Sunday, March 19, 2006

Thinking Beyond the Course

Because we all received our education via courses, this is naturally what we tend to think about when training challenges arise in the workplace. Even in the eLearning field, our first instinct is to create a course. This is a tidy and convenient way to give structure to a training intervention.

However, a course, or even a series of courses, may not always be the appropriate response. There are other ways to provide training support without the boundaries and restrictions created by a formal course structure. Two alternatives to the course are electronic performance support systems (EPSS) and learning communities.

Electronic Performance Support Systems (EPSS)

These are training aids that can be made easily accessible to your employees during the course of their normal work day via a few mouse clicks. For example, we are helping an organization with a roll-out of a new customized financial records system. Five hundred individuals across the organization who need to use this software will have handy “how to” modules available for any major tasks they need to complete on the system. They can experience a particular learning module, and then try the task themselves using the software.

This approach has two major advantages.

1. You train employees at their point of need (i.e. when they have to actually complete a particular task). This is when they are the most motivated to learn. Also, they will apply their learning immediately, meaning that they are more likely to retain this knew knowledge.

2. Employees only access that training that is relevant to them and their particular needs. This is a very efficient training methodology. People are not wasting time learning things that are not relevent to their immediate needs.

Learning Communities

Many times, learning can be facilitated by merely providing a means for those with similar roles, functions, or interests, across the organization to communicate with each other. A rich array of ideas, perspectives and experiences can be shared and documented, making the group, in total, smarter than any individual member. As an example, we set up threaded discussion groups for an association to work through a strategic planning process. No course on strategic planning was necessary….just the ability for intelligent people to have facilitated and spirited discussions leading to a final product (in this case a decision on their future directions).

So next time you have a training challenge, think outside the course box. There are many ways to get to the same outcome, and a course may not be the most efficient or effective route.


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