Friday, March 16, 2007

Learning About Technology By Using It

Since I decided to go "back to my roots" in this week's posts, I was reminded of an event that occurred at one of the companies I worked at long ago. I think by telling you about certain aspects of that event it will demonstrate how human performance improvement and its subset, training, plays a role in PinPoint's mission to help companies integrate technology in their organizations to improve overall performance.

I don't want anyone to think that just because I was trained on how to design, develop and deliver training that I'm claiming to be an expert. However, I've met many people who claim to be a trainer in their place of work only to find out that their job is merely a communications liaison. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. It's just that there's a big difference between telling and training.

Let me set the scene for you. I was asked to advise a group that was set to roll-out a software program to a number of employees in one of the company's many divisions. My job was to give them pointers on how to deliver the training. By the time I arrived my help wasn't needed because the group leaders have already decided how they were going to deliver the training. The employees were going to assemble in a room and watch a demonstration of the software application. According to the group leaders, they'll know what to do once they start using the application.

Again, there's a big difference between telling and training.

In situations such as these, always remember that people are going to learn more if they experience what they are learning. This means touching, feeling, exploring, making mistakes and learning from those mistakes.

There are basically four types of training:

  1. Receptive - this is telling. Your learners watch and listen, but the likelihood of them tuning out during the session is far greater.
  2. Directive - this is the "follow me" approach. We see this in a lot of physical or on the job training. An instructor essentially drills the learner on how to do something.
  3. Guided Discovery - control is shared between the learner and the trainer. Learners are more in control as they move through the learning at their own pace and are given prompts, cues and corrective feedback. The amount of guidance given to them by the trainer really depends on the skill level of the learners.
  4. Exploratory Learning - the learners are in control and work at their own pace and direction. The trainers only serve as a resource when needed.
When you train people to use technology and expect them to use it in ways that will boost their performance, you can't just give it to them and tell them to go. You especially can't put your learners in a room and expect them to watch someone else using software when they should be the ones experiencing how it works and observing how it benefits them.

Often times in business we don't have the luxury of time to conduct exploratory learning and we should certainly avoid receptive learning like the plague. Directive or guided discovery learning is usually the best method. This way, learners get the hands-on experience they needs with the right amount of guidance from a trainer.

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