Is experiential learning the next big thing in L&D?

'It's about how you manage your soft skills, and how you build social capital, which is networking'

Is experiential learning the next big thing in L&D?

For many employees looking to move up the corporate ladder, training and education is one sure-fire way to accomplish this.

But what are the best ways of truly gaining knowledge of some valuable new skills?

Most employees could better themselves by enrolling in project-based assignments, says Ravi Dindayal, Chief Experience Officer (CXO) at Prepr, a learning and development (L&D) company in Toronto.

“[People] learn by doing our programs… through collaboration like in teams and groups. [Students] are creating a digital product from idea to launch, developing a business case for a product that they make up to solve a certain issue, and then figuring out how to design that product, how to technically build it, and then how to launch it from a marketing standpoint.”

This is part of what the company calls “collaborative, challenge-based learning” projects, which work particularly well with new Canadians, according to Dindayal.

“They’re integrated in teams with established Canadians students and themselves.”

In addition, a learning “sponsor” will “look at your work and give you grades and gives you feedback on it,” says Dindayal.

‘Learning-never-ends attitude’

For those looking to succeed in business by enrolling in L&D programs, there are certain attitudes that will help accomplish this, according to Dindayal.

“We need people that are valuable employees, someone that can be adaptable because they have the capacity to learn and want to learn. From a digital skills perspective, it’s about being T-shaped. It’s about having that learning-never-ends attitude and that’s what our platform provides,” he says.

Many employers are looking to hire those skilled in AI but finding enough talent is challenging.

The rise of soft skills

So what are the most popular types of courses at Prepr? Soft skills are becoming one of the best ways to improve as an employee, he says.

“The soft skills [are] what differentiates our programming and that’s really what we’re here to build up. We’re not building up hard skills. We’re not going to teach you to be an engineer. You’re coming to us as an engineer,” says Dindayal.

Organizations often get it wrong when developing an L&D program by not putting enough work into the preparation, he says.

“They’re not customized. They don’t identify a path. I think most organizations say: ‘You’re an employee, you need to show ROI right away.’ But if they don’t do it with purpose, your career development is not done with purpose. So our platform offers that opportunity to map out a training path of where you want to go.”

For willing employees, experiential learning might help them figure out what it takes to succeed, which can be challenging.

“Right now, people have to figure out what to study because we don’t know where it’s going. Is it data science. What are the skills that pay the bills, that are not going to be replaced by technology? That’s the value that we offer, that the key is around showing people what’s possible in our programming,” says Dindayal.

“From a training and development standpoint, is just hard skills versus soft skills. I think we all have the hard skills; it’s about how you manage your soft skills, and how do you build social capital, which is networking.”

The Prepr system offers more than 200 challenges, and training for more than 2,900 skills.

“We have a 90% hiring rate after they finish their programs,” he says. “We’re really trying to teach them about career development. And what’s important too is really showcasing and actually exposing them to what the next level looks like. That’s what we do in our program.”

“So [if] you’re a junior developer, you’re going to see what a CTO chief technology officer has to do. Why is strategy important? How to build a strategy, so that you change your mindset and you’re thinking that way right now to build your career,” says Dindayal.

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