Four ingredients of a learning programme
Designing and implementing a learning programme is part of every large organisation’s activity. Having worked in education and then moving to the commercial world, I notice some difference in the way learning programmes are approached.
Generally in commercial organisations, a new method of working is broken down into a procedure, and then this is presented as stage by stage behaviours to learn, maybe with exercises to embed each stage. This sounds fine, but as budgets and resources vary, even within the same organisation, results can be inconsistent. By creating a basic scheme for all learning you should be able to achieve some consistency even if available resources are unevenly distributed, and not have to go to ‘square one’ for each initiative.
Often training has to be delivered at a distance, by workbooks or e-learning, and this should work fine so long as there is not too much haste in getting the tick in the box for having completed training. Completion might make the training stats look good, but does it actually deliver the desired new behaviours and results?
There are a number of e-learning tools available. Adobe Captivate is particularly good for software demonstration and interaction. Articulate Storyline 2 has a friendly PowerPoint style interface and well developed interactivity and animation. Moodle is actually a platform, its built in tools for simple text and pictures make course building quick and easy, and make it very popular in higher education: https://moodle.org/demo/
These will guide you to an extent in terms of content, but you still need a basic plan for learning. A platform is still really a sophisticated container for your content.
To improve at something, like playing guitar, baking, or plate spinning a learner needs to be able to make progress by by themselves. They need the ability to self-correct, that is to recognise when something is wrong, and know how to make it better without further outside help. The learner becoming their own teacher is surely the goal of every learning programme.
How do you design a learning programme that can make this happen?
Four things that a piece of learning should include:
#1 The programme. The explanation of what you want to achieve, the required behaviours to achieve it, and the actual learning. This is usually where the main focus is, but it is not only what you expect, but why you want them to learn. The reason should be specific. Just stating ‘for customer care’ is not enough, state how this particular piece of learning supports a particular aim.
#2 Self-assessment. Learners need some way of testing how well they are doing. Are there any gaps? Have they misunderstood something? If the learner identifies a gap, a clear signpost where to find the information to help them to put it right. The learning programme should have this aspect integrated within it, rather than tacked on at the end.
#3 Source information. This can be the more in-depth detail that self-assessment questions can refer to. Explanations with more detail, more reasons why something is important, and maybe more worked examples than in the main training programme.
#4 Measurable assessment. This could be some sort of informal exam, problem solving, or practical assessment like a role play. This is not only a check that the learner has completed the programme, but also a check that the programme has actually achieved the goal it was supposed to.
The next stage is to trial your programme on a sample of some real learners, and make sure that it delivers the result you want before launching company-wide. To start with you can test their knowledge before the learning programme by asking some questions or getting them to suggest a solution to a problem. After the learning programme you can get feedback from them, and then test again. It is the difference between before and after tests that will tell you if your programme works.
Consider a short refresher in maybe 3 months’ time and then a years’ time to see if the new learning has stuck. This should ensure your programme delivers the desired outcome.