6 Ways to Combat the Corporate Training Time Crunch

Last month, we published the results from our 2018 Learning and Remembering Survey. In the survey, we asked 119 L&D professionals what challenges they face when attempting to deliver effective corporate training. Here are the most common responses:

corporate challenges

At over 38 percent, the number one challenge people cited in the survey is a lack of time for training. I’m sure this comes as no surprise – we all face time restrictions every day. In the case of training, some respondents focused more on their lack of time to create and launch effective training. Others emphasized the limited time that employees have to devote to training. Whether one or both of these constraints is more of an issue for you, time can make it very difficult to get the desired results from training.

Where is training on your priority list?

Good training takes time and effort. But lots of teams are fighting other, larger fires and training often takes a back seat to more pressing issues. This is particularly true if your business unit focuses primarily on something other than training, such as product management, sales, or marketing. For example, it may sometimes be necessary for you to provide training to an audience on a new product or process, but this is not your primary role. Ultimately, something gets prioritized ahead of training and time slips away.

“Every training need was needed yesterday.”

Isn’t that the truth? This quote came from one of our survey participants and since you’ve read this far, I’d be surprised if it doesn’t resonate with you.

Where is training on your learners’ priority lists?

Time is not just a problem for those of you who create learning experiences. Our learners are the ones who must make time to participate in training. Or if training is mandatory and learners don’t have a choice, their level of engagement and commitment will play a large role in how much they learn. Other survey participants mentioned challenges related to reaching their busy audiences:

  • Competing priorities
  • Time isn’t built-in for follow-up/reinforcement
  • Learners don’t want to invest time in themselves (low motivation)
  • Learners are out in the field
  • Too much content and too little time
  • Fast-paced environment

How do we beat the time crunch?

As you can see, finding time for training is a persistent, pervasive challenge. Whether you are the one who needs to train a group of learners or one of the learners who needs training, there is a good chance that training doesn’t fit neatly into your schedule. Here are six possible solutions to consider that can potentially help solve the corporate training time issue for both yourself and your learners.

1. Start with your desired outcome and work backward

Is training really the answer? Often we must “slow down to speed up.” Investing some of that precious time to confirm the business problem, analyze the target learner, and understand where business needs and learner needs intersect will help you make the best use of everyone’s time. A task analysis can be especially useful if you wish to understand what learners’ days look like. Design thinking tools such as empathy maps and journey maps are also useful.

In our upcoming webinar, Design Thinking Techniques for Trainers, we’ll showcase a different way to think about designing a learning experience using two design thinking tools. This session is on April 18th at 1:00 PM ET.

Are your sales reps always on their phones? Create a mobile game they can play on-the-go. Do employees like to get together after work for dinner and drinks? Offer gift cards as an incentive to complete a training module. Once you get inside your learners’ heads, you’ll better understand what is going to motivate them to want to take your training, and more importantly, want to make time to learn and grow.

2. Separate design and development

It is usually a smart approach to split design and development into two separate phases. By doing so, you can confirm the business need, conduct analysis, and do a combination of the approaches I suggest above before jumping into development. You’re more likely to create a realistic plan that will require the least amount of re-work possible. Design proofs and functional prototypes are especially useful during the transition from design to development to ensure the right stuff gets created.

3. Streamline your process wherever possible

If the timeline is an issue, consider what pieces of your training curriculum you can create in rapid authoring tools. For example, we often incorporate Knowledge Guru games as reinforcement activities within a larger curriculum because they are extremely quick to create. Articulate Rise is a great option if you want to rapidly produce mobile-first content.

Selecting the right tools is just the beginning. You’ll also want to make sure your subject matter experts (SMEs) are ready to provide source content and review deliverables at the appropriate times. And if at all possible, try to limit the number of reviewers to as few as possible to avoid a case of “too many cooks in the kitchen.”

4. Look for opportunities to “template” your training

For reoccurring training initiatives, it often makes sense to create a sustainable “frame” for your training that you can easily edit and re-use for future, similar training initiatives. A templated approach is not always appropriate, but it has the potential to save a lot of development time and cost.

5. Focus on performance support

According to the 70-20-10 model, training is only 10% of workplace learning. And if we look at the model in its original format, 50-20-10-5-5, formal training is only 5%. The greatest opportunity to reach busy employees is, of course, on the job and in the flow of work. Rather than assuming formal training is the default answer, consider how your team can create an “ecosystem” of tools that enable learners to find what they need when they need it.

6. Use microlearning (where appropriate)

Sales reps are out in the field most of the day and have little time to sit down at a laptop. Call center reps work in high production environments where they’re on the phone all day with limited time for anything else. Most people simply don’t have time to take training all at once.

Microlearning is often touted as the answer to shrinking timelines and learner availability for training. Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion out there about what microlearning is… and isn’t. Our own Sharon Boller writes a lot about microlearning, and I also encourage you to read Patti Shank’s thorough exploration.

Long story short: microlearning can be highly useful as a reinforcement tool that reinforces and deepens learning. It also can be a part of a performance support strategy. It isn’t a replacement for a deep, immersive learning experience in of itself.

Is limited time for training a challenge you face at your organization? Are there other challenges you’re experiencing right now? We’d love to discuss possible solutions.

ROI and L&D: What Trainers Need to Know About Operational Results


In January of this year, JD Dillon produced a nice blog post on insights for 2018. He curated several L&D thought leaders to share their thoughts on what L&D practitioners should focus on for 2018. He formulated a variety of questions to which they responded.

