Thursday, September 15, 2005

Too Much Knowledge, Not Enough Time to Apply Learning

I had the opportunity to attend the presentation of Ken Blanchard in VNULearning Training Conference on Oct. 18. Two key points stuck in my mind:

  1. Technology-based training tends to dump too much knowledge to the learners.
  2. It provides less opportunity to apply the ideas.

Ken’s comments hit right smack into the heart of rapid e-learning. Most e-learning development is slow, not primarily because of poor technology or software or non-cooperative technology staff and team members. The tendency is to carry over or migrate the classroom training workbooks or subject matter expert’s ideas on what ought to be learned directly into e-learning without critical thinking. As a consequence, the content is bloated, too heavy and massive to convert to any form of media, might that be video, PowerPoint, HTML, Flash or images. It does not only become slow, but also it becomes really costly.

The other consequence is that many of us become very busy in migrating or repurposing content, forgetting the more important issue: would learners have the chance to apply the ideas? Why is this important? Applying learning is our only way to help learners perform in their jobs. So less applications in learning will mean learning without performance or lack of delivery in results. In most organizations this is not an acceptable situation.

A case in point: a national chain of retail stores (4,500 stores in the US) have very high staff turnover – about 500% per year. Mostly, new hires stay for a few weeks and then leave. When I interviewed the e-trainers-developers and subject experts – I asked: What should the training of this staff look like? They presented to me a six-month program consisting of 3 curriculums and 80 modules. The problem with this response seemed obvious – but not really, to the many.

I followed up my own question. What would happen if we only provide the shortest required training to boost performance in critical jobs during the fist few weeks?

Guess what was the response? “No, we can’t do that since they need to learn all the steps of the content.”

Learning from Ken’s ideas, I suggest e-trainers and developers add to the critical evaluation this key question: Should we train learners on all of the content, instead of training them on the small content that really matters so that way they can perform?

Ray Jimenez, PhD
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

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