Training in the 21st Century

Looking For Lasting Results From Your Training Programs? Virtual Training Re-Introduces: Incremental Learning

Virtual training has reintroduced a possibility for teaching that had become rare in corporate training programs: the ability to offer incremental learning programs.

For many years, companies focused on marathon training events: People were brought from all over to attend training programs with back-to-back workshops and other learning activities. These were sometimes held at corporate training centers or, for the lucky, in resort settings. They incorporated experiential learning activities, as well as discussion opportunities, that encouraged people to exchange ideas, network and strengthen relationships with their peers. But once the training was over, it was back to “business as usual” in the same old office space—trying to catch up on work that had piled up. Perhaps that’s why post-tests have often shown conflicting results: Those administered immediately after training generally show high rates of learning. But tests given a few months later, as well as observations of behavior related to the training, often reveal that the information taught has mostly slipped away. Why? Too much information poured into people’s heads with too little time for them to reflect on, and practice, what they’ve learned.

Most corporate training involves changing habits: whether it’s replacing an established process, or implementing a whole new activity, it means that the old neural patterns involved in how we go about our work each day—that have become automatic—now require constant, conscious thought. The age-old teacher’s stricture to “pay attention” is exactly what is required to create new neural patterns that are, in essence, the infrastructure for new behaviors. But who has the time and energy for that? Especially after returning from a week-long training to a desk piled high with work, and a mailbox full of unopened messages. So most people come back from these great training experiences with the best intentions, but soon find themselves defaulting to old ways of doing things as they scramble to get back on top of the workload.

Virtual training technologies enable incremental learning processes that include practice, reflection, and time and energy to incorporate new ideas into everyday work—a little bit at a time. With the easy access and low cost of attendance, it’s now possible to deliver a 25-to-30 hour training program over several months. Participants log on early in the week to learn a little bit, then spend a few days practicing what they’ve learned. Near the end of the week, they “meet” again for a free-wheeling discussion of how the new ideas worked, and learn a little more to try out before the next class. This training process helps keep people focused on using what they’re learning. By the time they reach the last class, people will actually be applying most of what they’ve been taught. They’ll also understand why and how things work in ways that can’t really be learned in a week-long cram session. And they’ll be far along the path of establishing new behavior habits related to the training. That meets my criteria for a truly effective training program

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