As someone who cares about the prosperity of your business, you want your employees to be able to apply the knowledge acquired from the training programs to resolve real problems at the workplace. You have invested time, money, and effort to train your employees; you want to make sure that they DO and not just recite theories, quote statistics, and recount case studies. You want your employees to be able to figure out what is wrong with a machine and fix it, than just know the troubleshooting tips.
Unfortunately, transferring learning is easier said than done. According to research, packing your courses with punchy content does not always deliver the knockout effect you desire.
Learning transfer is challenging because human beings are complex individuals and every person is different from the other. It is difficult to predict how each of them will respond to a course. One game that appeals to the intelligence of one learner might be too challenging for another one. Again, someone may comprehend an idea very well during the training but may not be able to apply his knowledge to solve a real-world problem.
The most powerful reason why learning transfer is ineffective, as was revealed during the ATD International Conference & Exposition 2016, is that 90 percent of training is designed without a well-defined strategy that facilitates it.
90% of trainers are not creating a strategy for transfer #ATD2016.... the session commences..... Houston we have a problem— Emma (@emmaweber) May 22, 2016
There are various other factors that determine how efficient the transfer of learning will be. Read this paper to find out. When you have an idea of the variables you have to work with, you can design more effective training programs.
As a training manager and an eLearning designer, you have to provide a COMPREHENSIVE learning experience. You have to keep in mind that learning does not start and stop with the training session. You have to take care of all the stages of learning transfer: before, during, and after training.
Before the Training
You can facilitate a glitch-free learning and transfer process by adopting these measures even before the training program starts.
1) Carry out a thorough training needs analysis.
A comprehensive training needs analysis exercise with the trainees will help you assess what skills and knowledge they need to excel in their job responsibilities and the gaps in their existing knowledge and skill sets. The insights you gain from a training needs assessment will help you design eLearning courses with relevant content that helps learners perform well in their jobs.
You can reach out to your audience, ask them to fill out self-assessment forms where they will themselves identify the skills they currently possess and the knowledge and training gaps they want to plug in.
2) Identify the purpose (the what’s in-it-for-me information) of training.
Identify the training goals and learning objectives before you start designing the course. This ensures that all team members are on the same page, work towards a common goal, and focus their efforts to achieve similar objectives. Identifying the training goals right at the outset also sets audience expectations; they know what the training will be on and what learning outcomes they can expect.
3) Align learning outcomes with business goals and on-job tasks.
Establish the clear association between company business goals and the skills the learners will learn and develop by the time they complete the course. This helps you motivate the learner and make your team aware of what they are working towards to develop.
4) Plan to provide just-in-time learning using the most appropriate delivery method.
To ensure that your training has the maximum impact on learners, provide training just when they need it. For instance, sales reps need to access a course on the last update on a product when they are at the store in front of the client. Just-in-time training has the maximum impact because learners can apply the knowledge they have acquired right away.
To provide just-in-time training, consider the following tips:
- Identify different content for different groups of people based on their existing skills and career paths.
- Choose the right delivery method for your target audience.
- Create opportunities for learners to access the training whenever, wherever they are. Read more about responsive eLearning.
5) Meet the learners.
To motivate your audience of learners, managers must ensure that they meet at least some of them before the training and tell them about the significance of the material—how the learning outcomes align with the company’s business goals and how they can progress along their career paths with the knowledge they acquire. Managers, meanwhile, should realize the significance of the learning and understand how they can facilitate the learning process for their team members and create opportunities for them to apply the knowledge.
During the Training
You have to ensure that the eLearning course communicates meaning efficiently and creates a memorable learning experience. Here’re some ideas:
1) State the “what’s-in-it-for-me” information at the beginning.
The astute learner wants to know, “What’s in it for me?” The onus is on the eLearning designer to provide a satisfactory and credible answer to this question.
According to Kontoghiorghes (2001), the transfer of learning takes place more efficiently when learners know what behaviors they are expected to exhibit after they have gone through the training. It is critical that the learning objectives are clearly defined right at the outset to set expectations, clarify goals, and remove ambiguity.
2) Chunk content to prioritize and eliminate clutter.
Chunking and prioritizing content ensure that your course is clutter-free and relevant. Adult learners are short on time; they appreciate a course that cuts to the chase right away.
Note: Make sure that you review the learning objectives while chunking content. Include only “must-know” content and eliminate everything that does not address the learning objectives directly, “nice-to-know” information, for example.
3) Draw upon the learner’s prior knowledge to create associations.
We learn best by associations. It is easy to comprehend, remember, and retain new concepts when we can connect the dots and discover underlying patterns. For instance, it is easy to remember a list of names of farm animals than a list containing names of random objects that are not connected to each other.
You can say, “The dress is red.” Or you can say, “The dress is as red as a ruby.” When you compare the color to ruby, you leave no doubt in the mind about the exact shade of red.
Try to help your learners draw upon their prior knowledge or experience to understand, discover similarities, and make sense of a new concept. Analogies and metaphors are effective instructional tools to draw similarities between two apparently dissimilar objects or ideas. However, ensure that you also point out the differences between the objects being compared.
4) Use instructional strategies that establish relevance.