The insights are good. The thought leaders within the blog post are all ones I respect and whose opinions matter to me. However, one glaring omission stands out: the absence of a business-oriented perspective. It’s one thing for thought leaders to talk about L&D. But the entire purpose of L&D is to support the goals and strategy of a business. The business does not exist in support of L&D.

What L&D Pros Need

In our industry, thought leaders and practitioners frequently talk about the need for L&D to deliver value to the business and measure impact. But we spend too little time educating L&D practitioners on business and instead focus on building their technical skills in L&D stuff. I agree L&D people should have a solid understanding of learning science and know how to apply the research to their solution design. But there is a second, urgent foundational body of knowledge that L&D practitioners need. They need basic business acumen, understanding of how businesses function and make money, and the factors that influence business strategy.


As a business owner who runs a $4M+ business, employs 30+ FTEs,  and who happens to be within the L&D industry, I’ve become increasingly aware of an uncomfortable truth: Too many L&D practitioners (and employees, in general) are not business literate.

There is a chasm of foundational business understanding between L&D practitioners and the business leaders who run core organizational functions such as Sales and Marketing, Operations, and Finance. For a training professional or a “performance consultant” to design and develop solutions capable of producing business impact, they need a basic understanding of what it takes to run a profitable business and how a solution might support growth strategies.

What L&D Pros Lack

If I polled most L&D professionals I feel confident many would struggle to:

  • Explain the components of a business strategy and how they work together to achieve growth.
  • Distinguish between revenue and sales and consider whether a solution is impacting one, both, or neither of these financial metrics.
  • Ask “how can you measure a solution’s value?” If a solution is not affecting increasing revenue, cash flow, or sales, what value is it contributing? (Spoiler alert: in general, everything comes back to those three items – even things designed to enhance employee engagement. If employees are engaged, they are productive and they stay, reducing costs and increasing efficiency. That, in turn, increases cash and profitability.)
  • Distinguish between cash flow or profit and why “cash is king.” (And, therefore, why a company might not be eager to expend lots of cash producing a solution that won’t yield a substantive result on cash or cash flow in the near term.)
  • Identify the factors that influence cash flow and strategies for affecting cash flow.
  • Explain the difference between cost and profit.
  • Identify the impact a learning solution can have on a business metric that matters (turnover %, employee engagement, cash, cash flow, profit margin).
  • Identify the factors that should go into calculating the cost of a training solution (an essential first bit of info to calculate potential ROI from that solution) and identify how ROI is calculated.
  • Calculate the potential costs to the business if a learning solution is UNsuccessful or how long a business might have to wait to see any actual ROI.
  • Offer examples of  “operational results.”

How to Get Started

So, if I were consulted on what topics should matter most to L&D professionals, I’d start by saying “business knowledge.” As an industry, we will continue to struggle to deliver “value” and “impact” to the business until practitioners within the industry have a true understanding of business, business results, and how learning and employee development actually impact those results. Our guidance on the right way or wrong way to design or implement learning solutions needs to be grounded in knowledge of learning science, expertise in technologies and distribution options, and understanding of business strategy, needs, and drivers. Two out of three of these is not enough.

For a “business 101” intro, here are two starter recommendations:

Coursera Course – Grow to Greatness: Smart Growth for Private Businesses

Ed Hess, a professor at University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, teaches this course and it’s awesome. It covers basic business strategy concepts and dispels common myths about how businesses grow, whether or not they need to grow, and how fast they should grow. The case studies associated with this course provide a primer on thinking about cash, expenses, profit, operations issues, and more.

I’ve taken this course twice and had every member of our leadership team complete it as well. There is a second part of the course that focuses heavily on the impact of organizational culture and people development to a business’s success. You will learn a lot and expand your understanding of what it takes to operate and grow a successful business. You’ll expand your ability to consider how a learning solution can – and cannot help a business improve its operational results, engage its people, or fulfill its business strategy.

HBR article – Having Trouble With Your Strategy? Then Map It?

This article outlines a framework to devise a strategic plan. It’s a nice counterbalance to Ed Hess’s course because it focuses on public companies. Though L&D peeps might not be crafting company-wide strategic plans, this concise article and framework show the relationship between these four business perspectives that work together to increase shareholder value. For public businesses, increasing shareholder value is the ultimate “purpose” or destination. (Private businesses also need to make money to continue to exist, but they may not define their primary purpose as “making money.”)

Four Perspectives to Consider

The strategy is the route to that destination and it flows “top-down” with the financial perspective first. The customer perspective then supports the financial perspective. Next, the internal process perspective is informed by the customer perspective and the financial perspective. And finally, the learning and growth perspective is informed by all of the perspectives above it.


Rober Kaplan and David Norton. Having Trouble With Your Strategy? Then Map It. Harvard Business Review. 2004.

1. Financial perspective – how will you make money so you can increase shareholder value?

  • Revenue growth strategies
  • Productivity efficiency strategies

2. Customer perspective – which value proposition will the company focus on seeking advantage in and which will the company be at parity in:

  • Customer intimacy
  • operational excellence
  • product leadership?

3. Internal process perspective – which of these levers will company focus on:

  • Build the business through innovation
  • Increase shareholder value through customer management processes (sales and acct mgmt)
  • Increase value through operational efficiency (cost management strategies)
  • Be a good citizen: regulatory and environmental processes

4. Learning and growth perspective – to enable everything listed above, what you need in terms of:

  • Employee competencies
  • Our corporate culture
  • Technology

As an adjunct resource on simply thinking in terms of ROI, here’s an older post I wrote on the topic of implementing effective training solutions. It touches on calculating the cost of poor implementation.

