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Nontraditional Methods for Learning Reinforcement

It’s one thing to put together a creative, well-designed and engaging learning experience. It’s another thing to have your learners return to their jobs and apply what they’ve learned in the real world.

One of the biggest barriers to having your learners apply what they’ve learned is the fact that the brain simply forgets a lot of the stuff they’ve learned over the course of the day. If they can’t retain what they’ve learned, they can’t apply it.

Enter the strategy of learning reinforcement – opportunities to remind your learners about what they’ve learned, after they’ve completed a learning experience. Shannon Tipton, owner of Learning Rebels LLC, has some thoughts about using existing technologies in a nontraditional way to help reinforce the learning.

Shannon will be sharing these thoughts more in depth later this month at the Association for Talent Development’s International Conference and Expo as part of her session entitled: Drips, Bots and Blogs – Oh My! Nontraditional Methods for Learning Reinforcement.

Transcript of the Conversation with Shannon Tipton

Brian Washburn:  Welcome, everyone, to another episode of Train Like You Listen, a weekly podcast about all things learning and development in bite-sized chunks. I’m Brian Washburn, Co-founder and CEO of Endurance Learning. And we are brought to you today by Soapbox, the world’s first and only rapid authoring tool for instructor-led training. It’s a little bit like Instant Pot for instructor-led training. So you put in a few ingredients such as: What are your learning objectives? How long is your session going to be? Is it going to be in-person or virtual? How many people will attend? And then within a few seconds, out pops a lesson plan. So that’s why we say it’s a little bit like Instant Pot for lesson plan design. If you want to know more information about it, go to

I am here today as part of our series of presenters for ATD ICE. So I’m joined by the owner– and Chief Learning Rebel– the owner of Learning Rebels, Shannon Tipton. Hi Shannon, how are you today?

Shannon Tipton on Learning Reinforcement

Shannon Tipton: I’m great, Brian, how are you? Happy Monday!

Brian Washburn: (Chuckling) Happy Monday! I’m great. This is our first time chatting in a long time, and I’m really excited to get into this because we’re going to be talking about this idea of using nontraditional methods for learning reinforcement. And  I can’t believe this is the first time you’re actually a guest on this podcast.

6-Word Biography

Brian Washburn: The way that we introduce the podcast is– a lot of times we just ask people to introduce themselves using exactly six words, or maybe five. When I think of six words that kind of summarize my own experiences with nontraditional methods for learning reinforcement, I think, “Help! The forgetting curve is real”. How would you introduce yourself, Shannon, with this idea, this topic?

Shannon Tipton: I would introduce myself with this topic, and any other topic as it refers to Learning Rebels as, “Crushing antiquated, ineffective, boring training”.

Brian Washburn: Oh, okay. So let’s get right into this because you can develop the most amazing, engaging, learning program in the world– but before we get into this topic that you’re talking about at ICE, can you take a little time and just lay the foundation for us? What is the purpose or importance of reinforcing learning? What– I mean, if it’s an amazing learning experience, super engaging, why do we need to reinforce it?

What Is the Purpose of Reinforcing Engaging, Effective Learning Experiences?

Shannon Tipton: Right. Well, because learning events, any one-off event is not going to stick with you, right? And so we know, and brain science tells us, that we have to continuously play with concepts in our brain, you know? And so, in short, what we want to do is– you want to take the knowledge that you’ve stored away into your long-term memory, bring them back up, play with them a little bit and then put them back. And every time you bring them up and play with them, it makes that concept stronger and stronger in the brain, right? So when you’re dealing with that one event, you don’t have the time to play with the concept. You don’t have time to put it away and pull it back, and put it away and pull it back. And so subsequently then what does not get used, disappears.

Brian Washburn: Mhm.

Shannon Tipton: And so what we want to do is then practice playing with the information that you have, and that’s why it’s important.

Brian Washburn: Okay. That all makes sense. Now, your topic at ICE is about using nontraditional methods for learning reinforcement. And before we jump into that, for those who haven’t really used learning reinforcement in the past, what are some more traditional ways? What does this look like in a typical training program for people that are like, “You know what, I get it, we need to use them. This is traditionally what gets used.”

What Are Examples of Traditional Methods of Learning Reinforcement?

Shannon Tipton: Right. You know– and people who say that they haven’t used it or don’t have a whole lot of experience in using it, it’s probably because of a vocabulary thing.

Brian Washburn: Mhm, okay.

