In 1944 the G.I. Bill changed the makeup of our college population and set new ground rules for the practice of adult live gi-billinstruction throughout American business and industry. Prior to the G.I. Bill, less than 9 percent of Americans ever attained a college degree. “Live instruction-as-lecture” was reserved for the intellectual elite.

As we now know, this “reading/lecture” education model, applied universally, has not worked well for the majority of Americans.

Fortunately, there is another form of live instruction that is both active and effective.

Live instruction in K-12 education was (and essentially still is) multimedia in design — “expose and practice” in small discrete segments. The learner reads or hears a little bit of information, practices what she has learned at home through homework assignments, and then reads or hears a little bit more about the subject the next day. A proven method of live instruction that works for most, because the learner becomes an active participant in his own education. Good multimedia learning, in fact, is based on those very same principles.

Unfortunately, the passive “live instruction-as-lecture” method has — mistakenly — become the norm for our adult population today. There are three reasons why organizations can’t help but fail when using this approach.

First, workplace lectures have proven to be generally ineffective duesleeping to the listener’s inability to retain much more than a small amount of the instruction heard at a single sitting.

Secondly, there is not enough time available from a “right sized” workforce to do live instruction in the “expose and practice” discrete segment way.

Thirdly, the complexity of the skills required to operate under today’s workplace requirements goes far beyond what has been required in the past.

So why not use the full motion media learning technologies to address these new challenges? In that way we can keep the best of what has worked before — “expose and practice” in small discrete segments — while combining the awesome power of video, optional full audio, and hands-on practice.

In the past, after completing one’s schooling (maybe only until the eighth grade) one became an apprentice. An honorable first step because it meant you had a “career path,” and you knew what you were going to do and how you were to do it. You were going to acquire a skill. You learned, for example, how to take a pump apart not by reading about it, but by doing it.

Today, simulators are the best substitute for that traditional hands-on learning, but are not always practical. However, this is where full-motion, user-controlled media training can play a critical role. A student can simulate dial movement or pressure gauge readings in real time. You can even use visual learning media to transition a student into the actual job performance setting.

Suppose that, just before completing a lesson, students are instructed to “get box number 12 off the shelf.” In box number 12 are all the components they have just learned about in that lesson. They get to do actual hands-on practice. Then, when they get to the shop floor, they will have learned, seen, and practiced everything they’re now going to be asked to do. And, if an optional sound button is accessible whenever print appears in our new media courseware designs, non-fluent readers can exercise that choice while the fluent readers can ignore it.

Our American workforce plant-workforceis very smart, talented and creative. They have always learned best by seeing and hearing. Let’s give them the learning tools they need to achieve success and to advance their lives and the lives of their families.

Get with it, America! It’s past time!

— Bill Walton, Founder of ITC Learning