Want to learn more about how to connect learning solutions to business results? We’d love to chat.

2018 Learning Trends Report (Free Download)

Thank you to everyone who recently participated in our Learning Trends Survey. We had 119 respondents from a wide variety of industries and many thoughtful responses to the open-ended questions.

We used the survey results to create our 2018 Learning Trends Report. Our goal was simple: find out what knowledge and skills trainers find most important for their learners, what challenges they face when providing training, and how they plan to deliver training in 2018.

Our report presents and summarizes the results. Then, Sharon Boller and I offer seven takeaways from the data. You can access the report here.

About the Learning Trends Report

This report is simply a snapshot. It represents the opinions of our clients and email newsletter subscribers over a two week period of time in December 2017.

That being said, the results certainly align with the anecdotal evidence we see as we work with clients.

In our upcoming webinar, Learning Trends in 2018: Present Realities vs. Future Possibilities, we will provide an in-depth analysis and discussion of the 2018 Learning Trends Survey results.

While some survey questions were “select all that apply,” most were open-ended so participants could share their perspectives without being influenced by the answer choices we had created. We took the raw responses and put them into meaningful categories that emerged based on the responses given. If respondents said both “stakeholders” and “lack of time for training” were holding them back, we counted this as one response in each category.

Since we sent the survey to our existing clients and contacts, the breakdown of respondents reflects the industries and company sizes we frequently work with. For example, life science (pharmaceutical, medical device, and biotech) and healthcare companies are over-represented in the results. The majority of respondents work at Fortune 1000 or larger organizations.

A large number of internal trainers at higher education institutions also participated, likely because of their interest in the survey topic.

Otherwise, industry representation was broad and balanced:

More than 41% of respondents were at the manager, director, or VP level in their organization, most of whom are in roles directly related to training, talent, or learning. Nearly 53% of respondents were instructional designers or trainers. The remainder of respondents consider themselves consultants or external vendors.

What’s in the Report

We asked survey participants seven simple questions:

  1. How often do you get input from your learners as part of your training design process?
  2. What knowledge and/or skills do the employees you train need to have to be successful in their jobs?
  3. What challenges do you face when you try to help these employees build the necessary knowledge/skills?
  4. What methods will you (or your organization) use to deliver training in 2017?
  5. What learning trend(s) or new training delivery method(s) are you most excited about for 2017?
  6. What emerging learning trends are you most excited about beyond 2018?
  7. If you could improve ONE thing about learning & development and/or training at your organization in 2017, what would it be?

The 2018 Learning Trends Report

Download the 2018 Learning Trends Report to view the results and analysis of our Learning Trends Survey.


Training vs. Just-In-Time Resources: 5 Tools You Can Use Today

Eight years ago, I wrote a blog post on training versus learning. I was frustrated because clients often asked for “training” courses (eLearning, in particular) when what they really wanted to do was communicate information. They didn’t necessarily want the recipient to do anything. They wanted to share information with the recipient.

The rise of the LMS has worsened this situation with companies wanting to put everything into clickable “courses” so they can track that employees have completed their training. I often find myself listening to employees tell me about how frustrating it is to have to access resources from within a course – or to explain the reason they don’t use resources because they would have to go back and find the course in order to get to the resource. That’s not useful.

Where are the performance gaps?

I routinely find myself sharing this graphic on what factors influence someone’s ability to perform. This model reads left to right. Note that only one box out of eight relates to lack of skill or knowledge. My experience is that most gaps in performance relate to problems with organizational systems, processes, or problems with resources.

We work very hard to help clients distinguish true training needs from information-sharing needs to come up with better solutions to support non-training needs. I’d like to see L&D professionals get better at thinking about how the digital landscapes within their companies (and literally in people’s hands due to their smartphones) can better enable people to find and use information in the moment.

5 Just-In-Time Tools

Your employees cannot possibly retain everything you want them to know. Instead, consider what easy-to-use, easy-to-find tools you can provide to them so they can locate information when they need it. A post-training reinforcement tool increases the odds of long-term retention.

Here are tools I think are under-used:

1. Intranet search functions

Think Google and the wonderful way you can type “How do I [INSERT VERB AND PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE]? I love Google’s Year in Review videos because they illustrate that Google lets you look up almost anything. Companies need to think about how to enable employees to easily search for information on the company’s Intranet or company video library.

2. Resource Websites… that aren’t buried in an LMS

Sometimes a stand-alone website is the key to optimal usage. (e.g. insertyourprocessorproductname.com, which is often easier to find/locate than trying to hunt within an Intranet). You can create a password-protected site and set the site up to support single sign-on. This avoids users having to create a separate username and password to access your special site. Instead, they can use credentials they already have with other tools in your organization, such as Salesforce or your Intranet. If you create a website, make sure it’s responsive as well as simple and quick to use.

3. Mobile apps

Apps can be awesome reinforcers to support live or online training that is more “traditional” (e.g. take it on a laptop, click through lots of content). They can also be stand-alone resources. Lectora and Articulate both have great tools for creating these kinds of apps. Here’s one we created in Rise for QAing Storyline courses.

4. YouTube

YouTube channels allow you to create and upload your own how-to videos or interactive practice videos. There are alternatives to YouTube if privacy is a concern, but being able to go to YouTube, type in “How do I…” and locate short videos that show as well as tell is hugely helpful. We post all the videos we create on our YouTube channel. This nifty little video on creating interactive, game-like modules using Storyline 3 was a recent posting.

