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Love Your Learners

Angel Green

by , Instructional Strategist

Today is Valentine’s Day – and this may sound a bit harsh, but I really don’t like this holiday. It’s not that I’m not a fan of romance, far from it. My problem with Valentine’s Day is that I believe every day should be seen as an opportunity to demonstrate your appreciation to those important to you. It should not be relegated to a single day.

Likewise, I believe every learning event should be seen as an opportunity to demonstrate your appreciation of your learners. Often, clients look to us to create a single course or two out of an entire curriculum of courses required for employees. And, while we certainly welcome the opportunity to develop these highly engaging, performance changing e-learning courses, I am often left wondering – what about all those other courses?

To me, it’s akin to nails on a chalkboard when I hear, “It’s just __________ training”  - insert Compliance, New Hire, Software, or any other topic which has a perceived expectation of becoming a boring, page turning virtual data dump.

Love Your LearnersMy suggestion is that in learning, as in life, you look for every opportunity to demonstrate your LOVE. For each training event you’ve been asked to create, LOVE your learners.

Listen

Take the time and really listen. It’s easy to jump to a training solution without trying to uncover the true learning need. Customer satisfaction scores have fallen? We will develop customer service training! But, if we just listen to learners, we might discover that leaders are micromanaging, the CRM software is cumbersome and service agents don’t feel empowered to offer solutions for service recovery.

Before you jump feet first into design, see if you can pull together a focus group, or even just send an email survey to the intended audience. Get real world input and you will be better equipped to develop a real world solution.

Observe

As an instructional designer, training manager or courseware developer – do you know what it’s like to drive from sales appointment to sales appointment, hearing a barrage of objections from potential customers while trying to meet a quota in order to get your paycheck? Do you know the pressure of quickly entering data into the software program while a customer is on the phone asking for a refund on their bill? Have you been out in the heat of summer standing on the side of the road estimating how many bolts you will need to use in order to complete a highway rail replacement while cars zoom by at 60 miles per hour?

Probably not, and yet somehow we believe we can create learning that will resonate with the audience. Do your best to observe learners in action – or enlist the assistance of someone who knows firsthand what it’s really like. We say it all the time, but quiz shows and themed games don’t work. To be effective in changing performance, training must be placed in an authentic context – one that feels familiar to the learner. When learners are placed in an authentic context, they recognize how they may actually use this training in their “real world.”     

Value their time

Has this happened to you? You’re at a party and someone asks what you do for a living. You share your profession and wait. The people around you start sharing stories of the horrible training they’ve had to endure. The e-learning course in which they clicked “Play” and waited for the sound of silence indicating they needed to click a button. The three days they spent locked in a room with rows of computers clicking through software they already knew. The time they were able to successfully complete an hour long training program in under five minutes, happily clicking Next after Next.  

Obviously, these are examples of time that was undervalued. In terms of high school economics, it’s a simple equation of opportunity cost. What is it your learners are giving up in order to complete your  e-learning course? Is your course worth their time? If not, then it wasn’t worth your time, your Subject Matter Expert’s time, the legal review time, the LMS implementation time, or the time at the printer. It was a colossal waste of time.

Value your learner’s time by creating training worthy of the sacrifices made to attend.

Evaluate the right thing

How do you evaluate whether a learner has successfully mastered the content? Is it a post-course assessment score of 80%? Will answering 8 out of 10 multiple choice questions correctly mean your learners, when faced with a situation covered in the training, will make the appropriate decision? Of course not! I’m sure you realize this, but somehow we all fall into the trap of believing the post-course assessment is a valid (and mandatory) evaluation of learning.

What makes for performance change is not answering 80% of questions correct on the post-test; it’s successfully completing a series of interactions in which the learner is challenged to make the best choice given the situation they have been faced with.

By evaluating decisions, not answers, you are better able to assess how the learner will act and react to real-life situations. And, when you think about it – that’s what really counts. When faced with an ethical or legal dilemma, will your employees know how to act? When given an objection from a potential customer, will the sales person know how to respond? Evaluating decisions and giving feedback based on choices makes for great learning experiences.

So, on this Valentine’s Day, I ask that you look at every training event as an opportunity to LOVE your learners. 

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