Written by: John Faulkes
The lockdown has produced one stark change when it comes to virtual training sessions, webinars and the like, in that we're not using printed materials.
If you are old enough to remember, you'll know that been discussing the possibilities of paperless training ever since we’ve been able to send files over email (i.e. decades). Yet until this year, despite the costs and the environmental arguments, the paper-based ‘manual’ has been a standard model for training sessions.
There are some good reasons why. Many class participants like it. Looking to foster a willingness to learn may, we think, outweigh the costs. There might be a ‘halfway house’ – where only the team exercises’ assignments and action planning forms are printed and slide sets are sent as online PDFs. Even so, there remain some gripes from those who like to write on a copy of the slides. As L&D people, we like to help and like to please.
But how much of this is because we're too slow to change? Typically during breaks in the class, our participants are usually tapping into business IT systems that are state of the art data apps. We are one up from writing on stone tablets.
It's difficult to visualise whilst we're in the midst of the pandemic, but let's imagine we do get back to classroom training in the foreseeable future. Why should we worry about printing course materials? Is there anything really wrong with our tried and trusted class materials? Well, yes! There are several big reasons to change, you probably know them already but …
Most importantly, you know where most of these paper manuals end up! The less efficient people put them on shelves where they gather dust and never get looked at. The more desk-tidy conscious will recycle them. The very diligent will transcribe some of their course notes into a document - which will probably struggle for screen attention in subsequent months.
Secondly, as we know, training at its best helps to develop knowledge, attitudes, skills and behaviours. The latter two are much more difficult to achieve passively and rightly we employ trainers to guide people through exercises, practice, role plays and so on. Increasingly (and rightly), trainers are asked to concentrate workshop time on participant activities and spend less time on knowledge input.
What can you do differently?
As the title of this article suggests, course participants have technology with them wherever they go, so why don't we use it more to our advantage? We can, in three critical areas.
People need to access knowledge and preferably quickly, at the point of need. They will often give up looking if it takes too long. There are far better ways to provide it than we do typically. For example, most people report that videos are by far and away the most commonly preferred medium to look at information post training, compared to looking at a long powerpoint on paper or in a PDF.
On a workshop, participants may be looking a briefings for role play activities; completing quick assessments; recording the output from exercises, in the form of group conclusions, and action plans for change after the workshop. All of these can be done utilising the devices they will all have with them. At the very least, it gets them doing things! But at best, it has a new and powerful benefit…
Thirdly, we have a chance to make some impact on what is L&D's No. 1 challenge: the learning from a workshop fading quickly on return to the workplace. Using technology as above generates valuable information that's already in the digital domain. We can capture it and at the very least make it accessible to participants in any learning support portal. But learners could also make action plans which can be made visible to line managers - linking with performance management and providing encouragement for post-course coaching - and so on.
Making it happen
This is easier said than done for many L&D people. You may be stuck with limited functionality in your company's Learning Management System, many of which are not designed to do this sort of thing well. Or if your LMS is a highly capable one, you may not have the time to program it, or have limited access to the time of a qualified LMS admin.
However, we are in the time of the 'multiple LMS' organisation. You get the functionality you really need by using something externally developed, and hosted if necessary. This can do exactly what you want it to, and interface with your records systems.
We've done this lots, so why not have a chat with us?
John Faulkes - 28th July 2020 @ 08:27