The following are tidbits I pulled from Tom Kuhlmann's Blog post: 9 Ways to Encourage Adult E-Learning. I too have written about learning being an iterative process and that we need alternate ways of demonstrating learning.
Recently I spent the day at the beach watching people learning to surf. One of the people learning to surf was a blind girl. It was very inspiring as she learned to balance on the board. She probably fell off of the surfboard a few dozen times before she successfully stood and balanced on it. And when she finally succeeded she let out a cry of joy.
Learning is a funny thing. It’s not something that can always be neatly packaged. Real learning isn’t a one-time event (like many elearning courses) where it’s just a matter of getting new information. Instead it’s an iterative process where you do something, get feedback to evaluate, make adjustments, and do it again.
Adult Learners Don’t Like to Fail
As learners, our culture conditions us to avoid failure. Typically our grading systems reward successful test taking more than successful learning. Because of this, we’re motivated to pass tests and getting good scores and not always focused on the learning process.
Going back to the blind surfer, it takes a lot to fall down and continue getting up. I saw plenty of other surfers give up after a few tries. Few people like to fail and then do so publicly. This is especially true of adult learners. The blind surfer was motivated to learn and willing to risk failure as she kept falling of the surf board. She might not have been as inclined to do so if she was only allowed two attempts and then notified that she failed.
The main point in all of this is that elearning presents a unique opportunity to compress time and offer repeatable events where people can practice and get feedback. But we need to craft an environment that encourages learning (which is not the same as exposure to information).