TRAINING THAT REALLY WORKS, Part 2 (continuing from the January 6 blog)

January 8, 2014

Training Challenge Number Four: “the failure to measure longer term retention”

The only training initiatives that have positive impacts on an organization’s performance and future are those programs that generate longer-term retention and positive applications of the initial training.

Almost every vendor of training software or standup instruction refers to the wonderful statistics that trumpet the improvement made by most participants in their proprietary solutions. They claim that the post-test scores are considerably higher than the pre-test scores — so, obviously, the training solutions they are peddling really work. Voila!

Unfortunately for them, and for you, these results prove little. A trainee’s ability to memorize answers and retain them for a short time (usually days, at most) proves very little and will definitely not make a positive contribution to your organization’s performance.

No — short-term retention has little benefit.

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

I would suggest that a second post-test is administered six months, or more, after the training. Compare that result to both the pre-test 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.

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.

Moving now from the general to the specific, we’re ready to examine e-Learning — the current digital medium of choice. And, while e-Learning has its own particulars — each of the previous four “Training Challenges” still apply.

Training Challenge Number Five: “the failure to provide focused e-Learning that is designed to meet the Learning Culture of the Twenty-First Century”

The first thing we must acknowledge is the amount of garbage being disseminated today under the guise of e-Learning. Page-turner programs, PowerPoint presentations and reconstituted written procedures all do much more harm than good. In fact, they almost totally ignore most modern workers and their needs. They lack the winning focus — an emphasis on the Users of today and their attendant twenty-first century learning environment.

E-Learning does indeed offer the world the most comprehensive educational and training tool the world has ever known. If applications producers treat it as another communication tool that can deliver effective learning – learning, incidentally, which also happens to be multi-sensory, measurable, and more consistent – then, “The Learner” will win without being sacrificed on the altar of technological whim.

“Single-Minded Focus” is a term that exemplifies successful individuals. Our single-minded focus must be on the User. It cannot be on the technology. If our Users learn, we win. If our programming fails to work because of antiquated infrastructure, we lose. If our programs reach effectively to those many individuals who do not “learn by reading,” we win. If we reach only those individuals who are fluent readers, we lose. Our single-minded focus must be directed toward the many – and, variety of — Users we encounter.

Training Challenge Number Six: “the failure to recognize effective e-Learning, (overview)”

Corporate trainers should run as fast as they can when they encounter those adapted PowerPoint presentations and adapted written procedures that pretend to be e-Learning. When someone tells you that those things actually train people, just ask them if they’d like to buy the Brooklyn Bridge.

At best, what those examples are is e-Information and, at worst, an anathema to today’s learning culture and the necessary skills acquisition you are trying to achieve with your training initiatives.

Adapted PowerPoint presentations and adapted written procedures require a reading-for-understanding receptor which, as we know, eliminates nearly 40% of our workforce.

But, instead of wasting our time with PowerPoint-like counterfeits, I want us to focus on those values that should be present in all good media-training choices and, specifically, those aspects that constitute effective e-Learning.

All good training media must have:

1) Content Accuracy & Completeness
2) A Real-time Environment

And, to help you recognize genuine e-Learning — actually capable of training your workforce — you should also look specifically for “e-Learning’s Winning Seven” components:

1) Full Motion Video with Optional Word-for-Word Audio
2) A User-designed Interface for Navigation-ease
3) Meaningful and Individually Interactive Instruction
4) Short Modular Lessons
5) Efficient Sentence Use per Screen (with user-appropriate vocabulary)
6) Subject-appropriate Instructional Design
7) A Capability of Doubling as a “Help Desk”

As you sift through the choices available, it is these characteristics that are where “the rubber meets the road” — and, it is these characteristics that we will examine next week. But please remember, it’s just as important to know what to avoid as it is to know what really works.

Part 3 on Monday – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder
ITC Learning (Mondays & Wednesdays)