Learning accelerated – technology transforming the workplace
IT’S BEEN KNOWN for many years that repeating or reinforcing the information we consume helps us retain memories for longer. Training staff in a business, therefore, should be an iterative process, educational psychologists tell us.
Every child approaching their first school exams knows there are two approaches to getting the required grades. Either information can be ‘crammed’ the night before (often the chosen path, sadly), or, more efficiently, facts and figures are memorized, then re-memorized or refreshed several times before the exam.
It is odd then that training in the workplace all too often adopts the ‘cramming’ model; we attend training sessions, take copious notes over the day, and then promptly forget just about everything we’ve learned. Without repeated application and repetition of our new knowledge, it fades.
This throws the considerable training investment most companies make into doubt with regards its effectiveness. Unless personnel retain the information given and can use it practically, there appears little point. Some surveys find that 85 percent of classroom-based training will be forgotten after three weeks and fewer than 15 percent of learners apply what they have learned.
Technology, however, and the way it is used on a daily basis, may afford some hope. Of the time spent on our mobiles, 90 percent of that is using apps, for business or leisure. The plethora of self-learning options on the Apple App Store or Google Play shows us that mobile learning is big business. It is thought that more than 1.02 billion people access educational content in this manner.
And while learning apps are indeed used for self-improvement – learning a new language or life skill via mobile – businesses have been slower to use new media to get workforces up to speed in the latest skills.
But merely providing staff the means to learn in ways which are passive or neutral are not particularly useful. The best results, psychologists tell us, are achieved by combination of classroom-learning, repetition, interaction and peer-review. And luckily, there are new training providers in the market who are supplying the tools and means to employers which help deliver highly impactful training and learning programs.
By engaging staff on their mobiles or other media with which they come into contact (such as web browsers), during, after and even before training sessions, the information imparted stands a much better chance of sticking in the learners’ minds and then being used efficiently in the workplace.
But repeated exposure to dry facts and figures does little in itself to help attain the training goals set by many organizations. Instead, a continuous process of learn, think, apply and share encourages effective training by immersing subjects for longer and in different ways. Using our brains differently helps creative thinking, and allows facts to be assimilated (or parsed, in technical terms) in a personalized way.
The latest research by educational psychologists and neuroscientists has shown that not only do adult human brains produce new neurons throughout life, but those neurons are particularly adept at sensory learning – much more so than the neurons of infants.
Sensory learning, therefore, has a pivotal role to play – the more ways in which learners can be engaged, the better.
In this interconnected age, then, social sharing among peers and learners increases engagement with the subject and varying activities helps that critical personalized assimilation and retention of new skills.
Additionally, from the employer’s point of view, digital interactions throughout the training process can be tracked and monitored for effectiveness and uptake levels. Those who don’t seem to be engaging with the materials can, for instance, be given new direction or prompted – plus the social aspect of some of the latest educational platforms allows peer-review (and some degree of peer pressure) which can aid success rates.
The malleable nature of the digital medium also offers employers (and training experts) a range of further options which move the whole staff training process to the next level. As well as designing bespoke training ranges and being able to monitor learners’ progress through the process, the same technology can be used in a more general, HR-oriented manner.
New staff can, for example, be sent on-boarding materials moments after the ink is dry on their contract. Video messages from line managers (or the CEO) can be made part of a whole program of assimilation of new personnel into a company’s culture, and the way is clear for a complete lifecycle of training and interactive messaging for all staff, throughout their tenure.
At Tech Wire Asia, we’ve considered three of the leaders in this exciting new market, each of whom have the ability and offerings to provide your staff the educational, training and in-role development materials that will make the business work more efficiently. Learning is, after all, meant to be fun!
Gnowbe’s offerings are aimed at both the enterprise market and at training providers. They have developed a mobile-first, online learning solution according to the most recent findings of educational psychologists, ensuring the platform uses the most effective adult teaching methods.
