Changing Behaviors: Using Nudge Theory to Engage Your Learners

28 May 2019 by Libby Cross

By this point, I am sure you are all well aware that Learning Pool (formerly HT2 Labs)’ first free learning opportunity of 2019 culminated in the first ever Open Learning Experience (OLX) steered towards helping you to understand the benefits of using your learning data to create engaging and meaningful learning experiences.  

With that, ‘Data, Nudges & Learning: A Guide to Enhancing Engagement’; the 3-part OLX began April 29. Over a 10-week period, the OLX will explore the following crucial elements of using data for your workplace learning program:  

  • Data, Nudges & Learning  
  • Data & Course Design  
  • Data & Business Benefits  

Centring on elements of Nudge Theory, during week one of the OLX we discussed how its principles can be applied in digital L&D initiatives to provide a more personal and compelling experience for the learner. 

Whether you joined us for the first instalment, or just want to know a bit more about using Nudge Theory to engage your employees, let’s take a deeper dive into what this actually means for workplace learning.  

What is Nudge Theory? 

Originally defined by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein in 2008, Nudge Theory proposes that, by shaping an environment through positive reinforcement and indirect suggestion, one can influence the behavior and decision-making of groups and individuals.  

A ‘nudge’ is an action that makes it more likely that an individual will make a particular choice, by altering the environment so that automatic cognitive processes are triggered to favour the desired outcome.  

These principles are already being widely applied in many industries, for example, healthcare organizations use nudge principles to encourage overweight patients to make better nutritional decisions. But perhaps one of the most noticeable examples stems from the consumer-driven market, whereby retailers position certain products near the checkout in order to persuade consumers that they desperately need them.  

Known as ‘Impulse Buying’, I’m sure we’ve all fallen victim to it one time or another…  

Nudges for Learning  

More simply, nudges are interventions that steer someone toward a better decision without taking away their freedom of choice. In Digital Learning, nudges take the form of messages delivered through texts, emails or a Learning Management System (LMS) that typically occur for the following:  

  • To warn a learner if they’ve fallen off track  
  • To alert a learner of an important deadline  
  • To make a learner aware of the resources available to them 

In some instances, the resources on offer to a learner will be personalized, tailored to their specific learning outcomes in order to motivate them further.  

What Makes a ‘Good’ Nudge? 

Whilst implementing a next-generation Learning Experience Platform (LXP) that facilitates the application of Nudge Theory is a good start, there are a few other tips to be mindful of when using nudges to enhance the engagement of your learners. 

Nudge when the time is right  

Let’s be honest, if you’re sending nudges at 7 PM when your employees are cooking dinner or putting their kids to bed, they’re not very likely to jump back into the LXP and start reading up on the latest features of Google Analytics…  

Just-in-time learning is really important here and organizations should be implementing nudges for when learning is actually needed. For example, following an important work event that spiked an employees’ interest or when you know someone’s workload is lighter than usual. 

Personalize nudges  

Research indicates that nudges are more effective when those themselves are personalized.  

So, rather than sending a nudge that simply states “pick up where you left off”, one that says “Libby, let’s pick up where you left off” is more likely to gain a response from the learner and see them jump back into the platform.

Include a link 

As with anything these days, consumers like their content and experiences to be available at the drop of a hat – or a click of a button in this case.  

Don’t pique your learners’ interests with a nudge and then make them search for the course themselves – this is where you’ll likely lose them. Capture them, then and there, and provide them with the next piece of content in their learning journey. 

If you’d like to learn more about Nudge Theory and how its principles can help enhance the engagement of the learners within your organization, sign-up to the Open Learning Experience now 

Libby Cross
Senior Marketing Executive

Libby graduated from the University of Winchester in May 2018 with a degree in Media and Communication and soon after joined HT2 Labs as a Digital Communications Officer.

Following their acquisition in June 2019, Libby is now a Senior Marketing Executive at Learning Pool and with a keen interest in content marketing, Libby’s day-to-day involves blog writing, press releases, case studies and more!

Outside of work, Libby enjoys all things health and fitness related, including long walks and morning swims. Having spent 9-weeks travelling Central and South America before University, Libby is a keen traveller and you’ll often find her planning her next trip with her partner.

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