Training: Marc My Words: Back to Basics – When Training Is the Answer
“You can’t simply walk into the classroom and start talking and hope that it sticks. Likewise, you can’t simply transfer your PowerPoints to the Web and call it eLearning. But it’s not as difficult as it seems to make significant improvements to your training. Take these eight characteristics and turn them into a simple checklist; all are important.”
Last month, I talked about the many alternatives we have when training is not the answer, and why we should look at those options first. But training remains a linchpin to most performance improvement strategies, and there is no indication that training — classroom or online — is going away anytime soon.
To be sure, learning is more complex than I can discuss here. But, assuming we’ve done our due-diligence to confirm that a learning strategy is appropriate, and assuring that the training will work whether we are developing a classroom course (including virtual classrooms) or an online (eLearning) program requires, at a minimum, that we make sure it reflects eight fundamental characteristics:
- The right content — Of course, this is a primary concern. But the right content for the instructor or the training department may not be the right content for the learner or the sponsoring organization. Content should be more than just accurate; learners should see it as relevant and authentic as well. Take the time to find out exactly what you need to teach; no more and no less. Learners usually perceive courses that get the content wrong to be a waste of time.
- Motivate beyond objectives — Instructional objectives are not enough. Knowing what people should be able to do at the end of training is useful, but objectives don’t always answer learners’ two primary questions, “Why am I here?” and “What’s in it for me?” Every lesson should reinforce the course’s essential value proposition – to the learner and to the organization. Those who value their training will likely learn more and retain it longer.
- Interactivity and Practice — This is not just following along with the slides (no matter how “interactive” they are) or pressing “next” to continue when online. Nor is it simply note-taking or asking questions, although both are sound instructional techniques. Great interactive courses involve learners in a variety of exercises that test their higher-order thinking, analytical, and creative abilities in addition to more baseline skills of remembering and understanding (thinking about interactivity along Bloom’s Taxonomy is a great way to get started). Well-designed courses also provide adequate time for learners to practice newly acquired skills so they become more fluid and agile in their performance, and learn “how to learn” on their own. Case studies, simulations and games, role-plays, action learning, and problem solving are just a few of the many instructional techniques that you can employ.
- Collaboration — Sometimes, a better way for learners to master new knowledge and skills is from each other, rather than from the instructor. Teamwork, experimentation, and group research and presentations (with the instructor as a “guide on the side,” rather than a “sage on the stage”) can reinforce new learning much better than more traditional one-way presentations.
- Feedback — Not just, “You’re right” or “Sorry, you’re wrong,” but meaningful, timely feedback provided by instructors, fellow learners, or the instructional program itself is essential for effective learning. Great feedback helps learners understand why a particular response was correct or not; it provides guidance to help them make appropriate adjustments before going too far in the wrong direction, and is as important to learning success as the interactivity you employ and the content you present.
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