The reason I've been able to #BEAT2020 is the progress we’ve made at Harappa this year. What's been most exciting is the many insights we have gained about our learners–and about online learning itself! I’m sharing 20 insights to close out 2020 in a series called #TheFirstLearners, a nod to the year when so many became online learners for the first time.

Insight #11: Keep practice short, sweet and simple!

Through running behavior challenges—or Habit Drills—to reinforce concepts already learned, we’ve realized that it’s crucial that the activities suggested are simple to do.

This is one of the most important things to get right for deliberate practice post-completion of a course (key for building habits and changing behaviors!). This is true just as for mature professional learners as it is for younger learners.

Activities that are even slightly more effortful in nature see less engagement and participation from learners. High-effort activities and challenges see 43% less responses and participation.

Keeping this insight, short and simple, in that vein. 

Insight #12: Zipf’s Law (Principle of Least Effort) must be put to good use!

Our experiment with ‘1-Click’ login made things very convenient for learners. The ‘1-Click’ login link is the path of least effort created to help learners overcome obstacles and start strong. Professional learners who used this login link completed their courses in 4 days against the overall average of 7 days. In fact, we see lifelong learners use the same email and the same CTA to log in even when doing their fifth course!

Zipf’s Law can be powerfully marshaled in other aspects of learning, for example, setting a calendared time to eliminate the effort of deciding when to learn! Corporate learners who log in at the same time each time seem to do better on both course completions as well as skill proficiency.

Zipf also works to decide communication channels with the learners. With some cohorts (such as the Women Who Rise cohort at Mahindra AFS), we adapted our nudges and support to reach them via WhatsApp instead of email. This spiked faster completion—an average of 6 days versus the prior average of 14 days for the same group—and led to better skill proficiency scores.

Insight #13: Make the peer group ‘herd’ each other!

Herd immunity has taken on a whole new meaning this year but the wisdom and trigger of community is powerful for engagement in learning too.

We use the principle of Rational Herding–when people react to the behaviors of others who are similar to them–to validate this.

More than 31% of learners show renewed interest in a concept when they see a peer ask about it, either on a common email chain or in a live session.

This renewed interest leads to rewatching of videos, asking for more practice questions and seeking additional resources for the concept highlighted by the peer.

Cohorts with high Rational Herding reported 29% better completion rates. Additionally, such cohorts took around 5 days to complete a course compared to an overall average of 7 days.

Two elements amplify this:

  1. When the difficulty of the material is at the upper end, there is a positive correlation with Rational Herding.

  1. When the cohort is a homogenized group (designation bands such as VPs together or first-time managers together), Rational Herding is 4 times more likely to occur.

Tip: Don't just pull the learner to you and your content, herd them towards each other.

Insight #14: The more the merrier: an involved custodian equals great outcomes

In our business-to-business segment (institutional and enterprise), it’s evident that the more involved the SPOCs are, the better their cohorts tend to perform. For us, an ‘involved’ SPOC participates in the learning experiences, corresponds with our delivery and engagement teams deeply, shares feedback from other stakeholders within their company with us and actively helps out individual learners who are stuck on the learning journey. They’re also willing to experiment on new ways to engage learners.

In such cohorts:

  1. Learners complete courses 32 % faster (in 4 days versus an average of 7 days)

  2. Learners score 8% higher on their skill proficiency than peers from cohorts without involved SPOCs (67 versus an average of 58)

  3. Learners experience a smoother learning journey (average of 2 issues per 100 learners versus 17 issues per 100 learners for cohorts with uninvolved SPOCs)

Tip: Your greatest ally in engaging your learners is their SPOC, really partner with them!

Insight #15: Learners are inspired when they realize good communication isn’t just good English

Fifty percent of learners in our Placement Readiness Programs cite communication skills as the main weakness. Seventy-five percent don't feel confident about speaking in English. Nervousness in English holds people back and is the most important reason for poor interview performance.

However we feel about its fairness, fluent English skills are a valuable currency of progress in urban India. But proficiency in the language isn’t the only way. There are fluent English speakers who are poor communicators because their communication is not structured and clear.

It's why Speaking Effectively (SE), our flagship course for all our PRPs, is a huge revelation for our learners. SE begins with the story of entrepreneur Arunachalam Muruganantham and his powerful speech at a UN conference. English isn’t Arunachalam’s first language but his speech’s message is clear. This is a memorable Aha! moment for our learners.

Many have told us it’s a huge weight off their shoulders when they realize it’s possible to be a great communicator even if your English isn’t good.

It’s a shot of positive can-do that does more than the best theory can to make learners believe they can improve!

Read the next set of insights here.

Shreyasi Singh is the Founder & CEO of Harappa Education. She is committed to building and shaping initiatives that address India's massive education challenges, at scale.

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