And here’s a new tool I think people will go nuts over if the popularity of Google’s Home and Amazon’s Alexa are any indication…

5. Chatbots

These tools can provide live, just-in-time support, letting you ask common questions and spooning up the answer for you. To see how one works, check out Rocky – the chatbot launched by Rare Carat in 2017.

To sum up…

Instead of immediately leaping to create an eLearning course, consider whether some sort of online resource for just-in-time information may be needed. The “just-in-time” tool that most of us have available at all times is our phone. Designing and building resources accessible from the phone can make your employee’s lives easier. Instead of developing training, creating a resource that is only used as needed saves you both time and money.

2017 in Review: BLP’s Top 10 Blog Articles

If you’ve been following our blog, you probably recognize some of the top blog articles below. If you haven’t, that’s ok, too. This post will help you catch up on what we’ve been talking about for the past year.

1. 6 Steps to a Mobile Mindset: Mobile Learning Basics

By Jake Huhn

*This article is a 2017 eLearning Learning MVP Award Winner in the Mobile Learning category.*

Early in 2017, BLP’s Senior Marketing Technologist, Jake Huhn, wrote this article to provide mobile learning tips and best practices. Jake coined the term Mobile Mindset to encompass a broader range of programming and design that’s accessible to all organizations—the ones trying to roll out mobile now and those who still have hurdles to overcome. Mobile Mindset means thinking about programming and design in a way that is adaptable for the future. It means improving the design of even your desktop eLearning courses so you’re prepared for whatever device/browser/version comes our way.

Read the full article.

2. Microlearning: What It Is and What It Isn’t

By Holly Bradbury

In our 2017 Learning Trends Survey, we asked respondents to tell us what learning trends or new training delivery methods they are most excited about for 2017. The number one answer? Microlearning. 18% of respondents said they’re excited about microlearning for the year ahead. But just because people are excited about microlearning, doesn’t mean they know the proper way to incorporate it into their training strategy. This article will help you discover what microlearning is, what it’s not and how to effectively blend it into your 2018 training strategies.

Read the full article.

3. 6 Pervasive Corporate Training Pitfalls

By Holly Bradbury

Remember when you were new to learning and development? If you really are new, congratulations and welcome to the field! If you’ve been around for a little while, I want you to think back: what do you wish you could tell your former self about what he/she is getting themselves into? Maybe you would warn “past you” about how easy it is for learners to tune out during training. Or perhaps you would tell a cautionary tale about how upper management is not easily convinced that the creative approaches you will want to try are worth the investment. Are any of these challenges yours? This article takes a closer look at the top six training “pitfalls” and how you can avoid them.

Read the full article.

4. The Forgetting Curve: What It Is and Why It Matters

By Steven Boller

This article is a must-read because there are lots of conflicting claims out there about what the forgetting curve actually is, how quickly people forget, and what trainers can do about it. But despite the confusion, trainers can’t afford to ignore the forgetting curve. When forgetting is properly planned for, it is just another design constraint. But when we pretend forgetting won’t happen or assume forgetting doesn’t matter, it becomes a value killer.

Read the full article.

5. Emerging Learning Technologies: Promise vs. Hype

By Sharon Boller

For almost a decade now, we’ve been hearing that these “emerging” technologies will become viable solutions to add to the L&D practitioner’s toolbox. After watching and waiting for numerous years, Sharon felt like this year is the year where all three technologies reached a tipping point, of sorts. So in June 2017, our Director of Technology, Brandon Penticuff, along with a great team of people, hosted an “emerging technologies” day so everyone at BLP could experience the new tech in the span of a two-hour hands-on lab. Afterward, we talked about what we saw as promise, and what we saw as “hype.” This post summarizes what we explored, how we felt about it, and what we learned.

Read the full article.

6. How to Successfully Implement a Training Program

By Sharon Boller

This is one of our top ten articles for good reason! Reinforcement and spaced practice are important components to help someone actually use and remember what you are trying to teach them. It’s one ingredient to ensuring successful implementation, but Sharon says it’s not enough. You also have to plan out everything else that needs to happen for your solution to really solve a problem. Excellent learning design and great content are important, but they miss the mark if we fail to consider what’s required for a solution to be implemented well and sustained over time.

Read the full article.

7. Show and Tell: Gamified eLearning in Articulate Storyline 3

By Holly Bradbury

In early Fall of this year, BLP Learning Technologist, Kathryn Steele created an eLearning course in Articulate Storyline 3 called “Abby Goes to the OBGYN.” This course is a learner-controlled eLearning experience. It makes a linear course feel interactive and engaging because learners are able to actively participate. In a course, active learning goes beyond passively reading content, listening to a lecture, or watching a video. The results demonstrate how an eLearning course can use game elements to simulate a learner’s journey and make the learner part of the experience. This article includes video tutorials that give the reader a behind-the-scenes look at how the course was created and how learners interact with the course.

Read the full article.

8. Design Thinking: Level-Up the Learner Experience

By Sharon Boller

*This article is a 2017 eLearning Learning MVP Award Winner in the Design category.*

Sharon wrote this article on design thinking – a topic she is personally passionate about and one that has gained significant traction in the L&D world just this year. Design thinking evolves solutions through an iterative process of observation, insight, ideation, experimentation, and testing. Its goal is to produce solutions that find the ”sweet spot” between human needs, business viability, and technical feasibility. The end user of the solution is the focal point. And any solution you create must involve the user in the formulation, design, and testing of that solution.

Read the full article.

