How ANA is Using Brain Science to Drive Learning Engagement
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How the American Nurses Association is Using Brain Science to Drive Learning Engagement

  • 3 Min Read

Brain science is helping the ANA motivate learners to acquire knowledge and new skills.

Advancements in our understanding of how the brain works and responds are happening every day. So how can learning and development professionals leverage research into brain science to improve the way enterprise learners learn?

According to Gallup, we are now experiencing a worldwide employee engagement crisis. Only 32% of employees in the US today are involved, excited and enthusiastic about their job. The numbers are far worse when viewed on a global scale. Only 13% of workers worldwide are considered engaged.

Leveraging modern learning experiences that use brain science to help foster a strong internal learning culture is a core strategy companies can use to improve employee engagement. According to Deloitte’s Josh Bersin, companies with a strong learning culture have 30%-50% higher employee engagement and retention. Not only that, they’re 52% more productive and 17% more profitable than their peers.

The American Nurses Association (ANA) is the oldest professional association in the United States. It is responsible for the continuing education and professional development of 3.7 million registered nurses working in the country’s healthcare industry, and it’s been tapping into the latest learnings around brain science to deliver a more visually appealing, engaging and relevant modern learning experience to its professional members.

“Healthcare is a constantly changing industry,” says Terri Gaffney, Vice President of Product Development for the ANA. “We are continually evolving as an industry, steadily streamlining and improving patient care. We are evolving from a fee for service to outcome-based business model. These changes, among others, drive demand for continuous learning. However, only 57% of nurses today are reported to be engaged in their work. This has a direct impact on patient care, and patient outcomes.”

Recognizing the need for change, the ANA has embraced the very latest advancements in brain science combined with adult learning principles to improve learning effectiveness and engagement among its millions of members, who look to the organization for their professional development.

“Our challenge at ANA was to figure out how to combine the latest in brain-based learning with adult learning principles to improve learning efficiency and learner engagement,” says Gaffney.

Through a next-gen learning experience platform, the ANA has moved away from traditional learning approach, something Gaffney calls “death by PowerPoint” to an online continuing education model based on the latest principles of brain-based science.

“We wanted an innovative approach that facilitates the acquisition of knowledge and promote a deeper understanding of knowledge,” says Gaffney. “Learners—particularly mature adult professionals—today want to follow their own interests and want an education that is relevant and real. They want to work and connect with their peers. They don’t want to be lectured to. They want to be motivated to acquire knowledge and master new skills.”

Here’s how a social-inspired activity feed can encourage peer-to-peer collaboration:

The ANA taps into the three behavioral, cognitive and emotional constructs of learning to allow its members to learn using their five senses, bite learning off in smaller chunks, and personalize their learning paths for greater relevancy.

For instance, the organization offers learners pre-course work within its learning platform which ties into a learner’s experience and social networks. This helps prospective learners understand how the course will be relevant to them and help them master their learning gaps. Using online discussion boards, cohorts of learners from across the country are able to connect with peers, instructors, and assigned knowledge coaches. This provides members of the cohort with a strong sense of belonging and connectedness. Content is delivered in short bursts, and a quiz tool is used to provide immediate feedback to learners to reinforce learning. Assignments also allow learners to directly apply their learning. For learners seeking to further deepen their knowledge on a particular topic, the ANA also provides access to supplementary knowledge through videos, articles, and web pages.

“A key to learner engagement is creating a learning environment that is interesting relevant and welcoming,” says Gaffney. “At the ANA, we wanted to create a place where learners wanted to be, where they can see the value of their participation and get feedback, and where we could create a sense of community that brings learners together. Using the right technology to deliver the right content at the right time can go a long way to allowing learners to engage and be themselves.  And numbers are telling us that we are on the right track.”


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