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The imperative to really teach and be memorable

Author: Dr. Mark Baker
Contributed by MindAtlas Pty. Ltd.



In this day and age of competing educational methods, and highly-sought training dollars, professionals faced with workplace training decisions must be convinced of the efficacy of their delivery methods.  Many traditional training and e-learning organizations claim to deliver effective training, not as many actually do so. Sitting for hours in a crowded room watching the clock tick by, or reams of attached files and black text on white screen do not an effective learning experience make.

New technologies are emerging in response to a marketplace that increasingly targets real learning objectives. Often, complementary forms of delivery will make up a realistic and workable solution. For example, classroom learning with online assessments, or online modules followed by tutorials. Or online learning as a refresher course. Or, online and wireless deliveries to satisfy the logistics of a workplace.

How, for instance, do you reach a workplace of two hundred truck drivers who ceaselessly move across the country and have no computer access? They never stop for long enough to take a class, they haven’t responded well to print materials, and they sure as heck don’t show any interest in online learning.  Likewise the factory workers, where issues of computer access and cynicism about corporate learning often sit hand in hand with time pressures and productivity targets. (Read: No time to take a class right now, and I don’t have a computer at home).

PDA delivery (m-learning; mobile - wireless - learning) with its recent foray into the training and education arena looks set to take on a rather big chunk of the traditional and e-learning markets. This is a case of technology meeting educational objectives, rather than materials being squashed into a technological framework.

As the e-learning and m-learning markets are brought more and more to account for their efficacy with learning outcomes, providers will need to sit up and pay attention to the corporate and organizational call for satisfaction - learners who want to be entertained, informed, reached and then remember it all. To be effective, learning materials must be engaging and memorable. To be engaging and memorable, they should employ combinations of the following qualities:

  • Be colorful

  • Be unusual

  • Be interactive

  • Be humorous

  • Be accessible (not intimidating)

  • Be real/ identifiable for the user (e.g.: Hypotheticals or simulations).

One of the mistakes made by many e-learning providers is to treat learners as an aggregated mass without adequately distinguishing differences in their learning preferences and abilities. A successful e-learning program will have conducted a thorough needs analysis and will allow for varied learning preferences and abilities; for example, the use of text backed up by audio files is an example of simultaneous delivery for different learning preferences. Similarly, this might be achieved by an illustration alongside a paragraph of text. To a different degree, the same learning outcome can be achieved through text, game, assessment challenge and pictures. 

An effective e-learning provider should deliver an educational product that is led by learning outcomes and not by technology. Typically learning providers create materials to fit to templates. This too often has the effect of the ugly stepsister trying to wedge the glass slipper onto her foot.  There are real and pragmatic technological factors to consider when designing education materials for online delivery, but technology should be part of a solution, not a paradigm for its own sake.

There are very real constraints to be considered (connectivity, file size, system capabilities, firewalls) but for the most part, companies still boast their myriad technological capabilities without considering such factors as the global inability to deliver effective video footage, the real learning outcomes required, the interaction with the end user…

Do not be misled! If you have a message to deliver about security, a form of mandatory compliance or professional development, make sure you’ve selected a company that has a sound pedagogy behind its bells and whistles. Make them demonstrate to you how your learners will be interested in the learning product, how they will be engaged, how stimulating the interactivity is, how performance is measured, and ultimately how the information is retained and evaluated.

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