9. From Three Phases to Four: The Toolkit Approach to Product Launch Training

By Steven Boller

Have a big product launch on the horizon? This article is for you. Product launch training vendors have long encouraged clients to adopt a three-phase product launch model. Basic facts and foundational knowledge are introduced in the pre-work. The launch meeting builds and deepens this knowledge and provides practice opportunities. Then post-launch tools are created to help reps commit what they’ve learned to long-term memory… or at least know where to look it up. Three phases are a great start, but they aren’t enough. It turns out a fourth phase is needed to make product launches successful over the long haul.

Read the full article.

10. The Learning & Remembering Equation (Infographic)

By Sharon Boller

Sharon and I recently collaborated to create an infographic that showcases her Learning & Remembering Equation. The concept is simple: there are certain design factors you must include in your solutions for people to 1) learn and 2) later be able to recall and apply what they learned. But our brains are wired to forget things. When today’s world is filled with so many distractions, it can be difficult to attend to anything, let alone remember it later. The Learning & Remembering Equation will help you devise training solutions that truly help your learners recall information when they need it.

Read the full article.

Take the 2018 Learning Trends Survey

Our goal is to write about stuff that matters to YOU. Help us continue to do that by taking our 2018 Learning Trends Survey. The information we collect in the survey will give insight into the different challenges trainers face, what trends they’re excited about for the future, and how they plan to deliver training in 2018. We will share the survey results in early January. It only takes five minutes to complete. Will you share your perspective with us?

Performance Support Basics: 3 Lessons on Learning Portals

learning portal

Over the past few months, we’ve talked a lot about the learner experience and learner-centered solutions. These types of solutions are designed with the target learner in mind and focus on learners’ needs. Learning portals are a great example of a learner-centered solution. When designed with learners’ needs in mind, they are an excellent performance support tool.

Essentially, a learning portal is an online knowledge sharing tool. It’s a repository of content and information your learners can access anytime, anywhere. A learning portal helps learners locate the information they need quickly. And in some cases, interact with different types of curated learning content.

If your organization hasn’t already, it may be time to adopt a learning portal as part of your next training initiative. So if you’re unfamiliar with learning portals or just want a refresher, these three lessons will help you get off on the right foot.

1. A learning portal organizes all your stuff.

Let’s get straight to the point: the biggest value-add a learning portal has is its ability to organize tons of information! Learning portals help organizations composite random training materials into a searchable database of relevant and useful content. Much like a website, a learning portal has a search function that makes it easy for learners to find exactly what they need when they need it.

A learning portal is a central hub of information that can house several different types of courses and interactions. This may include PDFs or job aids, videos, courses, quizzes, apps, and much more. Portals make it easy for learners to access all of your training content right at their fingertips because it’s all in one central location.

2. A learning portal is not an LMS.

The terms learning portal and learning management system (LMS) are often used interchangeably. But there are several key differences between the two. Trainingindustry.com compares a learning portal to an LMS in the following way:

“An evolution of the Learning Management System, the Learning Portal is an integrated website for training administration and learner activities. Considered the fourth generation LMS, the Learning Portal allows all constituents of the learning experience to participate in publishing, authoring, delivering, and administering training.”

An LMS helps organizations deliver, track, and report on online training. It’s become an L&D mainstay because it administers and tracks eLearning. But many of today’s learners report that they need more than traditional eLearning courses to learn and develop. An outdated and confusing user interface (UI) only contributes to this problem. And to make matters worse, an LMS is typically not a mobile-friendly solution. It’s simply too big and bulky to make it completely accessible.

A learning portal removes obstacles like these and enables learners to access your content anytime on any device. Think of it this way: with an LMS, learning is assigned and ‘pushed’ to employees. With a learning portal, learners can ‘pull’ resources and access what they need when they need it.

3. Learning portal design is simple if you follow the rules.

If you want your learning portal to be effective and drive results, you should follow a few simple design principles. In the book Designing Portals: Opportunities and Challenges, Ali Jafari and Mark Sheehan outline specific design characteristics a learning portal should have, and we agree. A learning portal should be:

  • Inclusive: Your portal design should support diverse communities. It should be geared towards your target learners. Performing analysis and creating a learner persona can help identify what learners truly want and need out of a portal.
  • Easy to Update: Stakeholders and trainers from across the organization should be able to easily access and change information as needed. To manage this process, the correct permissions and authentication should be in place.
  • Learner-centered: Traditional training tends to be very “business-centric.” It’s often driven by the content the organization wants to cram in instead of what learners actually need. Learning portals, on the other hand, are “learner-centric.” Learners should be able to use the portal to build their own learning path based on their circumstances, experiences, and needs.
  • Accessible: Learning portals should be both easy to access and easy to use across multiple devices. Learners’ time should be spent learning about the topic at hand, not about how to use the technology. Portals need to provide multiple routes to content. It should have a recommend relevant content to your learners.
  • Flexible: A well-designed portal will accommodate more resources as they become available. With different departments that have different needs and wants (especially for large organizations), it’s important for the portal to easily expand and adapt.

Try It Out

If your learning portal is designed with these principles in mind, you’re much more likely to see results. With its website-esque design, organization, user-friendliness, and accessibility, a learning portal is a good option if you want to keep your learners’ needs top-of-mind.

Experiential Learning: ‘What,’ ‘Why,’ and ‘How’ for Corporate Trainers

The importance of experiential learning for children is evident. We would never have learned to ride bicycles or hit balls without taking tumbles, swinging and missing, and trying again until we had developed some mastery. We learned from experience.

