November 18, 2013

While there is no hard research to prove the following statement, logic will tell us that, in spite of the shaky percentages used, for most learners the conclusions are probably accurate:

“. . . The experts generally agree that simulations boost learning retention rates dramatically. An often-cited study conducted by the NTL Institute for Applied Behavioral Sciences in Alexandria, Va., found that on average, students retain 5 percent of what they hear in lectures, 10 percent of what they read, and 20 percent of what they see and hear in audiovisual presentations. But add “practice by doing” and “teach others/immediate use” to the mix—two learning techniques that computerized simulations possess in spades—and retention rates shoot up to a jaw-dropping 75 and 80 percent, respectively.

Some also credit simulations with accelerating the learning curve. According to James Lundy, vice president of Gartner, the Stamford, Conn. research firm, students learning via simulation-based training become proficient more quickly. When students learn on the job, it usually takes them longer to be able to perform the same task with the same proficiency, he says.

Proponents also point out that simulations allow students to practice newly acquired skills and apply new knowledge in a realistic, yet risk-free, environment. That means, for example, students feel they can experiment and explore the cause-and-effect relationships between operating decisions and business outcomes without facing real-world consequences—like plummeting a company into bankruptcy or worse.

That kind of experience simply can’t be matched by traditional e-learning or a lecture-based course, says Chris Musselwhite, president of Discovery Learning, a simulation company based in Greensboro, N.C. . . .” — from: “Simulations: The Next Generation of E-Learning” by Sarah Boehle, trainingmag.com.

Trainers first witnessed this boom in longer term retention rates almost three decades ago with the adoption of interactive laser videodisc technologies (IVD). For the first time, an affordable simulation model was available to everyone and longer term retention rates took off.

Today, it’s a different story. First, CD-ROM technology replaced IVD but the early digital limitations took away some of the simulation advantages.

Today, the training world has adopted e-Learning as the delivery method of choice — but, the practitioners have all but eliminated the simulation aspect of learning and reverted to reading-based programs (i.e., PowerPoint adaptations).

And yet, the only training initiatives that have positive impacts on an organization’s performance — and, future — are those programs that generate longer-term retention that immediately translates into positive applications of that initial training.

So, how should we measure longer term retention?

A trainee’s ability to memorize answers and retain them for a short time (usually hours, at most) proves very little and definitely will not contribute positively to your organization’s performance.

No — short-term retention has little benefit — which is why pre- and post-test result comparisons have little validity.

What matters is longer-term retention — and, that is not measured by taking both a pre- and a post-test over the course of a short training session.

If you want to measure longer term retention, I would suggest that a second post-test be administered about six months after the training. Compare that result to both the pre- and the first post-test scores. Only then will you get a better assessment of the training program you have initiated.

Longer-term retention is the aim of effective training. So, ignore the vendor propaganda and find out for yourself.

Combined with a supervisor’s report, you’ll get a much better measurement of the effectiveness of your training initiatives. You’ll more accurately be able to determine what positive effects, if any, your trainees received from the training choices you provided them.

Training has never been more necessary or more powerful. You’ll find that measuring longer term retention will keep you ahead of the game and allow you to make more intelligent investments in what you purchase — and, the initiatives you develop.

There is little doubt that, if you want longer term retention, simulation-based technology training will help you achieve those goals.

More on Wednesday – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder
ITC Learning

www.itclearning.com/blog/ (Mondays & Wednesdays)
e-Mail: bwalton@itclearning.com