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Dec 10, 2015 Jennifer Hofmann

Answers to Pressing Modern Learning Culture Questions

Answers to Questions about Modern Learning

TMN Session Recap: 10 Things to Do Immediately to Modernize Your Learning Culture

Due to the complex and multi-faceted nature of workplace learning, it’s understandable that L&D professionals feel confused about this new climate. My December 2nd Training Magazine Network presentation, 10 Things to Do Immediately to Modernize Your Learning Culture, defined this culture and ways that we as a profession can evolve with it. Over the course of the presentation, attendees posted thought-provoking questions in chat.

This blog post will answer those submitted inquiries and clarify some of the more confounding aspects of the modern learning culture. Furthermore, it will direct you to additional informational resources.

What’s driving the modern learning culture?

When asked, attendees stated that things like technology, virtual teams, social learning, and business conditions are driving the modern learning culture. I agree that these factors have played a role in the culture we see today. I’ve identified four main drivers of modern learning culture, including the multi-generational workforce, and normalized collaboration.

Clearly, all of these pieces affect the modern learning culture. What you may not realize is that they affect all of our cultures – including those of training and business. When we realize that we can’t, and don’t want to, separate the learning culture from the work culture, life will be easier.

Some of the challenges traditional training organizations have is that training is so separate from the business. Employees don’t necessarily trust that people in training and development have current expertise that they can apply to their on-the-job challenges.

All of these things – technology, remote access, global organizations – are driving the modern learning culture. It’s showing us that we need to finally merge how we teach, learn, and work.

How do we increase retention? Training distractions seem to have a big impact on it.

One of the interesting parts of the modern learning culture is that retention may not be our biggest concern. We want to have information where and when people need it. We don’t necessarily need to retain individual data points. Instead, we need to learn how to apply processes, how to think critically and conceptually, and then be able to access the right content and data to insert into a particular situation.

So instead of filling learners’ brains with lots of little facts, aim to teach people at a higher level. Retention becomes less of an issue as long as learners know how to access the information they need.

For example, Microsoft Office has great help facilities. I once went to a three day class on Excel, but the program never showed us how to use these help features. We didn’t need to memorize all of the point and clicks. We needed a higher level of conceptual learning so we could have accessed the information when we needed it. Had they included that guidance on how to access Microsoft Help, the amount of training required could have been minimized.

When it comes to distractions, remember this: if the learning is meaningful, the distractions go down. If you’re teaching just data, it’s hard for even the most motivated learners to stay engaged. So try and make that shift from data-driven instruction to conceptual learning.

Why do we need collaboration as a competency?

Establishing collaboration as a competency is a necessary step in evolving with the modern learning culture. This goes back to the integration of learning and working – collaboration in the classroom will support collaboration on the job. By teaching learners how to effectively collaborate in training, they can then do so more effectively in their work.

When designing your training programs, aim to include breakout room and whiteboard activities, as well as social collaborative exercises. This isn’t about teaching classes on collaboration. It’s about including immersive collaborative experiences within training programs. Design with this in mind: learners must be able to model the collaboration back on the job.

I believe that if we teach our participants how to collaborate within the safety of a training experience, we will teach them how to be successful in their jobs and how to better work within their teams to achieve organizational goals.

How do we encourage the mature trainer to use tools and devices?

We need to take the following approach with any trainer using a new device: introduce items one at a time and make sure that they have the training on both how to use it and how to implement it. It’s also a good idea to provide support to those who are using the tool or device for the first time; you don’t want to send people out on their own. We need to prove that the tool works, that it’s easy to leverage, and that it’s not taking away from their credibility as a trainer.

I suggest that you partner those with content expertise but who are new to the technology with someone who has experience with the tool, but not the information. This process, called scaffolding, challenges both parties involved. It works like this:

  • The content expert is challenged because they are both teaching the content to the other team member and learning how to use the new technology.
  • The technology expert is challenged because they are learning the information while teaching their peer how to use the technology.

What options would you recommend for distributing infographics or other items to sync with training?

In my opinion, a push/pull content distribution approach works best in the modern learning culture.

Push: Send out helpful content to participants at relevant times. Be sure to push the information to the place where the learner will use it. If the information is used on the road, tailor it for a mobile device. Alternatively, if the participant will use the skill at their desk, design for the desktop computer. This approach speaks to learning authenticity, which is hugely important in modern learning. For example, send an email to salespeople who just went through training when a new product is released. The message could say, “A new product just went live! Here’s a mobile guide for how to sell it when you’re demo-ing it for a new client.”

Pull: Create a repository of content and resources that’s well organized and easy to use. During live training, spend time showing learners the archive and explaining how to access it on demand. For example, you could create a SharePoint file that includes step-by-step instructions for completing technical tasks in a rarely-used complex program.

What advice do you have for training introverts and “internal processors” in the group context?

With blended learning and modern learning, training isn’t all live in the moment.  Blended learning provides the opportunity for reflection, so learners can respond when they’ve had time to process the information and can contribute when they’re comfortable doing so. Contributions can be made in social communities of practice or discussion boards.

I also encourage you to understand that learners may lurk or hover in blended learning situations. Non-participation may not necessarily be a bad thing. Introverted learners may not participate in the discussion, but they learn from it. Create a way to check that internal processors are benefiting from the group activities, like reflection papers sent to the facilitator.

Our organization wants to eliminate tribal knowledge. What do you think about that?

You don’t want to eliminate tribal knowledge entirely. This kind of information can improve future training initiatives. You want to make sure, though, that tribal knowledge represents accurate information. One way to do this is to formalize that “over the cube wall” wisdom through moderated communities of practice or Wikis.

Moderators can oversee information exchanges, and use incorrect information as teachable moments. While each organization will have different policies, I recommend that moderators should correct, not delete, incorrect postings.

How do you make the choice between informal and formal learning?

Brainshark has a fantastic analogy for explaining the difference between formal and informal learning. They say, “With the formal learning bus, ‘the driver decides where the bus is going; the passengers are along for the ride.’ When on the informal learning bike, ‘the rider chooses the destination, the speed and the route.’”

To expand on that explanation:

  • You have formal training when the organization recognizes a need for formal intervention that requires assessment and consumption at a particular time. Formal learning is used by organizations anticipating business needs or new content.
  • Informal training is not used by the organization as a way of anticipating upcoming changes or information. Instead, it makes information available to learners when they have a moment of need.

For compliance courses, you sometimes need to be away from the work area during training. What are your thoughts?

While I can’t speak specifically about particular compliance courses, like OSHA 10, I will say that all successful training gets back to the concept of authenticity.

Authenticity is about teaching in a way that reflects and speaks to the use of the skill. Try to teach as much as possible where that task will be used on the job. If you can’t actually teach where learners will implement it, create the closest thing to a real-life experience as possible. For example, instead of using non-related case studies create content internally that drives the information home.                              

How can we transform traditional classroom training with very little eLearning into a ten week blended learning curriculum that includes a wide range of topics?

This is a challenge many learning professionals are facing, and there’s no direction I can provide that is concise enough for this blog post. My whitepaper, Blended Learning Instructional Design: A Modern Approach, provides tips on how to plan and create a successful blended learning program. Click here to download it for free.

The InSync Training blog, Getting InSync, contains posts on a myriad of topics relating to blended learning design and implementation. To subscribe and receive new posts in your email inbox (daily, weekly or monthly, your choice!), just click here


Published by Jennifer Hofmann December 10, 2015
Jennifer Hofmann