Want to Burst the Learning Bubble? – Workshop Tip # 259

Share this article

Ready, set? Go burst the learning bubble!

Learning lessons are often delivered with the assumption that situations with learners and workers are fixed or static. We say, “The learners will learn this content in this situation with these conditions.” At some point, we recognize that this assumption of a static state creates a “learning bubble.”

Wait, what do you mean by a “learning bubble?” 

A bubble is a situation that suggests an isolated and ideal condition or circumstance. It is usually artificial and can burst at anytime. This is what happens in the stock market. 

But in real life, isolated situations and conditions are unrealistic. Situations remain highly unpredictable. No matter how carefully we plan to deliver our lessons, we have no control over how they will unfold to our learners, in real life. 

Consequently, when learners journey through the real world after taking the lesson, the ideas become difficult to apply because they haven’t practiced the skills of integrating and synthesizing the content. What’s worse is that learners know this to be the case, so they lose interest while learning the content in the first place. 

Go Grab Your Push Pin

It’s your job to go ahead and burst the learning bubble. Here are some ideas to consider in “Adding Experience to Formal Lessons.”

Let’s start with an illustration of a “pet food extruder” as a formal lesson. I will oversimplify the lesson.

1. You design and deliver a formal lesson – (A)
This is our standard lesson design. The typical objective is a specific knowledge or skill. This is what we plan for our learners to learn. This is a bubble because we know the situation changes or there are many variables at work that the learner and worker have no control over. This is a traditional linear instructional approach.
2. Add a link or section to the objectives, “Experience Objective” – (B)
By adding an Experience Objective, we direct the learners into areas that widen their learning to include real-life histories of problems related to viscosity. A sample act of looking into the company databases or manufacturing records adds real-life experience about viscosity. Workers may discover patterns, variations, other locations, other equipment, and more. Keep this open-ended. Ask the learners to “find out.” Don’t spoon-feed this information.
3. Add “What If’s” to your ideas and exercises- (C )
In the “bubble” formal lessons, the answers are often focused on only one situation. But what happens when with the inevitable “What If” instances? In this step, you encourage the learner to think outside of the isolated condition. We help them reflect and realize that there are other unknowns and unpredictable parts of viscosity. Make this a topic in (D)
4. Add “Experience Sharing” – (D)
By adding experience-sharing aspects of the lesson, we open the learning to a more current context. For example, a new testing tool or procedure may be practiced in the Michigan plant, how weather impacts viscosity, how to do a faster test, etc. Encourage your learners and workers to leverage the use of discussion rooms, posting messages in Slack, using Teams, or breakouts in webinars. Simply ask them, “What if ….? “

Working with Constraints

The most common constraints to implementing/adding experience learning in formal lessons stem from restrictions from stakeholders, subject matter experts, or time and technologies. I heard designers and trainers and leaders say, “we don’t have the technology” or “my boss will not allow more time.” These are challenges that accompany growing pains associated with innovating your learning programs. 

The Real Pay-Off

The main benefit to this is, we are making learners and workers think beyond the learning bubble. They are expanding their thought processes to become aware of other experiences. This results in their recognition that your lessons are more current, contextual, relevant … and fun. 

Expand your learners’ horizons, allow them to understand and synthesize experiences by bursting the bubble.


Contingencies Prior Experience Burst Bubble
Overview Burst Bubble of Learning Objectives
What is a bubble
The Conversation Loop: Foster Learning Through Experience Sharing – Tip #181
Why Experience Results in Superior Learning – Tip #36

Vignettes Learning Workshops
1. Developing Critical Thinking for Modern Learners
2. Instructional and Experience Design for Workflow Learning
3. The Masterful Virtual Trainer Online Workshop
4. Microlearning for Disruptive Results
5. Hyper Story-Based eLearning Design Workshop
6. Training Frontline Leaders as Learning Accelerators
7. HYBRID Remote and Hands-on Training
8. Advanced Skills in Webinars

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