Last week, I attended the ASTD International Conference and Expo in Orlando. If my senses are any indication, the Conference exhibited more energy this year than it has for some time. Many visitors came by the ITC booth and took the time to visit. Clearly, at least from their expressed points-of-view, “good times” were returning to the training segments of their organizations.

What puzzled me, however, was the preoccupation with courseware titles — ignoring the fact that “all training is not created equal.” And, certainly, buying a course title is no way to solve a learning need.

For example, all courseware titles are not equal in scope or production design. The content may be accurate but the instructional design and multi-sensory media components may not be appropriate for today’s learner.

Most importantly to remember, all trainees do not come to you from a single learning culture.

Many studies have proven that traditional “lecture/reading/testing” training programs no longer give the payback in skills acquisition and ROI that they once did. For individuals born after 1960, their learning culture has become a TV-learning culture. That is why, beginning with interactive laser videodisc and CD-ROM, multi-sensory learning became the surest way to a training payback.

Today, we are evolving into an E-Learning training environment.

But, hold on a moment!

Far too many of the E-Learning programs available have taken us backwards into the “reading/testing” world. In their zest to make a quick buck, far too many producers have taken the route of PowerPoint adaptation and written procedure adaptation to the E-Learning environment. The much more effective multi-sensory approach has disappeared from these cheap (and, ineffectual) E-Learning offerings.

The consequences are great. Skills are no longer being acquired as readily. The bottom line contribution of training has shrunk. And, all because we have forgotten to insist on a multi-sensory approach to learning. An approach that first triumphed in the days of interactive laser videodisc and continued to reap great rewards as we transitioned into CD-ROM

We should all stand up and insist that those training initiatives that actually contribute to skills acquisition are the ones that incorporate multi-sensory design — and, we must summarily reject those adapted PowerPoint and written procedures that never belonged in an E-Learning environment in the first place.

And if we don’t — but, continue to buy converted PowerPoint and written procedures — we are wasting our organization’s money; depriving our workers seeking opportunity; and, cheating our company from acquiring those additional skills that they desperately need to become more efficient and more profitable.

So, “yes,” effective training can significantly increase skills and contribute mightily to the bottom line — but only “IF” we demand a multi-sensory approach to our E-Learning initiatives and purchases.

And, that is the big take-away message from the ASTD Conference!

More on Thursday – – – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder, ITC Learning