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Technology and blended learning

A number of clients we work with start out a little afraid of technology. Whether they have been down the path before without success, or had bad experiences with software or inexperienced internal development teams, many find it too overwhelming to be able to take a step back and think about how it can enhance the learning experience.

Medal winnerWith tablets and other mobile devices taking over, and well-designed user interfaces the norm, more and more businesses are demanding better online learning from their L&D and HR teams. Solutions that are accessible, just-in-time and cost effective are all considerations.

Depending on where your business is at from an infrastructure and cultural perspective, it may be tough to start planning and utilising technology in a meaningful way to improve the learning experiences of your people. And the answer isn’t what most people think. Face-to-face training is a critical component of any training strategy – and always will be for certain topics and audiences. But these days, it cannot stand on its own and still provide an experience that is varied and effective at meeting the expectations of modern learners, and embedding the skills people need to be successful in their roles.

A lot of our consultancy work involves finding out how businesses tick, understanding the audience and the training environment and culture, and the technology infrastructure available in order to make sound decisions about the best way to develop effective learning experiences.

Almost always, our recommendations centre around building an approach that takes into account the fact that learners are not engaged by eLearning alone, but by multiple touch-points – delivered in different and unique ways that match their working environment. Just like customers, learners demand learning that is considered, gives them variety and encourages them to learn and interact in different ways. Building this type of experience involves clearly mapping out the journey from beginning to end, visualising each touch-point and considering the best mode of delivery to ensure optimal engagement and retention of knowledge.

70 percentCharles Jennings 70:20:10 model has assisted organisations to think about this a little more deeply. The message is clear – people learn by having the ability to explore concepts in many ways. Most want to hear from someone (a facilitator, senior manager or otherwise) who will give them a reason to sit up and take notice – give them a link to why what they are learning is important, and perhaps introduce the core of what they need to learn. But they also like to explore independently, they like to have opportunities to read and research. They like talking, listening, practicing and performing tasks in workshop or simulated environments. They enjoy being coached and having tools that help them to translate their learning into the activities they do every day. The trick is, the tools, and application of learning has to be intuitive, and has to be easier to do, than not to do.

By thinking about all of these needs, going a little deeper than understanding not just what needs to be learned, but how it should be done, Learning professionals have a fantastic opportunity to innovate and create truly personalised learning and to deliver it in surprising ways that cut through. Mapping the experience, and finding out where targeted tools, technology and work-based activities can enhance and extend learning, is critical to a successful strategy.

A series of recent projects we have undertaken have required us to deeply understand the organisation and what its needs are and to throw away the rule-book when thinking about how learning can be delivered. The investment in an initial piece of consulting work to ensure the development of a validated, sound learning strategy is often a reasonably priced, relatively risk free first step that allows businesses to be able to make educated decisions about the possibilities relating to a new learning program and/or a new delivery mechanisms.

Some Examples:
• A recent induction project introduced iPads as a support delivery tool opening up a range of options for support that hadn’t been thought of before – allowing new team members to access learning before they even started on the first day through their own devices.
• Post face-to-face workshops, offering short online learning bites supporting core content and effectively battling the “Ebbinghaus forgetting curve” (where around 50% of what we learn is forgotten within one hour) assisted learners to review what they learned, encouraging reflection and retention.

• Quick reference guides were developed linked to QR codes on items of machinery – providing moment of need support for new trainees using expensive and potentially dangerous equipment – all they needed to do was snap the code, and bring up the reference material they needed.
• A geo-locating application assisting a business to send valuable sales data to its field sales consultants, allowing them to pull important information relating to offers instantly.

In each of the above situations, technology was used in support of learning, and enhanced the experience by being there at the moment it was needed. Resources and opportunities for learning before, after and at the very moment support was required were developed to give learners the best opportunity to obtain the necessary level of competence required and to support it to be reinforced on-the-job. In all instances, the technology was adopted because of the familiarity of the tool, and the simplicity in using it. By making it easy, the learning experience was maximised and the uptake of the solution was guaranteed.

To sum up, modern learning experiences need to be seen as more than just traditional “programs” rather as an ongoing “continuums” with technology support that can be utilised in new ways and evolve with an organisation. By designing an experience that is mapped out and supported with the right technology and tools, you can better develop both new recruits and existing teams, and deliver learning experiences that make their working lives easier and more connected – at the same time ensuring the retention of learning you need to drive business results.

By Simon Dewar