Shannon Tipton: You most likely are, you just don’t call it that. And when you think about learning nuggets or learning bites or spaced learning, a lot of those things fall into that very same category. So when you think about traditional – more traditional types of learning reinforcement – any time that you’ve given students a job aid to use, you know, upon leaving. And then, of course, following up and making sure that they are using that job aid. Or maybe you’ve used flashcards to help them with a concept in between classes or after classes, you know? That’s a more of a traditional approach. Or anytime that you may send out, you know, a little survey, right? So it might be a survey in the form of a pop quiz or something like that that’s helping people to reflect on what they’ve learned. And sometimes even level ones– so level ones, when they are clever and smartly designed, help people to reflect on what they’ve learned.

Brian Washburn: So when you talk about level one – for people that aren’t familiar with that term – that’s basically the post-training evaluation, right?

Shannon Tipton: Right. The smile sheet.

Brian Washburn: Yeah. Yep. Okay.

Shannon Tipton: The smile sheet. But don’t design it as a smile sheet, design it as a reflection tool instead.

Brian Washburn: Mhm. Yep.

Shannon Tipton: So I guess that’s a little traditional / non-traditional. But those are some of the more common methods that we see.

Brian Washburn: Okay. And so at the big conference – that’ll be happening at the end of August, ATD ICE – you have a session that will actually be aired twice. You’re going to be up twice.  

Shannon Tipton: Yeah!

Brian Washburn: Which is really cool. So it will be on August 29th – for those who are going to ICE – from 8:30 to 9:30, then August 30th from 1 to 2. And the session’s called, Drips, Bots and Blogs – Oh My! Nontraditional Methods For Learning Reinforcement. So what are some of these– like, what do you mean by drips or bots? Blogs, I think that people might get that, but what do you mean by this? And how can these reinforce learning?

What Are Examples of Nontraditional Methods of Learning Reinforcement?

Shannon Tipton: Well, you’re thinking about learning reinforcement as that nudge, right? That learning nudge. And any time that we can get that learning in front of people, that’s what we want to do. Now, let’s think about different approaches. And if you think about learning mimicking life, where do people spend their time? Well, right, on your phone.

Brian Washburn: Sure. On the phone. Yeah.

Shannon Tipton: On your phones. And everybody is within 12 inches, give or take, of their phone (laughing). So now, how can we then bring learning into the day to day, right? Because what we do not want to do is we do not want to create disruption, and we want to alleviate friction of people’s workplaces. Another traditional method, sometimes, of learning reinforcement is that we bring people back, right? So we do a little lunch and learn, or something along those lines, and that’s completely disruptive to the workday. And so when we talk about drips and bots and blogs, those are three tools that can be used to bring learning to people in small bites. Now let’s talk drip– so email drips, for example.

Brian Washburn: Mhm.

Shannon Tipton: So, what you might want to do is you can send out little reinforcement nudges through email, maybe once a week, for four weeks afterwards, right? To remind them of a concept or to help them play with a concept.

Brian Washburn: Yup.

Shannon Tipton: Same thing with– you’ve got Teams or Slack where you can schedule messages to go out to people, right? And you can schedule a message that has a video in it that says, “Remember this?” Or a concept, “Remember that?” Or, “Here’s a new downloadable for you to use”, right? And so all of these things end up within the workflows. Same thing with blogs. So you think blog and– it’s a blog for you and I, but really it’s just an article with a comment section where people can use that. And again, not disruptive to the workflow, right?

Brian Washburn: Yeah.

Shannon Tipton: And that’s where we really want to get to.

Brian Washburn: Yeah. Okay. So, for people who are listening and saying, “Okay, I get it. And, I’m not quite sure how to send emails to people.” Or, “How do I even set this up?” What would be a specific step that folks might want to take to bring something more nontraditional into the learning programs? 

Advice for Getting Started Bringing Nontraditional Reinforcement Methods into Learning Programs

Brian Washburn: I mean, do they need to know how to code? Especially when you’re talking about bots?

Shannon Tipton: (Chuckling)

Brian Washburn: Or, you know, is it as simple as clicking a button?

Shannon Tipton: Oh, well, yes and no, you know?

Brian Washburn: Okay.

Shannon Tipton: So that’s the good news, that’s the good news. Some of your learning reinforcement methods can be low- what I like to say- low techy-techy and high techy-techy, you know?

Brian Washburn: Mhm. Okay.

