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From A to B: How to Transform Formal Learning

by | Oct 13, 2016 | 0 comments

This guide will give you clear guidance about how to do three things: improve the learner journey through formal learning, use technology to improve the effectiveness of face-to-face training and design formal learning to speed up the application of learning.

It’s all very well to say that we need to transform formal learning, but how do we do it? We discussed this in in detail throughout our In-Focus report, Transforming Formal Learning. In this guide, we have pulled out the key points from the report in order to help busy L&D practitioners understand how to design, measure and deliver successful formal learning in today’s world.

These tips come from what the Top Deck (the 10% top performing companies on the Towards Maturity Index) are doing. They come from talking to practitioners and from the insights we gained through our research.

Step 1: Improve the learner journey throughout formal learning

Agree KPIs and outcomes

The learner journey should start well before the course even begins. L&D and the business have to know what they want to achieve from any learning and agree on what KPIs need to be met. Always discuss the objectives and aims of learning with the learners before learning commences. Getting it right from the outset gives a much greater chance of success for everybody – the learner, the organisation, HR and any other stakeholders. So, make sure there is clear, common agreement on the desired outcomes and get buy-in from all the necessary stakeholders.

Provide ongoing support

Keep supporting learners throughout their learning journey and make sure others are too. Line managers, senior managers, colleagues, subject experts, tutors – their support contributes to programme success.  Again, it’s all about stakeholder buy-in. Enable employees to access learning at any time and at a place that is convenient to them. Give them access to a tutor or subject expert when learning online.

Show how learning helps career progression

Employees are much more motivated to learn when they can see how the learning will enhance their career progression. Provide them with learning that is relevant to their role, but also learning that helps them pursue their career aspirations. And make sure employees know what learning opportunities are available to them in their organisation. Our research shows that many do not know what is on offer.

Enable connection and collaboration

Having a collaborative learning environment is so important. Some of the best learning comes from others – a coach/mentor or buddy or from colleagues, managers or tutors. Make sure learners can easily and naturally tap into these networks, particularly those working remotely or from home. Cultivate an organisation-wide supportive learning culture.

Learning technologies really come into their own here. Social media, community-led learning, collaborative learning – these are all terms and tools that L&D needs to understand and incorporate into learning. Encourage learners to collaborate and use study aids effectively, such as forums and podcasts.

Step 2: Use technology to improve the effectiveness of face-to-face training

Design a blended approach

Blended learning has to be approach very carefully if it is to be properly effective. Use the right mix of learning methods and media to suit what is needed. Design is key, as is the appropriate use of technology to achieve maximum results.

Think about what you want online learning to achieve and what you want face to face learning to achieve and how they can best complement each other. Think about flipping the classroom model so that learners start their learning by studying online, participating in online discussions and researching material. They and their fellow learners then bring this learning and questions to classroom time, enabling classroom learning to be more focused, in depth and meaningful.

Using learning technologies to feed into classroom learning is so much better than bolting elearning modules or posting notes online after a classroom session.

Involve stakeholders up front in learning design

One of the biggest criticisms of online learning is that the content is boring and irrelevant. Don’t fall into that trap. Involve and engage with users, subject matter experts, trainers and managers when designing learning. Make it fun, relevant and interactive.

Design for collaborative learning

Collaboration is key to the modern learning experience. Make learning dynamic and interactive. Use techniques such as storytelling and gamification. Learners want to learn from each other and with each other and if they don’t get it, they will be disappointed. Think 70:20:10 and implement solutions that support collaborative learning, discussion and peer to peer support.

Upskill classroom trainers and the L&D team

Three out of ten organisations profiled in our report said that classroom trainers are reluctant to adopt new technology. That reluctance is a barrier. Make a point of actively training classroom trainers to use technology to extend learning beyond the classroom. Ensure they use technology in their L&D skills development programmes so that training teams become expert at using social and collaborative technologies.

Offer technology-enabled skills development programmes for the L&D team and provide CPD to support the use of technology.

Step 3: Design formal learning to speed up application at work

Use authentic content and scenarios

Learners prefer content that is drawn from actual situations so use real life case studies, videos and photos. Make it interactive. Gaming and simulations, for example, are popular with learners because it’s practical, engaging and challenging.

Use relevant assessment to reinforce learning

You want to reinforce learning and make sure it’s embedded. Tests and feedback help reinforce learning but make sure how you do that is neither dull nor formulaic. Use technology to simulate the work environment for assessment and make those assessment tasks reflect the real workplace. Learners will like getting real time feedback on their progress as well. Get feedback on how useful the learning has been back in the workplace, both from the learner and their manager.

Make time for thinking and reflection

Reflection is a critical part of the learning transfer process. Encourage that reflection and make sure learners have the space and time to do it. Also encourage them to keep reflective learning logs. Spaced learning facilitates reflection, so consider designing learning to be consumed in short bursts or with concepts or skills repeated at intervals.

Recognise progress and achievements

Everyone likes the efforts to be recognised and rewarded and that includes learners. Publicise and formalise their successes. Certification and formal qualifications are popular with learners, but management recognition, achievement goals, open or internal badges, points systems and prizes are all forms of recognition that L&D should consider as well.

Download the full report for more insights

Successful organisations are engaging in new approaches to learning and performance, but formal learning opportunities need to change. If these tips leave you wanting more, we recommend reading the full report.

Download the full report to consider how L&D leaders can transform formal learning in their organisation. Looking at the learner journey, the role of technology and the role of the classroom trainer, this report aims to build confidence in innovation by learning from the most successful organisations.

Read more in our ‘A to B’ series:

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