Developing a Learning Culture

The Goldilocks Effect: And Other Signs that You have a Learning Gap

1. The Goldilocks Principle in e-Learning

The Goldilocks Principle is the cognitive effect that people, when confronted with similar choices, tend to gravitate towards the more moderate option. It derives from a children’s story in which Goldilocks finds that she prefers the bowl of porridge that neither too hot nor too cold, but has just the right temperature.

The Goldilocks effect can also be found in many other scenarios in which people have to deal with choices that are similar. In e-Learning, the Goldilocks effect can be applied to learning difficulties and learning gaps that may arise when students either do not engage with learning content that they find overly familiar, or steer clear of training content that is overly complex, both resulting in a superficial knowledge transfer.

2. Too Hot; Too Cold

The Goldilocks Syndrome (as it pertains to digital learning, at least) refers to training content that is too hot or too cold. What does that mean? Well, when content comes in a little too hot, it means that it’s taking too deep a dive for learners to really grasp. Maybe it’s a case of too much information or a wealth of context. Learners spend more time trying to understand the framework and not enough time focused on the actual material and information they need to know.

At the same time, content–like porridge–can also run too cold. That’s when the content doesn’t even scratch the surface of what learners really need to know. They walk away feeling like their time has been wasted and you end up having to spend more time and resources to re-teach later on.

Naturally, your best bet is digital learning that is just right. That is content that gives learners enough context for them to emotionally connect to the material, but not so much that they lose interest.

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3. Lack of Supporting Material

You have learning objectives, but do you know how to get your learners there? It’s an obvious sign of learning gaps that doesn’t always get the attention that it needs. Some companies simply repurpose old information, mistakenly thinking that it’s enough to get by. Other organizations might not even realize that their current content doesn’t fulfill learning objectives and continue pushing the same old information.

Consider your content with a fresh pair of eyes. Can you logically get to your learning objective with your existing program? If the answer is no, it’s time to curate and create to help learners along their way.

4. Negative Feedback

When it doubt, go to the source: your learners should be able to tell you whether or not your current content is doing the trick. Asking the right questions, however, is key. You can’t just survey whether or not they like the training, but how effective the training was overall. Do users feel prepared to apply the training at work? Are there any murky areas left over? Does the content spend too much time on one portion of the training with too little content devoted to another section? Get into the nitty gritty of feedback and you’ll be able to fill the gaps left in the current content.

The story Goldilocks has a fearful ending, but your training doesn’t have to send your learners running for the woods. By assessing your current goals and filling learning gaps along the way, your training won’t be just another cautionary tale.