Make Online Learning An Engaging Experience With The AFT Model
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AFT Model: How To Create Engaging Online Learning

Two of the problems in this regard are related to experiential learning and engagement, two important aspects of education that are somewhat elusive in eLearning environments. These are weaknesses that can be surmounted with the AFT model.

Experiential learning and engagement are crucial factors of education. When employees are given opportunities to learn by doing, they tend to boost their job performance and productivity. When employees are engaged by courses and learning materials, they are more likely to retain knowledge, complete their courses satisfactorily and look forward to future learning opportunities.

The Reality Of eLearning In The Business World

Let's say a mortgage lending bank wishes to make its loan officers savvier about real-estate appraisals. While this is something that is certainly suitable to deliver as an eLearning course, it can be a dry topic. If the learning materials are limited to text and video, chances are that the loan officers will not be too excited about this course.

Unless the aforementioned course is designed with the AFT model in mind, the following is bound to happen:

  • The loan officers will likely focus on learning for the purpose of getting the course out of the way. They will study and pass exams as needed, and they may participate in online discussions about the course only if they are required to do so.
  • If this is not mandatory training, many loan officers will probably abandon the course. The dropout rates of eLearning are very high; academic researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have found that the rate of students who abandon massive open online courses is higher than 85%.
  • Since this is not a classroom course, the loan officers will probably complete it in isolation and without having an opportunity to discuss the topic with their peers.

The scenarios above are part of the reality of eLearning in the business world, but it doesn't have to be. The mortgage lending bank probably wants a better outcome from its real estate appraisal training idea, and this is where AFT comes into play.

How The AFT Model Works

By incorporating the action-feedback-trigger model, companies will get the most benefit from their eLearning programs. This model can also be applied to classroom learning, but it is quite effective when it is used with online education, particularly in the case of corporate training and professional development.

Following is a brief explanation of the 3 learning factors of the AFT model:

  • Action
    Experiential learning involves turning lessons into activities that will reinforce the knowledge acquired. The idea is to develop actions that students can work on based on the lessons they receive.
  • Feedback
    This is the first step towards engagement, and it works better when it follows an activity. The goal is to make students aware of their performance throughout the course and not just after taking tests. Feedback does not have to come exclusively from instructors, it can also be given by managers and executives.
  • Trigger
    This is an action that students receive after getting feedback. In eLearning, triggers are usually messages and notifications that remind students about what they have learned, and how they are progressing through the course. Similar to feedback, triggers can be issued by managers, supervisors, and even co-workers.

When the AFT model is applied to professional eLearning, students will learn more efficiently and will feel more connected to the course material.

Implementing The AFT Model

An eLearning course can be vastly improved when it is delivered on a platform that supports the AFT learning model. The action factor is implemented by breaking down lessons into actionable exercises that students can apply at work; the goal is to create behaviors that develop into good working habits. Turning lessons into activities can result in students retaining 10 times the knowledge they get from traditional eLearning courses.

As previously mentioned, the feedback factor may extend beyond trainers; it can involve company principals, managers, and stakeholders. Feedback can be handled in various ways. A popular method is to set up discussion forums on software applications such as Slack. It should be noted that students can also leave feedback for each other.

Triggers can be set up by means of smartphone notifications that encourage students to continue working on their courses. The goal is to move from one AFT cycle to the next; to this effect, a common trigger involves reminding students that an action is waiting for them to be taken.

In the end, eLearning by itself may not be as effective as companies would like because of inherent limitations; however, this can be improved with the AFT model for the benefit of both companies and students. When the right actions, feedback, and triggers are incorporated into eLearning courses, dry topics can be turned into engaging experiences, and this should be the ultimate goal of business owners whose companies are poised to grow on the strength of skilled and knowledgeable employees.

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