Written by Dominika Bijos, Senior Learning Designer and Briony Frost, Learning & Development Specialist on Friday 9th July 2021
In a world where technology is omnipresent, are we making it work for us or is it making us work harder?
The COVID-19 pandemic required many areas of the healthcare industry to transition from face-to-face interactions to virtual meetings, processes, platforms and training at an unprecedented level. The resulting excess of screen time, with content and communications often split between myriad tools and tabs, has generated a secondary and equally viral pandemic: digital fatigue. Digital fatigue is posing real problems for healthcare companies and individuals in terms of business success, productivity and professional development. With a return to pre-pandemic levels of technological engagement unlikely as we step forward into a hybridised future, especially when it comes to training, we need to take a closer look at how we design our training programs to make sure that technology is not a barrier but is actually driving learning success. In this article, we will explore the design phase of the instructional systems design process, ADDIE, to see how choosing the right digital tools early on in your training program creation, and using human-centred design, can help to overcome digital fatigue and enable technology to enhance our learning experience?
What is digital fatigue?
Digital fatigue is a state in which an individual becomes disengaged from digital processes or interactions due to the:
Digital fatigue presents physically, mentally and financially. It is strained eyes, headaches and poor posture. It is fractured concentration, reduced engagement with tasks or meetings, tiredness and irritability. From a business standpoint, it is lowered productivity and performance, an increase in sick days, non-sanctioned workarounds on official processes, inaccurate information recording, missed business opportunities and, of course, loss of impact in training.
Battling digital fatigue for the well-being of your learners
Digital fatigue needs to be addressed on multiple fronts to reduce its impact on your people and business. In terms of managing it within the experience of digital learning and training, we can use the design stage to think beyond what our learners need in terms of scientific content and professional skills and to get to grips with how they learn as part of their working lives. Here are some ideas for managing digital fatigue during training:
Hybrid learning can be the answer
Hybrid learning draws on the same potential as blended learning to mix synchronous and asynchronous opportunities, allowing learners to capitalise on the benefits of both forms and minimise the pitfalls of relying solely on one or the other. Hybrid learning also allows staff to engage remotely or face-to-face with synchronous sessions as best fits their needs, preferences and other demands on their time.
The design phase of your program is the moment to decide on the types of assessments and activities needed for your learners to meet the desired outcomes based on their learning needs, and to marry these up to the most effective delivery methods. However, there is still space to refine them at the development phase. Here are some of our suggestions for deciding whether to go digital or traditional to deliver assessments and content.
Asynchronous learning offers more flexibility for many, supporting self-paced development. Isolated events may be less productive than integrating multiple activities into a learning platform as part of a clear curriculum with a strong learner journey, structured activities, deadlines, opportunities to collaborate with other learners, regular feedback provision and designated sources of support. Asynchronous delivery is suited to most forms of learning activity and, if digital security is carefully managed, assessment too. Learners are often empowered by the advantages asynchronous learning brings in terms of consistent access to content, interleaving of topics, self-pacing, processing and reflection time, practice and application opportunities, and feedback at group and individual levels.[i] Learning management systems with notifications, progress trackers, multi-device accessibility and collaborative capacity can drive behaviour change and help to craft cultures of continuous learning for the benefit of your staff, as well as enabling people to manage their own development, pace themselves and stave off digital fatigue.
Why this tool and not that tool? The variety of digital solutions available offer all sorts of energising prospects for creating or updating your healthcare training programs. However, you need to keep in mind what the tool does and what its purpose is within the context of the learning need and training program as a whole. Even something as simple as polling, knowledge-checks and temperature assessments of a cohort, which are now standard practice in virtual meetings, need to be thought through. Why are you doing it? What does it achieve in terms of the program goals, the individual session and the related activities? Engagement and impact are not created by throwing interactive features at your learners but by designing meaningful learning experiences. A key feature of digital fatigue is the intensity and complexity of the interaction with digital tools and resources, so constantly asking your learners to engage with the new and unfamiliar can demotivate too. Choose your tools wisely and ensure there is a logical alignment with the learning needs, as well as a chance for your learners to become confident and proficient in the tools that they are most likely to need again in their professional roles via your training program. Hybrid learning has advantages in this arena too, as it allows people with different digital skill levels to select the format that they are most comfortable with, and to grow accustomed to other formats by gradual exposure to alternatives.
Keep it simple with the right amount of the right technology
Blended or hybrid learning solutions are a great way to step forward into the future of training. The key to creating meaningful hybrid learning experiences is to focus on the end user, the human learner and to keep your digital solutions aligned to best practice in learning design. Therefore, make sure you encourage your learning specialists, knowledge experts and digital teams to work together at this phase for the best results.
Csikzentmihayli M. Flow and the Foundations of Positive Psychology. 2014. Available at: http://biblioteca.univalle.edu.ni/files/original/cb851fc2405f5c05d3ca12575f49db22dd2d5c4d.pdf
Oakley B. Mind for Numbers. 2014.
Fox D. Overcoming digital fatigue with learning design that activates learning. 2020. Available at: https://www.novoed.com/resources/blog/overcoming-digital-fatigue-learning-design-that-activates-engagement/
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