You have got hands on a shiny new journey designer like Learningweaver. Now you want to make a journey with multiple learning milestones quickly.
As a learning designer, one of the big design questions you face is how long a learning journey should be. The second question is, how many components should it ideally have, for example, in every milestone or every week? Some educators believe in maximizing and making a learning plan as comprehensive as possible. The adage which inspires others is - less is more. So, which one to follow?
Conventionally, the length of a learning program is decided by the budget, learning objectives, number of learning units, or simply by the availability of time with the learners or organizers. While training for competencies or soft skills, deciding this becomes even more mysterious because good practice is crucial for effective learning.
Physical programs are limited by the amount of continuous time that organizers, trainers, and learners can afford. On the other hand, blended learning benefits from the spaced learning approach. Since learning is to blend with other areas of a learner’s life, unlike in a classroom contact paradigm, gaining learner engagement also depends on the right length and mix of learning components.
Evidence from research
Researchers from the University of Amsterdam have examined social skills training(SST) programs for children and teenagers to understand the duration and components most effective.
De Mooij et al. (2020) published a multilevel meta-analysis of 60 different SST programs. Their results showed that SST programs positively affected the development of interpersonal and emotional skills in nonclinical samples: d = .369, 95% CI [.292, .447], p < .001. This effect was positively influenced by the inclusion of psychoeducation and skill-building components. The inclusion of psychophysical components and the number of cognitive-emotional components did not influence program effects.
They found a curvilinear relationship between intensity, duration, and effect size:
- Programs including 3 to 6 psychoeducational exercises and programs with 11 to 20 skill-building activities outperformed programs with more or fewer exercises in respective components.
- Program duration of 10-16 weeks has the most considerable effect compared to a longer or shorter term.
You might wonder if this can be generalized for our purpose. This study examines the social skills training of adolescents. Adolescents face a dynamic social environment where they must gain social skills to thrive, avoid bullying and communicate and relate effectively with peers. It seems similar to what employees might face in today’s dynamic business environment.
- The above research study suggests that having an optimum effect follows a curvilinear relationship with duration and intensity (number of components). So maybe both, less is more and going the extra mile, are valid for learning.
- Psychoeducation exercises map to conceptual & theoretical components of your training programs. A helpful heuristic could be to have 3-6 such activities per program. For skill-building, the thumb rule could be to have 10-20 activities per program.
- Regarding duration, 10-16 weeks give higher engagement and effective spaced learning. Learning experts at Skillscafe also suggest a sweet spot of 8-12 weeks.
- Another idea that this study found was that some components, even though they are widely practiced, were not so effective. So, it might be a good idea to regularly assess and remove activities that might not engage the learners and dilute the effect.
de Mooij, B., Fekkes, M., Scholte, R.H.J. et al. Effective Components of Social Skills Training Programs for Children and Adolescents in Nonclinical Samples: A Multilevel Meta-analysis. Clin Child Fam Psychol Rev 23, 250–264 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10567-019-00308-x
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