Adults are no different. For example, Albert Einstein and Michael Jordan didn’t rise to the top of their fields simply by studying theory in a classroom. They needed to be exposed to a multitude of experiences and practice over and over to become competent. They also needed to draw on their exceptional talent (and their mentors and colleagues), and then undertake even more practice and experience to become leaders.

As trainers, we should aspire to provide our learners with these types of opportunities.

What is experiential learning?

The definition of experiential learning could include all of the following:

  • A ropes course that puts an entire team outside its comfort zone and requires people to problem solve and collaborate.
  • A game-based simulation that attempts to realistically re-create job conditions and constraints so people can safely practice a skill.
  • A variety of “hands-on” activities that provide relevant practice.

Simply put, experiential learning is learning by doing. It takes learning beyond the classroom or the computer screen. Most of us learn better when we are directly involved in a learning experience instead of sitting idle in a formal training setting or clicking “Next” in an eLearning course. Experiential learning provides interactivity and participation and can be much more effective than traditional learning approaches.

The Experiential Learning Theory

Psychologist David Kolb defines experiential learning as a process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. The experiential learning theory is based on a four-stage cycle:

  • Concrete Experience – the learner must be actively involved in the experience;
  • Reflective Observations – the learner must possess and use analytical skills to review and reflect on the experience;
  • Abstract Conceptualization – the learner must be able to reflect on the experience, make conclusions and actually learn from that experience;
  • Active Experimentation – the learner must plan and try out what they have just learned, using their decision making and problem-solving skills.

Debriefing the experience is especially critical. Reflection is a key part of learning from experiences. To gain insights and adjust behaviors, learners need to reflect on the “what” and the “why” of their performance. What did I do well? Why was I successful at that? What did I do poorly? Why was I unsuccessful and what needs to change to improve my success?

The 70:20:10 Model as a Starting Point

Today’s business environment is highly competitive, characterized by shorter product and service lifecycles, and faster turn-around times. In such an environment, traditional training approaches aren’t as responsive to business needs as they used to be.

Formal training can’t possibly provide employees with all of the knowledge and skills they need to succeed. In fact, the 70:20:10 model says that formal training accounts for 10% of workplace learning and another 20% is covered by social learning. At 70%, the majority falls in the realm of on-the-job experiences. Performance support is a critical part of this 70%.

The hands-on experience (the 70 percent) is the most beneficial for employees because it enables them to discover and refine their job-related skills, make decisions, address challenges and interact with influential people such as bosses and mentors within work settings. They also learn from their mistakes and receive immediate feedback on their performance.

While this model may serve as a guideline, Sharon Boller argues that 70:20:10 may not be enough to help learners build true mastery.

When to Use Experiential Learning

Experiential learning is an ideal approach when you want to trigger emotional reactions that your learners may actually encounter on-the-job such as fear, anger, anxiety, stress. You have to let them analyze their own reactions and develop strategies for managing or minimizing those reactions. (Hence the ropes course that puts people in situations that challenge them, put them outside a typical comfort zone, etc.)

Experiential learning works best when people have a rubric that defines what good performance includes. For example, identify behaviors that should be part of good performance and behaviors that signify poor performance. Performance can then be assessed against this rubric so learners get specific feedback on what they are doing well and what needs to improve.

Simulated Experiential Learning

On the job training is great because it offers the most realistic training experience. But it’s not optimal for every training situation. This is where simulations come into play. This type of experiential learning provides a safe space to practice skills that are risky to learn on the job (e.g. flying a jet, performing surgery, putting out a fire).

One excellent example of online experiential learning is the game Lifesaver, and more recently, Lifesaver VR. Lifesaver uses stories and games to help people recognize the value of learning CPR. To play the online game, you use the spacebar to do compressions. Then you get feedback on whether you’re doing the compressions too fast or too slow. In the VR experience, you must completely engage with your body to do CPR – pushing down hard two times a second on a cushion in real life to save the person in VR.

Virtual reality has a great deal of promise for medical device and healthcare companies who need to provide affordable experiential learning to their employees. You can operate on someone in virtual reality without the risk while simulating the key moments of a surgical operation in a way that is faithful to the emotional experience real surgeons have in the operating room.

Other examples of simulated training include augmented reality and 360 video. Instead of putting someone in the operating room, out on the factory floor, or in a mining environment, operating a $2 million piece of equipment, organizations can design a virtual or simulated experience and provide meaningful practice without the liability.

When Not to Use Experiential Learning

Sometimes lectures, eLearning, and reference materials are still the right solution. If you are focused on knowledge acquisition, traditional approaches will work when accompanied by relevant practice. Learners should be able to recall the information and demonstrate an understanding of how knowledge gets applied.

How Fantasy Elements Improve the Learning Experience

The idea of using whimsy and fantasy as part of a training program makes some learning leaders nervous. Will learners take the training seriously? Will serious-minded audiences be offended by the lighthearted approach? And most importantly, what will stakeholders think?

When it comes to teaching children, the concept of incorporating fantasy into the learning experience is well-researched. Again and again, researchers find there are benefits to adding a fantasy component, especially in learning games. (Parker & Lepper, 1992; Asgari & Kaufman, 2004; HabgoodAinsworth, & Benford, 2005).

Researcher Thomas Malone is frequently cited on the topic of fantasy and games. In the 1980’s, Malone investigated why games are fun and what makes them motivational. He conducted a study that looked at a number of games and dissected the elements of fun. Through this process, he identified three elements that make games intrinsically motivating: challenge, curiosity, and fantasy.

