personal and professional knowledge. But what are the advantages of incorporating a vicarious learning approach in online learning environments, and is it a truly effective strategy, especially given that vicarious learning often takes place outside of the virtual classroom?  In this article, you’ll learn about a few of the most notable benefits of vicarious learning in eLearning courses.

  1. Makes the eLearning experience fun and engaging.
    Often in vicarious eLearning environments, learners simply forget that they are actually learning. They are able to explore a topic or task by observing it, first hand, which immediately creates a sense of interactivity and immersion. They learn new tasks and expand their knowledge base in a fun and engaging way, rather than just listening to a lecture or completing a page in a workbook. In some instances, learners may not even realize they are involved in an eLearning activity until after the fact, when they must apply the knowledge they have gathered in real world situations. Their brains perceive it as a form of entertainment, rather than a traditional learning activity, which eliminates the boredom and frustration that can stand in the way of effective eLearning experiences.
  2. Takes risk out of the equation.
    There are some challenges in life that we must face on our own in order to learn and gain new personal experiences. We make mistakes but we grow as a result of them and end up learning more about ourselves and the world. However, there are many obstacles and challenges that we can overcome by engaging in vicarious eLearning experiences. Vicarious learning allows learners to collect eLearning experiences and insight without having to go through costly trial and error. For example, if employees need to know how to deal with a customer service issue, they can watch an instructional video that outlines every step of the task, so that they learn how to interact with customers confidently and equipped with the information they need to get the job done, without the risk that something might go wrong.
  3. Improves knowledge retention.
    When learners watch someone carry out a task or can learn about a particular topic through observation, they are more likely to retain the knowledge they are being given. This is because they are able to see it firsthand. Instead of simply being told how to do or reading a step-by-step walkthrough on the screen, they have the opportunity to watch and then mimic the process. They can absorb the information at their own pace and ensure that they completely understand every aspect of the task before committing it to their long term memory and performing it on their own when the need arises.
  4. Simplifies complicated subject matters.
    Even those who may be well versed on a particular subject will find certain complex tasks or complicated ideas difficult to comprehend. In these instances, vicarious learning can be an invaluable tool, as it simplifies a subject matter that may be more challenging to grasp. For example, if there is a task that involves a myriad of steps, learners may watch a video or live presentation of someone going through the process. They can watch how the presenter carries out each step, the mannerisms and what skills need to complete the task. As a result, even a complicated subject matter has the potential to be easily absorbed and imitated by the learners.
  5. Learning can take place when it’s most convenient for the learners. 
    Vicarious learning is, by nature, a social and informal learning approach. It gives learners the power to learn whenever it is most convenient for them, and on their own terms. If they want to learn more about a topic, they can simply watch a video walkthrough or presentation to expand their understanding. Every day they have the opportunity to become more informed and better educated. When creating your eLearning course, you can offer them spontaneous self-guided vicarious learning online experiences by including links to videos and tutorials learners may find useful.
  6. Stresses real world benefits and applications of the subject matter.
    When learners can see the subject matter in action, they have the ability to see not only how it will benefit them in the real world, but how they can apply everything they’ve learned in their personal or professional lives. It makes the information relatable and real, because they now know how to use it most effectively when they step outside of the virtual classroom. Rather than just reading about the topic, vicarious learning stresses how every idea and process can better their lives in some way and makes them aware of why it’s beneficial for them to actively participate.

Vicarious learning in eLearning courses can provide your audience with a myriad of benefits. However, it’s also important to note that vicarious learning goes both ways. Negative learning behaviors can also be acquired. Therefore, eLearning professionals must always ensure that the eLearning content is accurate, motivational and gives learners the information and tools they need to get real value from the overall eLearning experience.

Another indirect instructional design approach is social learning, wherein learners can benefit from the experience and insights of their peers. Read the article 8 Top Tips To Create An Effective Social Learning Strategy to find social learning tips, advice, and techniques for creating a successful social learning strategy that engages learners and encourages collaborative eLearning.