Why classroom facilitators play a critical role in digital innovation

by | Mar 16, 2017 | Articles, Featured | 0 comments

The classroom facilitator has a critical role to play in unlocking the potential of digital learning. But are they doing it? In this feature, we look at how L&D is incorporating digital learning and why, along with the role of classroom facilitators in the design, implementation and acceptance of that learning.

Why are organisations investing in learning technologies? In order to improve efficiency and processes – a top driver for all L&D teams, as is to be expected. However, a huge number (95%) of the 600 professionals who used the Towards Maturity Benchmark in 2016 are looking for more than just that. They want their investment to also improve business productivity, agility and overall culture.

In our 2016 Learning Benchmark Study, the results of which are released on 17 November, we learned that L&D leaders and their organisations have very high expectations of what digital learning tools will deliver. Higher expectations than ever before, in fact.

Sadly, many aren’t realising their goals. At best, the numbers of those achieving what they set as goals, are stable. They are definitely not demonstrating progress that our businesses and staff need.

In recent years, we have identified five vital outcomes resulting from to investment in learning technologies:

  • Improvements in efficiency and compliance
  • Improvements in processes
  • Improvements in productivity and performance
  • Improvements in business agility
  • Improvements in overall learning culture and innovation

These are huge goals for business and industry and goals that many are not meeting. From the explored list of seven benefits in this area, only 31% of our sample are achieving five or more of these benefits.

Tools most likely to be used for efficiency and compliance

One thing we discovered is that a certain level of investment is critical at this stage. Those achieving five or more benefits at stage 1 are spending 30% more of their training budget on technology, compared to those not achieving any benefits.

What tools are being used? E-learning is one of the first solutions applied, along with virtual meetings, communication tools and surveys. It is used in almost all organisations taking part in the study. E-learning is even being used by over half of those organisations that are declared ‘novices’ and those that have only just started using learning technologies.

After analysing the research, we have identified a number of strategies that have a strong relationship with success in terms of delivering more efficiency. While it is important to have a holistic strategy, we have pinpointed certain actions that demonstrate the strongest correlations with success at this very basic level.

The tactics most likely to have a relationship with achieving efficiency and compliance outcomes include:

Making appropriate use of technology in learning, using video, audio, images and animation in e-learning (73% vs 40% of those not delivering benefits at this stage).

Producing timely and relevant content:

  • supporting the skills the business needs through their learning initiatives (82% vs 57%)
  • allowing learners to access e-learning provision at any time (74% vs 53%)
  • Working closely with those that can support and facilitate change:
  • working successfully with external providers (75% vs 52%)
  • involving classroom trainers in design (65% vs 44%)

Something that really caught our eye at Towards Maturity and struck us as very interesting, was the last point: the role of classroom facilitators in the whole process.

When 56% of formal learning is still delivered by classroom alone, it is clear that traditional classroom training plays an important part at this stage. The classroom trainer has a critical role to perform in terms of promoting, designing and implementing digital learning. Are they doing it? One in three of those who are yet to achieve any significant benefits report that classroom trainers are reluctant to adopt new technology.

So, the first challenge for L&D leaders is to ensure that classroom trainers are more engaged and confident at using digital programmes, so that they can in turn engage learners with digital programmes.

What are the Top Deck doing with classroom trainers?

  • 67% involve classroom trainers in engaging learners with technology-enabled programmes (versus 22% of the average)
  • 85% involve classroom trainers in the design process for digital learning (49%)
  • 87% integrate technology into face-to-face learning (24%)

Those figures tell it all. There is a huge difference between how many Top Deck organisations are making good use of classroom trainers to drive forward digital learning and what other organisations are doing.

Blending for success

How does it work in practice? Let’s talk about DPG, an organisation that expertly blends classroom training techniques with digital learning to offer transformative learning. There are several strands to learning: transforming formal learning, building social confidence, facilitating the learner journey and learning in action. Classroom staff are also online facilitators, for example. They connect people in the community first before face to face interaction, getting everyone to start learning, engaging with content and sharing right from the outset. Facilitators are key to DPG’s success and are involved throughout all stages of the learning journey.

DPG has also flipped the classroom. It believes face-to-face classroom time is still really important, but that how and when learning is delivered should be different to traditional approaches. It focuses on pre-work work and activities that then feed into face-to-face time. To achieve this, it has switched from content objectives to learning outcomes, with trainers facilitating activities.

Learning technologies are of course key to all of this and DPG makes good use of several media – dedicated groups, chatrooms and discussions forums, live online/virtual sessions, real time support, reflective practice through blogs and videos and flip books and online magazines to share curated content.

Critical to the success of this approach, is that the DPG facilitators believe in the approach and do not default to traditional views of formal learning delivery.

This ties in with our research about the role of classroom trainers in delivering good, effective digital learning. So, if L&D leaders are to achieve what they really want to achieve from digital learning – business productivity, agility and overall culture, as well as improved efficiency and process – they really need to involve classroom trainers in order to unlock the digital potential.

Transforming customer service training at TfL

Transport for London, which is responsible for managing London’s transport network of buses, trains, riverboats and the London Underground, had to drive through what is considered the biggest business transformation programme in Europe.
Its programme, ‘The Fit for the Future Stations (FftFS)’, had to make fundamental changes to the structure of its workforce, job roles, customer service, technology provision and the stations themselves. It involved team restructuring and the reskilling of 5,000 employees, including 1,200 managers.

To prepare employees for classroom training and build anticipation, pre-workshop e-learning was structured as a six-week online experience, where employees began their journey of transformation by visiting six virtual stations. Scripted scenarios and gaming technology were used to immerse learners.

Interact designed targeted face-to-face training using practice-based learning techniques. Drama, documentaries, interviews with colleagues and interactive exercises featured in the workshops and were embedded within the e-learning content. Virtual ticket machine simulations were used in e-learning to practice problem solving.

The result? The workforce has exceeded KPT targets post-transformation.

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