Sunday, May 19, 2013

Creating WOW Learning Experiences

Last week I held a meeting with my full team of Instructional Designers and Curriculum Managers. Since we are a virtual team that is scattered to all corners of the country, we rarely have the opportunity to all be in the same place at the same time. I have such a talented team of learning professionals.  It was wonderful to take advantage of our collective thinking to discuss how we can improve the way we work, and the actions we could be taking to ensure we deliver on our objectives for this year.

As part of these discussions, we tackled the topic of creating WOW learning experiences. This is something that is important to us as we want to continuously improve what we do while helping our learners to grow, develop and perform better at work. We did some creative exercises to get our juices flowing, and then worked to define what we meant by WOW learning and what the elements of WOW learning would look like. So here is what we came up with:
WOW Learning Definition: Learning experiences that are self-directed, engaging, and hands-on. They provide methods, ways or platforms for learners to modify, enhance, or change behaviors in ways that successfully transfer to the work that they do and lead to improved performance.
Okay, this probably sounds like a definition that was created by committee. Well it was. But it has all the important elements that we talked about and it recognizes the importance of the learner in the experience.

WOW Learning Elements: Leading up to the creation of this definition, we discussed what WOW learning would look like. From our point-of-view, it would include the following:
  •  Engages learners
  • Leaves them wanting more; or to repeat the experience
  • Addresses needs and provides value
  • Enables them to change behavior, do something new, or do something better than they did before the experience
  • Grabs their attention
  • Allows them to control the path of the experience 
  • Invests them emotionally (which we saw being accomplished through stories - that create human interest - and/or games – that challenge our competitive natures)
One of the models that came to mind and was discussed as we were creating this list was John Keller’s ARCS model (Attention, Relevance, Confidence, and Satisfaction) which describes how to create and sustain motivation through the learning process.
I was proud of my team for arriving where we did through this discussion. Now our challenge is to put this into practice in the learning experiences we design and deliver.


  1. Mike in an era where everything is done online congratulations on pulling your team together in one place! It sounds like you had a productive meeting and I wonder if we should all be using your WOW definition of learning.

  2. I'm glad our definition resonated with you. It was a pleasure having my team together.

    Thanks for leaving your comment.


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  4. Stephen SchraderJuly 3, 2014 at 11:48 AM


    As a fellow educator I think you have created a great concept. I understand the term "engaging students" has been around for decades but I value your points about having the students control their own path and investing them emotionally. I believe that when students have a sense of control they retain the knowledge and begin to value their own education. When they control their own path they start put emotion into their work. Emotion can be a powerful force and when used correctly it should only increase students intrinsic motivation. I would love to read more on how you implemented your concepts into practice.