What are the elements of amazing learning experiences? There’s a periodic table for that!

If professional development experiences are a sort of lab, in which learners can test new knowledge and skills and instructional designers and trainers can concoct new and engaging ways for people to learn, I wonder what the basic elements for this lab would be.

Being inspired as the son of a science teacher, I put together this periodic table with elements of amazing learning experiences organized by solids, liquids, gases, radioactive elements and interactive elements. 

Table

Solid Elements

SolidsThe elements found on the left side of this table have been classified as “solids”. The principal property shared between each of these elements is that they are tools that can be used by trainers and instructional designers – whether tangible, physical tools or virtual, online tools.

Some of these elements, like Microsoft Word (Wd) and YouTube (Yt) are ubiquitous. Some have gained traction over the past few years and once someone sees them in use, quickly moves to adopt them into their own training sessions, such as Kahoot (Kh) and PollEverywhere (Pe).

A few of these solids, most notably element 1, Soapbox (Sb), is a very recently discovered element but could be the most important element to be discovered in a long time. More will be written about Sb in the coming weeks.

Liquid Elements

LiquidsThe liquid elements can be found on the right side of this table. These liquid elements share the following properties:

  • Practices designed to support knowledge and skill transfer.
  • Take the shape of the vessel (usually the organization or team) into which they are poured.
  • Can be frozen and locked into place as needed, then melted so that the shape can change and be adjusted as appropriate.

Practices such as deploying learning boosts (Lb), spaced learning (Sl) or supervisor support (Su) will all depend on the organizational culture, learners and management buy-in. They can all be powerful elements if they fit the context.

Gas-like Elements

GasThe elements down the middle in yellow are more gas-like in nature, concepts, models and theory that waft through the air of a training room.

Some of these elements, like the air we breathe, are invisible and odorless, but you’d definitely know it if they were suddenly vacuumed out of the training room.

Some of these elements, if not handled with care, become tinged with the sulfur-like smell of rotten eggs.

Radioactive Elements

RadioactiveThese elements in orange are some of the most powerful, yet also some of the most dangerous elements known to the world of learning and development. A little bit can go a long way, but if used improperly, these elements can be extremely combustible and can contaminate the very reputation of learning and development for years to come.

Lecture (Lc), PowerPoint (Pp) and post-training Smile Sheets (Sm) all have a well-deserved reputation for being overused and abused, creating toxic clouds that pour acid rain down on the very learners we’re responsible for helping.

When used judiciously and with thoughtful intention, Icebreakers (Ib) can help illuminate the purpose of an entire presentation. If ordered with the time of day in mind, Snacks (Sn) such as vegetables and nuts can provide new sources of energy.

Interactive Elements

Interactive

Along the bottom of this periodic table are a series of interactive elements. While you may look at these and see a simple set of social media sites, there’s more than meets the eye. Click on the blue lettering and you’ll be taken through a portal to a variety of different places on the world wide web.

Introducing elements of social media into a learning experience is a way to keep the learning going – through blogs on a WordPress (Wp) site, posting slides on Slideshare (Sh) or challenging participants to participate in topical Twitter (Tw)-based tweet chats.

There’s a walkthrough Endurance Learning’s elements of amazing learning experiences. What elements (and/or states of matter for these elements) do you think are missing from this periodic table?

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