Shannon Tipton: And certainly bots are on the upside of that higher tech, but you don’t have to know how to code.  That’s the good thing with a lot of bot programs out there right now is that coding is not necessary. If you can write your script, and put your script into whatever template, the bot program that you’re using– like, so when I say bot, I mean chatbots, and we’re all familiar with the concept of chatbots. Whenever you’ve gone to a website and you look at that little button down at the bottom right-hand corner of a screen, somebody pops up and says, “Hello!” That’s a bot, right? And so we can send those out via text messaging even, you know? Or web widgets. There’s a whole variety of different ways that we can get conversational chatbots to people, and still be creative and tell a story. So that’s the fun thing. So I guess that’s a little higher on the tech spectrum, if you will. But you can go low tech. So let’s think about all of the businesses out there that currently have Slack or Teams, right?

Brian Washburn: Mhm.

Shannon Tipton:Okay. Most organizations have something like that.

Brian Washburn: Sure.

Shannon Tipton: It might even be like Google Chat or something. But you could program either one of those to deliver messages on schedule. So now the next time that you have a training event, set up a Slack channel or a Teams channel.

Brian Washburn: Mhm.

Shannon Tipton: Break people up into groups if you want to, or keep them all at once. And what you do is you deliver messages directly into that channel once a week, twice a week. And what you’re looking for are responses, and this is why you might want to break them up into smaller groups, right?

Brian Washburn: Yep. Yep.

Shannon Tipton: So that way you can keep track of people’s responses. But that’s super simple to do, and it’s right there at the tip of your fingers. So that’s something that anyone can start doing right now, today.

Brian Washburn: I love this, and I don’t want to, you know, spoil your whole presentation. So we’ll save some for the conference presentation that you’re up to.

Shannon Tipton: (Laughing)

Get to Know Shannon Tipton

Brian Washburn: But before we go here, I have a few questions in the speed round format.

Shannon Tipton: Oh, okay!

Brian Washburn: That’ll let people get to know you a little bit more – if you’re ready for our speed round. Are you ready for our speed round?

Shannon Tipton: I’m ready! Let’s do it!

Brian Washburn: What is your favorite city to travel for work?

Shannon Tipton: London.

Brian Washburn: It’s a good one. It’s an expensive city, but it’s a pretty awesome city.

Shannon Tipton: (Chuckling) That’s true. Yeah it’s not right around the corner, but I’ll go to London any day of the week.

Brian Washburn: What’s the best advice that you’ve ever received?

Shannon Tipton: The best advice that I ever received was to keep in mind who I am. I’ve received advice that tried to take me off a beaten path for example, many moons ago– and I’m sorry, this is a little longer than what you want for your speed round.

Brian Washburn: It’s perfect.

Shannon Tipton: But many moons ago, somebody told me I needed to change my presentation style. They said it was too relaxed and too informal. And I was like, “That just isn’t who I am”, right? And so the best piece of advice that I’ve gotten from people is just remember who you are. And if you are honest to yourself, and true to yourself, you’ll be okay.

Brian Washburn: I think that’s wonderful advice. And so I’m glad that you didn’t just say it in two words. Before we leave, what kind of shameless plugs do you have for us?

Shannon Tipton: Shameless plugs. Well, go to the Learning Rebels website, sign up for the newsletter. Every other week, we do a coffee chat – a live coffee chat where it’s a no– I like to say– it’s a no judgment zone, a no PowerPoint zone – where we come in and we have very rich conversations. Just this past Friday, we spent an hour talking about onboarding tips and techniques and things that people are doing that are outside of the box, that are engaging and fun for people. So, if you signed up for the newsletter, you will get those invites to those chats. And when you register for the chat, you also get the chat transcript, as well as the chat recording.

Brian Washburn: Very nice. And so, Shannon Tipton is the owner of Learning Rebels. She will also be at ATD ICE at the end of August with her session, Drips, Bots and Blogs – Oh My! Nontraditional Methods For Learning Reinforcement. Shannon, thank you so much for joining us today.

Shannon Tipton: Oh, it was my pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Brian Washburn: And thank you, everyone else, for listening to another episode of Train Like You Listen, which can be found on Spotify, iHeart Radio, Apple, wherever you get your podcasts. If you like what you hear, go ahead and give us a like or go ahead and rate it. And that’s how other people will find out about us too. Until next time, happy training everyone.

This week’s podcast is sponsored by Soapbox. Sign up today for a free demo below.

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