Instant Learning: How it works and how to make it happen?

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The brain has the ability to replicate or imagine real life experiences. This allows us to share instant learning experiences in our eLearning programs. The Instant Experience Loop occurs at the moment learners share and connect stories with the stories employed in the eLearning program.


Preview the Bully Manager and reflect: “What is it in the presentation that makes you instantly understand the message or why does it stir an immediate gut reaction in you?”

The Bully Manager

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[More examples are provided below]

Instant Experience Loop

When an individual has been jolted by electrical charges while jump starting batteries, the person instantly comprehends that it is not safe to hold the positive and negative ends of the battery together. This is instant learning.

Instant learning happens as a quick loop of experience consisting of an event, feedback and discovery. This is referred to, as an Instant Experience Loop. In many cases, such occurrence happens in a span of seconds. Our brain processes what happened, how it happened and learns why it should or should not happen again.

Teaching Breaks the Instant Experience Loop

Essentially, scientific studies and practical experiences have shown us that people are generally self-taught – learning by themselves through the instant experience loop. Unfortunately, in a lot of formal learning structures an instructor, teacher or mentor intervenes and “teaches” the learning, which oftentimes breaks / interrupts the instant experience loop. This happens based on two reasons: (1) most teaching methods remove the experience and learners are only left with the content without the opportunity for feedback and discovery and (2) there is so much focus on the event, which is content instruction. In the classroom or in eLearning, lessons are far removed from real experience. Oftentimes, the focus is the retention of content; not creating the experience.

Stories Replicate Experience

In the rapidly changing work environment where the demand for new knowledge and skill is fast and in constant flux, we have opportunities to use the instant experience loop. How do we do that? We replicate the instant experience loop by sharing stories and the realities of life.

The instant loop experience is an emotional and oftentimes unconscious encounter. Most of our learnings happen as unconscious processes. The expression or articulation of these experiences comes in the form of stories. People transmit knowledge and ideas, build relationships and understand each other by sharing stories.

Reverse Design Process – Build and Share Stories

To design learning that mimics the instant loop experience, we need to recreate and embed the elements in our design.

The Steps of Design Instant Learning Experiences

Step 1 – Focus on asking these questions for a reverse design

1. What event do I want to teach – a small idea?
2. What is the feedback from those who learned from this idea?
3. What discoveries have they arrived at?
4. What stories can they share to relate their own experience?

The focus of the questions is on arriving at the stories, not the content (event). When the story is clear, the content is embedded in it. In the Bully Manager example above, the content is about “identifying the bully character” while the story is the “bully manager who is a jerk.” This may be a tough challenge for many designers, SMEs (subject matter experts) and developers – since many of us naturally focus on delivering content, not experience. But this is not to say that it cannot be done.

Step 2 – Share the Stories with the Learner

In designing our eLearning lessons, we focus on the shared stories. Shared stories are the connection between learning interventions, whether it be a simple lesson page, exercise, game, video, audio or coaching session. Stories carry with them the instant emotional experience along with the idea and the content. The content cannot replace the function and value of a story as a shared element.

Follow these pointers:

Focus on the experience of the story

1. Use the real-life aspects of the stories, e.g. characters talking, conversations, what’s said-who said, the issues being discussed, etc.
2. Make the story deliver the message (experience)
3. Allow learners to discover the lessons by themselves. Do not teach.

Conclusion: Stories are substitutes to actual experiences

Of course nothing completely replaces real-life experiences. However, cognitive and neuroscience experts and psychologists tell us that the brain is able to replicate actual real experience. In fact, the imagined experiences become so intertwined with reality that we can hardly tell the difference. The more we vividly understand stories, the better we relate to the realities.

In our learning design, we need to aim for instant learning experiences – by using stories. This is the fastest and most economical way to get our job of helping learners learn.

The following are examples of how stories are used in learning design


After reviewing the examples , 1) “What story can you instantly connect to the example?” , 2)“What content idea promptly comes to mind?”

The first allows you to connect your own shared story. The second shows you that there is an embedded content which is triggered by the story.

CallSource Compliance Video – (length : 1:28 minutes)

(Click here to preview the presentation)

The video, compliments of Ann Kwinn of Callsource, uses stories to connect the individual’s personal experience regarding the application of the Fair Housing Compliance Laws.

Chipotle Customer Service Clerk – Incident Report

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The first slideshow discuss the importance of incident reports. The second presentation shows a person calling the customer and following up to find out if the customer is happy with the company’s service after he complained of an accident.

Follow up Calls

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The Case with Gina

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The slideshow puts the sales person on the spot.
This is a product of Psychological Associates, Inc. Please send email to if you wish to get more information about this product for sales training.

Frustrated Programmer – (length: 24 seconds)

(Click here to preview the presentation)

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DIYEL #11 Ask learners to tell their stories and also to listen to others’ stories.

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
“Helping Learners Learn Their Way”

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