Leveraging Action-Based Learning

We can craft a blended learning experience that incorporates the immediacy of asking Siri or Alexa a question…with real adventures in which learners master skills through guided production-based activities.

From finding your town’s highest-rated taco trailer to using YouTube to make a quick household repair, online learning tools are infusing more and more aspects of our daily lives. When we have questions, we want answers. And we want them fast!

As Training professionals, our first impulse also may be to provide our people with answers through online training. After all, that’s where people are. And that’s what we think they expect. Yet too often, that choice leads to an incomplete learning experience—one with limited impact and only fleeting results.

If our true goal is to build action-based skills and habits—and to instill confidence in those skills and habits so they’re genuinely adopted and internalized—then the learning experience has to include the same action-based activities. We don’t learn to ride a bike by reading about it or watching someone else ride a bike. We have to do the activity!

As learning designers, we know we can enrich the learning environment by providing learners with a safe space to fail and learn from mistakes. We also know that space has to be authentic. It’s inefficient and ineffective to design an experience around engaging with a screen when we want people to engage in the real world! And yet…we know they really do want to find the answer on their mobile device.

Fortunately, we don’t have to settle for either/or.

We can craft a blended learning experience that incorporates the immediacy of asking Siri or Alexa a question…with real adventures in which learners master skills through guided production-based activities. And we can leverage those activities to reinforce learning and generate real business results.

Keller Williams Realty knows this terrain. As the world’s largest real estate franchise and No. 1 on Training magazine’s 2017 Training Top 125, our charge is not simply to deliver world-class training, but to help our people grow their businesses so they can fund their lives and create opportunities. Research and experience have proven that the agents who achieve the biggest leaps in production are those who “learn on the job.” Our training programs, therefore, combine live and on-demand sessions with “real-play” exercises such as actual calls to actual clients.

Here are a few examples of proven action-based courses that can help you maximize your training impact.


Real estate attracts professionals from many industries and backgrounds. The key to a successful transition into real estate is to get into production quickly. After all, you have to have a client and close a transaction before you get paid. Keller Williams University’s foundational training for new agents is a course called Ignite.

In a 12-session blended training program, agents engage in real play such as calling actual consumers. Thanks to this emphasis on doing the activities that generate results, students increase their commissions by 79 percent in just three months. Moreover, Ignite graduates are 138 percent more likely to close transactions than agents who have not taken the class.


Once agents have successfully launched their career, it’s time to lead them to the next level. In a company of more than 160,000 agents, Keller Williams has the benefit of learning from our best practitioners. Our training incorporates top producers’ innovative practices, allowing all associates to learn from what the best of the best have learned.

Successful agents understand that lead generation is critical to building sustainable, profitable businesses. To do more business, you have to have more business. So the best agents set a daily contact goal to generate leads.

To model this behavior in the classroom and drive adoption of a best practice, our KW MAPS Coaching curriculum, BOLD (Business Objective: A Life by Design), includes intensive real-play activity. Students have to make 20 new contacts a day over seven weeks. That’s 700 potential clients. BOLD graduates average 14 contracts during the course, which is more than most real estate agents achieve in an entire year. And the results extend far beyond the classroom. BOLD graduates average annual increases of 211 percent more sales and 203 percent more commissions. That’s money in their pocket to reinvest in their business and fund their lives.


Real estate is a seasonal business, with the first and fourth quarters typically slower than the hot spring and summer selling months. To help agents counter these seasonal trends and grow their businesses year round, Keller Williams introduced the Career Growth Initiative.

Through a system of live calls, classroom training, accountability huddles, and extensive on-demand digital resources and tools, agents work backward from their goals to identify and track the daily activities that determine success. If agents know they want to earn X dollars, for example, they can determine how many closings they’ll need, how many listings that will take, and how many listing appointments they need to secure each week to hit their goals. And they’re encouraged and equipped with scripts to do real-world prospecting activities, from knocking on doors to reconnecting with past clients, family, and friends.

As with any company-wide initiative, adoption is critical. Through a targeted campaign stressing the value of the initiative and setting clear expectations with leadership, we quickly exceeded our sign-up goal. Today, more than 146,000 associates have entered and are actively tracking their goals in the real world. And more than 560 offices are participating in the weekly calls with leadership and engaging with the tools and training materials through our online learning platform. Recently, more than 10,000 associates participated in an online activity with CEO John Davis to identify their “someday” goals and what it’s going to take to achieve them.

The results are showing up in the numbers. Through the first half of 2017, our agents’ closed transactions were up 12 percent; closed sales volume was up 17 percent; and agent commissions were up 16 percent. Our agents are far outpacing the industry. More important, they’re far outpacing their own record performance from the year before. A 16 percent increase in income means more of our people are living the lives they want to live, because they engaged in the activities that lead to production. Nothing matters more to our training organization.


While much of learning delivery is understandably moving online, online isn’t always the most effective way to deliver learning— especially if your goal is to deliver real-world results. Understanding when to leverage a classroom and how to complement that experience with digital and on-demand training is critical to succeeding in an increasingly competitive world. To teach real skills, you have to engage people in the real activities that power their success.

Stacia Thompson is director of Keller Williams University, the training division of the world’s largest real estate franchise (No. 1 on the 2017 Training Top 125). She has a graduate degree in information science and more than 20 years’ experience in instructional design, curriculum development, and e-learning management across industries including real estate, technology, and higher education.