There, the learners intentionally model the behavior observed. In particular, a learner observes a specific action of another person, sees and analyzes whether it is a success or failure, and pictures themselves performing it correctly. 

What is vicarious experience, then? 

Imagine that you are to train students on how to use a new tool. You have two options: show the process to everyone separately or make a presentation. The presentation, involving vicarious learning would be much more effective. 

To apply it, you will gather a group and ask one of the workers to use the device upon your instructions in front of the group. At the same time, you will tell others to observe and learn from the mistakes of the performer. 

By observing, analyzing, and reproducing, they will learn to use the device and get vicarious experience. 

Do not confuse vicarious learning and conditioning

Importantly, vicarious conditioning is about learning by observing responses to a stimulus and consequences for a performer. 

For instance, in a cohort traineeship, praising one trainee for incentives can make others learn that active participation is important for corporate culture.

Further reading: What is cohort based learning?

What are the 4 conditions of vicarious learning?

Importantly, this method, pioneered by Albert Bandura, takes its roots from the social cognitive theory. Vicarious learning depends on the 4 conditions or processes: attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation. 

  • Attention allows comprehension of the observed model, setting the ground for the vicarious experience.
  • Retention defines whether the learner will keep the behavior model in memory. 
  • Reproduction entails the learner's ability to replicate the behavior. 
  • Motivation influences the likelihood of choosing to imitate based on the observed outcomes. 

That way, the first two processes add to the comprehension of the target skills or behavior, while the last two processes allow the learner to repeat the action and gain knowledge.

What are the benefits of vicarious learning?

  • Efficient skill acquisition: Vicarious experience adds to the acquisition of new skills, accelerating the learning process without the need for trial and error.
  • Risk-dree learning environment: Vicarious learning often takes place in controlled or simulated environments, providing a risk-free setting for learners. 
  • Enhanced problem-solving abilities: Vicarious learning enhances their ability to analyze and solve problems by drawing on the experiences of others. 
  • Social and behavioral adaptation: By observing others, individuals learn how to navigate and adapt to different situations, fostering effective social interactions.

Further reading: Benefits of collaborative learning

Vicarious Learning vs Observational Learning: Main Differences

To start with, observational learning is a pretty comprehensive term, describing any learning via observation, whether it is deliberate or unintentional activity. 

In contrast, vicarious learning is intentional, contemplating that learners observe models and follow their actions upon analysis for a purpose.

Thus, the main difference between vicarious and observational learning lies in the intention of the learner. 

In particular, vicarious learning implies attention to the process, retention of knowledge, motivation, and reproduction, while observational theory focuses simply on watching.

Highlight: That way, the intentional approach sets vicarious learning apart from the broader category of observational learning.

Vicarious Learning Examples 

The examples of vicarious learning can be completely different, depending on the subject, format, or audience. Here are some of the vivid cases of vicarious learning:

  • Watching an educational demonstration or video. It is a common vicarious experience for corporate learning or onboarding.
  • Group simulation. It is a popular activity for learners studying healthcare.
  • Mentorship programs. Observing mentors and repeating after them is a great way to learn things for new workers and trainees. 
  • Collaborative problem-solving. In a collaborative environment, problem-solving scenarios and role-plays are common vicarious learning examples, involving observing the actions of others and finding solutions.
  • Reading a case study or a book on a specific topic. A case study is a vivid vicarious learning example. For instance, a manager can analyze the case and apply the solution to a similar issue in real life. 

Vicarious Learning Application within Organizations

You might not thought about it, but the process of observation makes vicarious learning a pretty common practice among educational and training organizations. 

Here are some of the great examples of vicarious learning implementation:

Application in a bootcamp 

For instance, in a coding bootcamp, participants can observe experienced developers solving real-world coding challenges through live coding sessions Within a creative bootcamp focused on design, they can utilize collaborative projects where participants observe each other's design processes.

Further reading: What is a bootcamp?

Vicarious learning in online schools

In online classes, students can benefit from vicarious learning by observing master classes through video materials. It also applies to cases where students can learn by watching demonstrations of experiments. 

Vicarious Learning in academies

In the case of a marketing academy, students can engage in case studies where they observe and analyze successful marketing campaigns.

Using vicarious experience in collaborative programs

Collaborative programs in entrepreneurship can include case studies of successful startups. The same refers to innovation workshops, where learner participants can observe and participate in brainstorming sessions, applying various ideation techniques and problem-solving strategies.

Examples of vicarious learning in corporate training and coaching

For a customer service training program, employees can learn effective communication skills through role-playing scenarios. Simutebously, during onboarding, new employees can benefit from vicarious experience by watching videos or presentations showcasing the company's culture.

In sales or management coaching, representatives can observe successful sales calls or scenarios and try to replicate them with the correct strategies.