These methods include the gamification of learning (social sharing, rewards, leaderboards and way-point markers), and the ecosystem is designed around observed behavior patterns in learners.
Microlearning, for instance, involves the old adage of “little and often”, and Gnowbe’s app encourages learners to engage with content using a variety of media via their mobiles at different times of the day.
The mobile paradigm extends even to the content creators for an organization: Gnowbefy for Curators even allows new courses to be designed, quickly brought together and then published, ready for consumption all via mobile. The creation process is also possible via a web interface for more advanced authoring.
To aid the creation of new materials, there are a series of templates which can be followed and customized – the nature of the templates is that they have been proven to be effective over many years of development in multiple scenarios. But each organization can make the ensuing materials its own.
The entirety of the learning platform is aggregated into a dashboard view designed for learning authors and management. Here, groups, materials, and courses can be created, and distributed.
In the same place, learning managers can see real-time results, interaction levels and are able to measure outcomes and success rates of programs, allowing an ongoing process of skilling and personal development throughout the staff’s career.
Newly hired staff can be “pre-boarded” as well as on-boarded on arrival at a new workplace adding weeks of productive time, and the same platform is then used throughout the tenure for on-going training and development.
In this way, the learning and coaching of the individual and team becomes part of the organization’s infrastructure and company ethos: vital for the engaged enterprise.
The US-based learning management system company Blackboard is 20 years old, and so knows a thing or two about education, learning and the best ways to get troublesome facts and figures into the minds of its learners.
Blackboard Learn is server-based software which allows a range of courses to be developed and presented online. Courses presented in this way can either be standalone or as an integral part of more traditional classroom-based learning programs.
The company offers partner programs which allow enterprises to leverage the supplier’s skills and experience in developing unique courses for the corporate environment which are based on Blackboard’s software.
Additionally, the whole service can be white-labeled and resold via built-in e-commerce facilities, or each bespoke course can be carefully adapted to reflect the employer’s in-house style, look-and-feel and corporate identity.
As well as virtual classroom environments, Blackboard Learn allows a range of interactivity between teachers and students, including emails, discussion boards, and chat forums. Courses are truly multimedia and can mix video with text, images, and nicely-proportioned information snippets.
The environment encompasses timetables, grades and marks, plus allows assessments and examinations to be held via the internet. The software also integrates with school management software to pull in student data etc., so there is little administrative overhead if employed in an educational institution.
The solution is available either as a standalone install or via Blackboard’s own SaaS cloud, thus meaning all the maintenance headaches involved with in-house hosting can be avoided. The Blackboard app is available on iOS, Android and Windows Mobile devices.
While Blackboard has its roots in the traditional education sector, Docebo is primarily designed to supply learning systems to medium to large enterprises.
In addition to the learning systems employed by an organization, the Docebo infrastructure allows a business’s customers to buy courses or subscribe to a series of courses and pay online.
As part of its business-focused design, Docebo allows a wide range of restful API interactions with popular business applications, including HR systems, ERPs, CRMs and messaging platforms such as Adobe Connect, GoToWebinar/Meeting, and Zoom.us. In this way, courses can be imparted and staff get involved via the platforms they use every day to communicate and collaborate.
The LMS allows a high degree of gamification, encouraging learners to share and achieve a series of pre-determined goals, attaining which can be shared among fellow-learners; a little healthy competition in the workplace has proven to encourage progress.
Docebo is cognisant of the fact that, within larger organizations, skillsets are often retained in-house, and can be utilized rather than having to rely on external trainers. Therefore, the platform is designed so expert staff can be equipped with the tools they need to impart their specialist knowledge more widely across the business.
By using the online learning platform, the learning process is by equal measure integrated into the working environment but is able to escape the constraints of some of the more common communication methods of the workplace, such as email. Interactivity and multimedia content push the length of engagement of learners, and Docebo estimates its clients are 300 percent more likely to report improvements in staff motivation levels when compared to its competitors.
*Some of the companies featured in this article are commercial partners of Tech Wire Asia