Fantasy checks out as an effective approach for teaching children, but what about adult learning? Is there a way to incorporate it into corporate training and see a measurable learning benefit? The short answer is yes, it’s possible and something we highly recommend instructional designers use. Here’s why:

Fantasy creates an immersive learner experience

When you hear “immersive learning experience,” you probably envision some type of virtual or augmented reality – two buzzwords in the L&D industry right now. These technologies allow learners to be at least partly, if not fully, immersed in different situations. But amidst all the tech hype, I want to take you back to the old school version of an “immersive experience” – a story. Do you remember growing up when your parents or grandparents read books to you? Do you read books now to your own kids? If you do, you know the stories in the books serve as an immersive experience for them because children are easily entranced by fairytales and fantasies!

When it comes to learning application, Deena Skolnick Weisberg conducted a study that showed, contrary to the consensus opinion at the time, that fantasy-based approaches helped children learn the meanings of words and perform better on a post-test than more realistic approaches. This is because the fantasy elements capture their attention, and in turn, may help them to learn more.

Fantasy as an Adult Learning Tool

Although our child-like imaginations may fade, the concept of using fantasy elements for learning applies to adults as well. In this articleDr. Karl Kapp discusses how fantasy elements and story can aid in adult learning. He says that by anchoring content to a story or fantasy element, it becomes more memorable and possibly even emotional. Fantasy can improve memorization by provoking vivid images related to the material.

Fantasy can be a useful way to help adult learners accept situations they’d otherwise object to as not being realistic enough to fit their specific work world. The fantasy elements make it clear it’s not supposed to be an exact representation of their world. The ability to safely explore something we’d normally consider too “out there” to be a part of is one reason fantasy is engaging. In the workplace, mistakes can be costly. Allowing people to roleplay or imagine in an eLearning course is a safe practice area that causes no harm.

Fantasy creates emotional connections

A fantasy-based learning solution can also allow someone to connect with the learning experiences and temporarily forget real-world concerns or fears. This means that they don’t think to themselves “this is product differentiation training with clients and I’ve never done well in this area.” Instead, they work within the fantasy environment, which can help them transfer those skills to the real world.

To provide even more emotional connection, you could include characters in an eLearning course that have a high degree of personal relevance. This is so you can reach people of all different ages, gender, class, race, etc. depending on your target learners.

Fantasy motivates and engages in a whole new way

A few year ago, the US Military staged a zombie apocalypse as part of a counter-terrorism summit. Zombies invaded an island that was transformed with Hollywood-style sets, including a Middle Eastern village and a pirate cove. Some 1,000 US military personnel, police, and state and federal government officials were charged with responding.

“The zombie apocalypse is very whimsical. The scenario was created to add some levity to the more dire scenarios summit-goers will encounter including terrorists roaming hospital halls shooting people and pilots trapped behind enemy lines.”

fantasy for training

Tony Gutierrez/AP; https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Military/2012/1031/No-prank-On-Halloween-US-military-forces-train-for-zombie-apocalypse

This kind of scenario training moves simulation into a new dimension, providing real-life experience solving fictional or “fantastical”—but realistic—problems. Training that focuses just on teaching the necessary material can lead to learner boredom, burnout, and tune-out. But by merging fantasy with reality, you’re likely to be more successful at keeping people engaged in training. And the more people are engaged, the more information they’re likely to retain. On the opposite spectrum, focusing too much on a fun, novel approach can lead to training that is not linked well to learning principles. The best learning solutions will connect these two extremes.

In general, fantasy elements should reinforce instructional goals, not compete with them. Fantasies should provide appropriate metaphors or analogies for the presented learning material. That being said, you don’t need to include fantasy in every single piece of training material. At some point, your learners need to practice the desired behavior in a more realistic setting.

Performance Support Basics: How to Help at the Moment of Need

We met a fictitious target learner in a previous post. Her name is Kate. She’s a new sales rep just starting out in her territory. Kate has completed her onboarding and she is now out in the field visiting with customers every day. When Kate needs to reference or practice something, she is likely using her phone or tablet. She’s probably already sitting in her car in a prospective customer’s parking lot.

Unfortunately, the information Kate is looking for is probably not easy to find. At least, if Kate’s organization is like most. Oftentimes, organizations have hundreds (or even thousands) of sales aids and reference materials scattered across LMS’s, Sharepoint sites, and other locations. Many of these resources are likely out of date. And most of them are probably not available to Kate when she is sitting in a customer’s parking lot trying to look something up.

This challenge is not unique to sales reps. For example, lab technicians may need to quickly reference how to complete a certain process. Or a construction site worker may need to check the safety information for a specific machine.

To provide adequate support for these learners, trainers need strategies that help them commit knowledge and skills to memory, as well as find and locate key information at the moment of need.

When to Provide Performance Support

Sometimes, we simply need employees to know something cold. For example, if Kate needs to always follow XYZ sales process when working with customers, it would not be practical for her to look the process up every time she is about to talk to a customer.

In other cases, knowledge is used infrequently enough that memorization would not be practical or even possible. This is where performance support comes into play. Performance support is a critical piece of a learning strategy, but only if it is used to support important, not frequently accessed knowledge and skills.

Homeowners, this analogy is for you: ever need to figure out how to fix an appliance or do a simple DIY project in your home? I’m guessing you didn’t sign up for a 6-week course to learn how… you didn’t have time! You probably went to YouTube, found a relevant video, learned on the fly, and got the job done. If you’re like me, you have probably since forgotten quite how to do whatever it is you learned. But you know where to find it if you need to perform the task again.

