Since the 1980s, much research has been done to find better methods of teaching adults how to use software-based technology. From the beginning, simply placing learners into the correct environment has been a primary struggle. How do we get the right versions of the right operating system and applications, supported by sufficient processor power, RAM and bandwidth to all the people who need to learn this tech – and make sure it works? Over the years, technological innovations such as imaging software, virtual machines and the work done by lab hosting providers like Learn on Demand Systems have improved the situation considerably. But our focus on hands-on labs may have leaned toward prioritizing the design of “labs that work” over “labs that teach.”

“What did I just do. Why did I do it?”

We’ve invested so many resources to provide learners with accurately-configured-and-working environments. But are we missing the mark in terms of providing hands-on experiences that are central to the overall learner journey? Are we missing opportunities to provide better learning with hands-on labs? Are we designing and delivering hands-on learning experiences that build new skills or are we leaning on traditional methodologies for knowledge transfer (i.e., “tell me, show me, let me”), and then providing labs to check a box? Perhaps the real question should be whether learners become more confident and job-ready if they are asked to resolve real-world challenges in real-world software environments designed to help them figure things out on their own, fail forward and get scored on their performance?

Learning experiences are minimally effective when people are asked to simply repeat the steps they were taught. Being asked to “Listen to me, watch me, then follow the steps outlined in this book” often doesn’t result in learners knowing what they just did or why. “Show and tell” simply isn’t enough. At their core, labs that ask learners to “type this and click that” are lessons in how to follow a recipe.

To be effective in today’s software environment, learners must be given an orientation to a toolset, then turned loose to apply those tools to resolve a manageable problem, achieve a result and be validated based on the outcomes of their activities.

Wallace Judd, Ph.D. and President of Authentic Testing Corp. and Frank Gartland, Chief Product Officer of Learn on Demand Systems, developed a whitepaper, “A Case for Challenge-centric Learning,” focusing on evidence from researchers and their own nearly 40 years of experience with adult learning.

Download the whitepaper and explore how learning has evolved, what adult learners really need to master skills and how the challenge-centric learning methodology is paving a new way to skill mastery and confidence.

Download the whitepaper