Experiential learning allows for the effective communication and retention of complex medical education content. Techniques like interactive video, live polling, gamification, and mixed reality are helping the message stick in the minds of our HCP audiences.

What is experiential learning, and why is it important?

This approach actively engages learners—in this case, healthcare professionals (HCPs)—using tactile and immersive educational experiences. The benefit? Retention is much greater than that of traditional, didactic, learning experiences, and thus, learners enjoy more command of the information.

A few years ago, Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer discovered that when students took notes the old-fashioned way (ie, long hand), they retained the information better than when they typed notes into their laptops. The reason: handwritten notes force learners to cognitively process the information more fully. In other words, their note taking was more experiential. We can effectively apply this same principle to promotional medical education.

Memorization is not always enough.

Few therapeutic areas feature simple cut-and-dry diagnoses. Both art and science contribute to properly identifying, diagnosing, and treating patients. Critical thinking in patient care requires more than rote information memorization. It requires that HCPs not only fully process information, but then apply that information effectively. These techniques can help learners more easily consume your educational content, which in turn will help their patients get meaningful results more rapidly.

Add “inter” to your activity with video.

Although passive, video can also serve as a highly engaging way to convey information when you take it to a more experiential level by adding interactivity. Possibilities abound. Here are a couple of my favorites:

  • Interstitial quizzes/poll questions: These little stop-offs allow learners to engage and process information they just heard
  • "Choose your own adventure:" Woven together by a logic-matrix, this series of short videos allows the viewer to explore the effects of their choices. You may remember the excitement you felt as a child reading this series of mystery books where you were in charge of deciding how the story ends. Though we’re all grown up now, this timeless tactic is still deeply compelling.

Gamify it.

A popular term in the conference room, “gamification” definitely has a place in the medical education space. It turns out, most HCPs possess pretty competitive personalities—they love a good challenge. Adding an element of competition to live or virtual programming can capture learners and keep them tuned in. Create leaderboards for knowledge-check scores, see who can complete a challenge the fastest, or create team-based exercises that require real-time problem solving. Not only will audience members have a great time, more importantly, they’ll leave the room with a better understanding of the material.

Not all realities are created equal.

Virtual and mixed reality are the latest frontiers in medical education. Imagine being able to teach a trainee surgeon on a new technique within an environment that allows them to learn and make mistakes (without any fatal or life-altering consequences). Recently, neurosurgeons at Stanford University started taking MRI and CT scans of patients’ brains and putting them into VR units, allowing doctors to simulate the actual surgery they’ll be performing later in the operating room. Cultivating these experiences takes time and patience; however, the result is well worth the effort.

Experiential learning in medical education has only begun to scratch the surface of how to create a greater impact to your educational content.



About the author

Craig Moore

Craig has 20 years of experience in the marketing and advertising industries, working with companies ranging from Microsoft and JPMorgan Chase & Co. to large pharmaceutical clients doing both disease state and branded work. His core skills include team leadership, management of cross-functional partners and vendors, executional strategy for video and digital assets, and collaboration with clients to ensure all deliverables are of the highest quality.

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