Many of our learner’s most pressing (and frustrating) “training needs” are exactly like this. They need to know something now, and it needs to be easy to find and locate.

Key Aspects of Performance Support

Regardless of the type of performance support you provide, your goal should be for learners to be able to easily find accurate and complete information whenever they need it. If your performance support is much harder to use than typing a search into Google, it is probably too cumbersome.

Essentially, your performance support should be:

  • Available on learner’s device of choice: for example, if they are always on the go, performance support should be mobile.
  • Easy for trainers to update: Your performance support tool’s back-end should make it easy to update content and quickly make it available to learners.
  • Complete and not full of duplicate content: You should conduct a sound content analysis to identify the key performance support pieces. This will help you identify learning paths and get rid of all the extraneous stuff.
  • Curated and learner-driven: in some cases, a platform that allows learners to upload their own tutorials and content for other users to learn from can be highly effective.
  • Easy for learners to rate: you can identify high and low-performing content by giving learners the ability to rate the value of the performance support content.

The right form of performance support for your learners completely depends on your target learners. For our sales rep, Kate, her mobile phone is an obvious choice. For a lab technician who may not be able to use a phone for safety reasons in the lab, a pocket-sized notebook might be a better choice.

Take the time to observe your target learners. Once you understand their world, you’ll be able to provide them the right tools to help them find and locate information when they need it most.

Did you know? Knowledge Guru games allow you to include performance support and reference materials within its mobile apps.

Blended Learning 101: Basics, Benefits & Best Practices

blended learning

According to our research, the overwhelming majority of organizations use a blended learning strategy to deliver training. Blended learning is the norm, not the exception. This likely comes as no surprise to you. Online is often the method of choice for fact-based knowledge and performance support, while instructor-led training and other interpersonal activities are the standard go-to for helping learners build soft skills and practice complex tasks.

If you are new to training and development or just looking for a refresher, this article is for you. Read on to learn the basics of blended learning, its key benefits and the best practices we use when designing blended learning curriculums.

What is blended learning?

Blended learning is a combination of learning solutions. Essentially, it combines classroom or face-to-face learning with self-paced online learning. This gives learners an element of control over time, place, path, and/or pace. Blended learning uses multiple delivery methods to present a series of learning events. Delivery methods may include eLearning, video, mobile, and/or live training. This helps present learning content in a way that best serves the learner and the content being taught.

Benefits of Blended Learning

A blended learning strategy can benefit your employees, as a variety of learning approaches can stimulate their interest and increase their engagement. Blended learning offers:

1. The best of both worlds

Blended learning allows the flexibility of an online course while retaining the benefits of the face-to-face classroom experience. It gives the learner time to learn when it is most convenient for them. Learners can complete introductory modules at their own pace, rather than the pace of the slowest or fastest member of a group in the class environment. Then, learners benefit from the hands-on practice and coaching opportunities that face-to-face training provides for your more challenging learning objectives.

Blended learning also allows you to provide the right contextual practice via live, face-to-face training. It doesn’t force you to make concessions but allows you to create the interactions that are going to benefit your learners the most.

2. Stronger learner engagement and knowledge retention

Learning science shows that knowledge retention can significantly improve with the addition of a new element in the learning process. This is true even if it is something as simple as a drag and drop interaction in an eLearning course. By offering a variety of different approaches, blended learning can help learners remember what they need to be successful on the job. Blending face-to-face and online training creates a much richer training experience. It helps your employees learn and remember much easier than they would if they were offered a single-solution approach.

3. Simplified training logistics

Blended learning also reduces the cost of delivering basic, foundational knowledge. Depending on the solution used, analytics and completion data will give you a picture of what learners know and don’t know before they attend a live session. Because everyone completes the same pre-work or online modules, you can then teach the actual application of these skills in the face-to-face environment.

Potential Downfalls of Blended Learning

When I spoke with some of our Learning Technologists, most of them mentioned time and budget as possible constraints to a robust blended learning strategy. Blended learning obviously takes more time to design and develop than just a single course, for example. If some stakeholders are skeptical of the upfront investment, a strong training implementation strategy can help identify potential risks and build consensus early.

Other possible challenges include:

Finding facilitators for the live training events: Like any projects that involve logistics and scheduling, allow plenty of time to plan for this early on.

Making sure learners complete the pre-work before attending ILT: Create a communications strategy and align efforts with learners’ managers. Make learners aware that top performers will be recognized and rewarded when they attend the live training event.

Making sure learners are engaged and pay attention during ILT: Design a variety of interactive activities and avoid lecture at all costs.

Ensuring that learners complete any post-work and use the provided performance support tools: Perform a careful needs analysis up front to ensure you are designing the optimal tools for learners.

Blended learning curriculum design: What to consider

Create a cohesive curriculum

One of the most important things to consider when designing a blended learning curriculum is how to l solutions in a curriculum feel consistent and connected. How does the live meeting build on the pre-work, for example? A blended curriculum shouldn’t just repeat everything from one learning solution to another. All the solutions should work together to reach the common goal. Often, you may decide to use a story or a theme throughout to tie the pieces together. It should feel like one experience to the learner, not a series of separate courses or events.

Identify any constraints

You also want to consider your constraints. Your budget, timeline, and the time your learners have available all have a huge impact on what the right learning solution will be for your situation. A realistic picture of your project constraints will help you decide what to cover in an eLearning course, what can be done in person, and what should be used for follow-up.

Take a look at some of the blended learning curriculums we’ve created for organizations just like yours.