The transfer of learning is automatic and effortless if the learner is aware of the appropriateness of the material; to his workplace. The adult learner is motivated to apply his newly-acquired knowledge only if he is confident that it will help him tackle his real-life challenges. Here are some tips on how to establish relevance by creating a course that mimics reality:
- Incorporate realistic scenarios that simulate the problems faced by the learners at the workplace. Here are some tips on how to create relevant scenarios.
- Incorporate practical exercises that are similar to what learners will be expected to perform at the workplace. For instance, in a course for call center employees, create activities like answering phone calls taking cues from scripts and templates. These practical exercises give the course the semblance of reality.
- Include non-examples from real life to give learners the chance to learn, in a safe environment, what can go wrong and how to fix problems.
5) Align content with real-life job roles and responsibilities.
Adult learners feel more motivated to apply the learning when they can see for themselves, the relevance of the course to their job responsibilities. So, take every opportunity to establish this relevance.
Create scenarios or stories that demonstrate positive outcomes. Incorporate case studies and video testimonials to add legitimacy. Use these media to explain how the learner can improve his on-job performance, as the people in the case studies and videos have done, after taking the course.
6) Keep an eye on the learning objectives while you design the course.
Whether you are writing a scenario or planning an activity, continue reviewing the learning objectives. This ensures your content is relevant, and there is no information that does not directly relate to the overarching goals of the course. Your focus should also be on connecting the dots, so every game, every activity, every slide, and every image individually fulfills a learning objective.
7) Divide the program into modules.
There are several advantages of spacing out and delivering your course in modules, but most importantly it has to do with the transfer of learning. When learners return to work after completing each module, they get an opportunity to apply their newly-acquired knowledge. Because there is not much lag between learning and application, it is less likely that learners will forget the content.
You may want to look up this resource on microlearning to get the scoop on when and how to implement it.
8) Provide action plans to retain and improve motivation.
Help learners prepare action plans to guide them when they are back to work. These action plans lay out the guidelines that will assist learners to apply what they have learned during the training.
Here are some tips:
- Create action plans to guide learners just after the training and six months afterward.
- Make sure that the plans are realistic.
- Specify not only what learners should do to carry out a particular task but also how to troubleshoot.
After the Training
The learning process continues long after the training is over. The period just after the event (call it an eLearning course or an Instructor-led session) holds many opportunities that you can tap into to help learners cement the material. Here’s how:
1) Supplement the training with “social learning.”
We all learn best when we have examples to follow, friends to share our successes with, buddies to learn from, and mentors in our midst. Social learning connects learners to one another and the trainers so that they can discuss and share stories. In-person meetings, chat groups, forums, and videos of trainees sharing their stories hosted on the Intranet are effective ways to incorporate social learning in the learning process. This social aspect of the learning process increases motivation and facilitates a smooth transfer of the knowledge.
Here are two resources to help you understand the concept of social learning:
- Targeting 6 Social Learning Needs in eLearning Environments
- The Why’s and How’s of Social Learning in the Workplace
2) Provide refresher courses.
Trainees often report being unable to retain key learning points after the training is over or recall these concepts when needed. These challenges inhibit practical application of the knowledge. A refresher course can improve recall. The course should be simple and provide just a crisp and coherent summary of the key learning concepts. You can pair these refresher programs with problem-solving sessions where trainees can help each other by recounting the challenges they have faced while trying to implement the learning and sharing stories of their success or troubleshooting tips.
3) Arrange post-training follow-up sessions.
Reflection is one of the most efficient ways to cement the knowledge, identify gaps in training, and identify the barrier(s) to a strong transfer of learning.
You can send follow-up emails to trainees after about a month to reinforce key learning points.
You can arrange post-training follow-up sessions to provide supplementary lessons or use these opportunities to let trainees practice their skills or discuss their experiences as they try to apply their knowledge on the job.
These sessions are also ideal times for trainees to ponder whether they are facing challenges as they seek to use their skills at work, and how they have implemented the key concepts and what were the results? The answers to these questions provide valuable insights to trainers about how successful has been the learning transfer, so they can devise ways to optimize the transfer process.
4) Create opportunities for practice.
Multiple research studies have emphasized the importance of repeated practice to cement one’s newly-acquired skills. Employees should be provided ample opportunities at the workplace to practice the skills they have learned from the training program. According to studies, not having these opportunities can inhibit an employee’s ability to apply his skills to solve real-life problems.
The subject (read: issue) of transfer of learning has been giving sleepless nights to educators, business managers, and eLearning developers for quite some time. Quite a few sensible ideas are floating around. Experts have lots of tips and tricks to share with you. There are several foolproof practices to stick to religiously. This means you might have a lot to catch up with. So here are some kickass resources we recommend:
Improving Learning Transfer By Carol Leaman, CEO, Axonify: https://trainingmag.com/improving-learning-transfer
3 Ways to Improve Transfer of Learning in the Workplace by Larry Alton: http://www.business.com/human-resources/3-ways-to-improve-transfer-of-learning-in-the-workplace/
The transfer of training: what really matters by Rebecca Grossman and Eduardo Salashttp://www.uio.no/studier/emner/matnat/ifi/INF3280/v14/pensumliste/additionalliterature/grossmansalas2011transfertraining.pdf
Larry AltonTakeout Learning: 4 Tips to Encourage Learning Transfer by Courtney Pittman https://www.td.org/Publications/Blogs/L-and-D-Blog/2015/04/Takeout-Learning-4-Tips-to-Encourage-Learning-Transfer