A lot has changed with the advent of the World Wide Web in general, and smartphones in particular. We now each have access to a mini-supercomputer in our pocket, with a vast potential for learning. This technology and the wealth of information it can provide by linking to the Internet has fundamentally changed the nature of education and training. Is it any wonder that learners can’t stay focused when the course being offered is a series of PowerPoint slides, delivered by an instructor in a darkened room? Something has got to change. And it’s not going to be the learners. It must be the fundamental nature of the training itself.
Something has got to change. And it’s not going to be the learners. It must be the fundamental nature of the training itself.
Three Strategic Questions for Learning & Development
For Learning & Development (L&D) to remain relevant in the digital age, stakeholders need to answer these three questions, which are essential to achieving focused improvement (with credit to Dr. Goldratt’s TOC Thinking Process):
- What needs to be changed? For example, is it outdated methods, logistics, the content itself or something else?
- What does L&D need to change into? For example, does it just need to include more digital technology, or are other improvements needed, such as delivering training in smaller chunks or in mobile devices?
- How does L&D bring about and maintain the necessary changes? Perhaps you will need an audit of your L&D Department.
Let’s take a look at each of these three questions in more detail.
1- What to Change?
Few would dispute that current training strategies are outdated. Training needs to address the fast-paced, limited attention span of today’s learner, who is accustomed to having questions answered with the lightning speed of a Google search. eLearning courses need to be delivered in short, tightly designed chunks, which address specific learning objectives that can be immediately transferred to the workplace.
Increasingly, there is a disconnect between the “artificial” classroom environment and the “real” world of work. The traditional training classroom is inflexible, logistically challenging, and expensive as compared to electronic alternatives. To top it all off, classroom training takes too much time and creates unnecessary disruptions in the workplace.
Finally, there is limited or no after training support. Learners today expect to be able to access information anytime, anywhere. Training needs to adapt to this new paradigm, by providing training support before, during, and after class. This is all the more important considering the perpetual need to learn new methods and techniques that are always coming online.
Read more in our article here: What's the Problem with Traditional, Instructor-Led Training?
2- What to Change Into?
Training needs to create tools and techniques to address the current shortfalls. Here are a few areas that are prime for renovation:
Add On-Demand Elements:
Create ways for learners to access job aids and other tools, anytime, anywhere. This can be in the form of new content or support for training that they have already received. This type of consumer-centric learning puts your learners in charge of how and when they access training.
Leverage New Apps and Technology:
Incorporate new technologies, such as instant messaging, blogs, and wikis into your eLearning offerings. Give your learners access to complementary expert videos or podcasts that allow them to reinforce a needed skill after a program. Make use of always-connected mobile devices to enhance your training.
Embrace Blended Learning:
If you’re not prepared to move all online, start moving parts of training online. Convert 100% face-to-face training into blended learning solutions. These types of approaches don’t require sweeping changes to your existing curriculum. Instead of converting to a full-fledged elearning program, you can start creating online courses for a few audience segments. Every minute that is converted from classroom to elearning will decrease your costs in the long run, by reducing travel costs, site rental expenses, and even printing costs.
Enhance Transfer of Training:
Training doesn’t end when people take your eLearning course. You need to have a transfer strategy in place and follow up effectively to defeat the forgetting curve. Provide people who attend your training with formal and informal follow-up support and encouragement. This could mean assigning a training buddy, providing job-aids, refresher eLearning modules and brief readings to reinforce or having an instructor contact your learners after the session to answer questions or follow-up on how effective the training was.
Address Short Attention Spans:
Modern workers learn differently. These learners won’t watch a video that lasts longer than 4 minutes, for instance. They will also leave a website between 5 and 10 seconds if it doesn’t hold their attention. For these learners, you can’t expect them to retain all the information you shared during a single course. You need an attention-grabbing design, that is engaging and tightly focused. And you also need offer options that match the way their work-life context and use them to drive continuous learning and on-demand recall.
3- How to Bring About the Change?
So you may be thinking, where do I start? One thing is for certain: You can no longer expect the status quo to be effective. You can’t afford not to act. Conducting a full audit of all your training and development interventions may be needed. It will help you prioritize where change is most needed in order to help your workforce and business to succeed. It will also encourage your learning designers to recognize opportunities for improvement.
The good news is that you don’t have to create all new training programs. Instead, consider taking old course materials and methods, and adapting them to new platforms and media. Chop them up into smaller, more tightly-focused lessons with only one or two training objectives. You might even wish to simply alternate classroom sessions with online sessions. In short, do what you must to redefine your training to accelerate and enhance your learning strategies to keep pace with the digital age.
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