TRAINING THAT REALLY WORKS, Part 3“ (continuing from the January 6th & 8th blogs)

January 13, 2014

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

Recognizing that “Content Accuracy and Completeness” plus “A Real-time Environment” are the universal requirements of any valid training program, “Full Motion Video” (or animated graphics, as found in the best of gaming programs) plus “Optional Word-for-Word Audio Capability” are the first essential qualities that make up effective e-Learning.

You want your people to learn, retain, and apply the information you present. You already know that 40% of your workforce is not reading-fluent (cannot sufficiently comprehend anything written above a fourth grade reading level). And yet, you should also realize that all of your people are capable and want to learn.

They’ve grown up with televisions, computers and tablets so they more readily understand media. And, full-motion media is what you should give them.

In addition, optional word-for-word audio gives everyone the same opportunity that, traditionally, only the reading proficient has had.

Everyone needs to have the same access to all the information and learning you choose to present. All need to have the same opportunity for improved retention and better on-the-job performance. So, why not level the playing field for everyone? Good training should be inclusive — not exclusive.

Of course, we do not want to slow down or bore the reading-proficient. And, that’s where the “optional” button comes into play. In a well designed e-Learning course, the word-for-word audio can be turned “off” or “on” depending on the learning culture and desires of the individual.

If an individual learns best by reading, then “goodbye” audio. But, if an individual learns best by listening, then “hello” audio. This is a big advantage when you select e-Learning designed to include everyone in the learning process.

So, in addition to full-motion video or animations, your number one criterion when evaluating e-Learning choices is to avoid any programs that either verbally paraphrase the written words on the screen or force all trainees to listen to all of the audio. And, though it really doesn’t need to be said again, you should slam the door on any program that fails to have any audio at all.

Full-motion video and animations containing optional word-for-word audio is the only way to go!

The second essential quality for truly effective E-Learning is a “User-designed Interface” that has been created for ease of navigation.

For the individuals who will be taking your e-Learning courses, much of their initial motivation will be blunted if they have to spend excessive time paging down or up in order to get the information they are seeking.

In fact, one of the most important instructional design elements for any e-Learning program is the creation of the menu page

That menu page needs to have instantly accessible links to the topic-content segments, glossary, pre-test, post-test, practice exercises, optional audio button, and all the help features. One click should take the learner anywhere that individual chooses.

Without question, the majority of your people will be anxious to acquire additional knowledge and skills in order to improve their on-the-job performance. Don’t let a poorly designed menu page dampen and frustrate that motivation.

So, be careful when you encounter an e-Learning course that requires extensive menu searching and multiple clicking in order to get to the desired section. Your learners will become both confused and distracted from their real goal which, of course, is to master the material.

The third essential quality for truly effective e-Learning is “Meaningful and Individually Interactive Instruction” which, of course, means that a knowledgeable Instructional Designer has created it.

Too many e-Learning courses are designed today by individuals who know very little about either their end-user demographics or possess the knowledge to separate the content “have-to-knows” from the “nice-to-knows.”

Instructional Design for media instruction grew up about three decades ago. Much of it was learned by talking with organization-users, the workers to be trained, and subject matter experts. Designs were tailored to particular subject areas, trainees and specific curricula. Designers listened, read and learned in order to create meaningful instruction. And, the best of these were former elementary school teachers who had a history of adapting their teaching to the individual needs of their learners.

In recent years, higher education has started granting undergraduate and graduate degrees in Instructional Design. Formulas have been composed and, as happens so many times with higher education, attempts have been made to emulate the sciences and mathematics in their formulae (do not deviate) structure. Those institutions have forgotten that “one size does not fit all” in everything. The Enlightenment approach works well with science and math but it has little place in interpretative design and creation.

The result is that today many programs designed by degreed Instructional Designers have very little linkage between learning and the intended users — nor to intellectually stimulating interactivity.

Equal harm is perpetrated by the creators of the so-called authoring tools. The assumption here (and, it is a fatally flawed assumption) is that by plugging scripting, graphics, video, questions, etc. into an authoring tool out will spit a training course.

Nope! Won’t happen!

At best, you’ll get an “information program” but, not much meaningful learning will ever take place. Learning means much more than acquiring information. It centers on applicability and, unless your aim is to simply transfer information (an employee handbook, for example), courses produced with authoring tools will seldom result in significantly increased on-the-job performance.

Ditto for those vendors that send their program creations overseas. Do you think they do that because they truly believe that they’ll get back a superior training product? Or, do they do it because the profit motive is their driving force?

The most damaging result from all this templating lies in the disappearance of “branching,” the major design characteristic of Interactive Laser Videodisc (IVD) a quarter century ago. Individual learning paths gave IVD the highest marks any media technology has ever received. (Those were the days when technology served the creators of learning media — unlike today, when the creators of learning media serve the technology.)

It may be less expensive to use template design, but it sure makes for inferior courseware. How does one template multiple subjects designed for disparate users?!? Do those vendors really think that every subject and every learner is the same?!?

You’d be wise to avoid e-Learning courseware that has been templated — where knowledgeable Instructional Design is absent and programming personnel just fill in the blanks over and over and over.

Part 3 on Wednesday – – –

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