Learn, Apply, Achieve: InsideNGO's Simple Solution Drives Results

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September 06, 2017

Learn, Apply, Achieve: InsideNGO's Simple Solution Drives Results

By Mark Nilles

Director, Learning and Impact InsideNGO

By Hadden Martinez

Associate, Programs InsideNGO

As of Monday this week, 20,000 learning moments have been supported through InsideNGO’s learning retention program. It’s an impressive number, but what does it mean?

In April 2015, InsideNGO decided to tackle the challenges associated with knowledge loss after a learning event. Although the science of remembering isn’t exact, it’s widely reported that just one week after a training, participants have already forgotten 90% of what they learned.

As an organization that offers over 125 training workshops every year, this “forgetting problem” struck a chord. While learning during the workshop event is critically important, InsideNGO needed to develop a way to help participants retain and reinforce what they initially learned during the workshop.  As learning guru Art Kohn says: What happens after the workshop is more important than what happens during the workshop.

Without continued learning support, professionals find it difficult to share the knowledge they gain through training events. This difficulty lies in remembering what they learned and, in turn, translating that knowledge into workplace application and results. Given that our typical training participants come from nonprofits and have limited training budgets, participants’ retention of knowledge is crucially important. 

While the forgetting phenomenon is jarring, it’s not only natural but also necessary for the human brain to continue to learn new things. So how does InsideNGO work against the brain’s natural tendency to leave freshly acquired knowledge by the wayside? Research says that as the brain practices retrieving key concepts, it becomes easier to recall those concepts. InsideNGO leveraged this and other research-based adult learning principles to develop the learning retention program.

Through this program, workshop participants receive weekly, scenario-based questions linked to pieces of information from the workshop. Each week touches on a different topic discussed in the workshop by laying out practical applications of the content. However, the learning does not stop when the participant chooses an answer. Depending on if the answer selected is correct or not, the participant is provided with individualized feedback explaining why the answer chosen is right or wrong. This program continues for anywhere from 8-10 weeks to address the important subjects taught during the workshop and to help participants understand how to apply new concepts in the workplace.

The learning retention program is not only helpful for learners immediately after they have attended a workshop, but also for trainers. Data collected from a wide variety of workshops sheds light on which concepts are translating well in workshops and which concepts participants struggle with.

Furthermore, the connection between InsideNGO and workshop participants is strengthened as participants share their success stories a few months after attending a workshop. For example, participants have explained how they share workshop knowledge with their colleagues, successfully negotiate the terms of new awards, and update policies and procedures following participation in our workshops and the learning retention program. 

Through the years, InsideNGO has expanded the number of workshops that are partnered with the learning retention program. Every week, learners engage in some way –with follow up questions and learning continuation activities – 200 times. And starting this year, InsideNGO is offering a learning retention program for the participants of the InsideNGO Annual Conference.  We can’t wait to see how conference participants put what they learned into practice. And we look forward to continuing to expand this program to benefit learning, application, and results! 

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