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.

6 Things You Can Do Today to Improve Your Training

Earlier this year, we published the results of our 2017 Learning and Remembering Survey. In the survey, we asked respondents to tell us one thing they would improve about learning & development and/or training at their organization. This question was perhaps the most open-ended, and it received a wide variety of responses. Many respondents were most concerned with improving the design of their training. They often mentioned a desire to make it more engaging in some way:

“Have enough time to develop groundbreaking and engaging training.”
“I would like to find new ways to make the learning more engaging.”
“Technology! We don’t use many resources that would make learning fun and engaging.”
“I hope to make it more fun and engaging for learners.”
“Improving the tools/technologies that surround engagement of your learners and allowing them to personalize their learning.”

Some respondents wanted to improve the technology they use to deliver training, whether it was a new intranet or an improved LMS. However, others focused more on the big picture. They wanted to make learning a bigger part of their company culture, or to make more time for effective needs analysis that could influence and improve their designs.

I’m sure these responses sound familiar. And some of these issues may seem like monsters that will take forever to fix. I’m here to tell you that with a little expert advice, you can create better training, you can increase buy-in, and you can improve the L&D culture within your organization. So why not start today? It’s all about taking that first step…

The 6 Steps to Success

Whatever challenges you face and whatever improvements you want to make, the six steps outlined below can help you get started:

1. Start with what you don’t know.

A thorough needs analysis should always be the first step when you need to improve performance or change behaviors. Zero in on the “need to know” information and make a solid plan for identifying the right learning solution. Regardless of the type of learning solution you plan to create, taking the time to properly assess the situation and gather appropriate information will go a long way towards assuring the success of a new project.

Once you identify the underlying issues, you can start creating a plan to overcome them, which leads me to my second point…

2. Define a goal and tie learning objectives to that goal.

Has your organization defined a specific business goal? If so, write it down. Do not start your training initiative without setting a goal. Everything else flows from the goal. You can then focus on crafting relevant learning objectives and tying them to your goal.

These objectives should outline what learners need to know, do, or believe to achieve whatever instructional goal you have defined. For example, when we create game-based learning solutions for clients, we use Bloom’s Taxonomy to guide our game creation. Once we know the skill level we want players to achieve, we can choose a game type that can best help them achieve targeted skills.

3. Want engagement? Think like a marketer.

If you want to engage people and really get them excited about training, you have to actually make it “buzzworthy.” But how? We often challenge trainers to think like marketers. What is the implementation strategy? How will you promote the training to learners? Spark interest through a series of emails, promotional graphics, videos of key stakeholders talking about the initiative, etc. Get creative and plan on a series of messages across multiple mediums. The more relevant your content, and the more excitement you create, the more likely learners are to engage.

4. Use the FIT approach

This idea comes from a recent Forbes article. Instead of ignoring or not being aware of the aspects of their organization they’d like to improve, some people see way too many things to change. If that’s the case for you, you might want to use the “FIT” approach: feasibility, impact, and timeliness. Here’s how:

“Look at those things you want to change, and decide which is the most feasible (you actually can change it – it’s in your control, and you have the needed resources), most impactful (will have the greatest positive effect on your life (organization) with the least amount of energy/budget expended) and most timely (you can do it now, and doing it will create a foundation for further change).”

5. Stop skipping the reinforcement.

We’ve talked a lot about reinforcement lately in other blog posts, at conferences, and with clients. But this is only because we can’t stress enough how important reinforcement is. It is crucial for learners to actually retain anything from the training you spent so much time and effort on. That’s why we like to think of reinforcement as an insurance policy for your training. In this article, we outline six different reinforcement tools you can start using today.

6. Consult an expert.

It may be true that your company can take on the project in-house. And we can’t argue with you if you have the time, people, expertise, and software to do so. But rarely do organizations have that magical blend of resources ready to go to get the project from start to finish in a way that hits the mark.

We do have the time, people, software, and expertise (in project management, scripting, course authoring, instructional design, implementation, and previous experience) to successfully implement your project. We also bring a unique outside perspective and can suggest solutions that have been successful for other clients.

Want to view the rest of the survey results? Access the 2017 Learning and Remembering Report.

Emerging Learning Technologies: Promise vs. Hype

Go to any of the big L&D conferences or trade shows and you’ll hear buzz and conversation about virtual reality, augmented reality, and 360 video. Explore the pages of Inc., Forbes, Tech Crunch, or Mashable and you’ll find articles. Search Twitter using the hashtags #AR, #VR, #360video and you’ll find links to innumerable posts.

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. I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to emerging technologies of any kind so I follow these discussions and explore where I can. After watching and waiting for numerous years, I felt like this year is the year where all three technologies reached a tipping point, of sorts.

So, last month, 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, what we learned, and what we plan to do next.

The technology defined

Want to replicate our learning lab? Here’s how we defined each technology and the tools we used to explore it:

  • Virtual Reality – This is the “hottest” of the three technologies in terms of the buzz it generates and its sizzle factor. It is computer technology that uses headsets, sometimes in combination with physical spaces or multi-projected environments to generate a completely artificial environment into which a user can become completely immersed. It often uses other inputs such as wands to allow for interaction through simulated touch or tool use. For our demo’s, we used HTC’s Vive and PlayStation VR.
  • Augmented Reality – This emerging technology seems to have the greatest challenge getting people to understand how it can add value or even what it actually is. It is the integration of digital information with a user’s real environment. Unlike VR, which creates a completely artificial environment, AR uses the existing environment and overlays digital information on top of it. For our demos, we relied on the iPhone and a Nintendo 3DS, along with some AR cards designed for use with the Nintendo.
  • 360 Video – This type of video is frequently labeled “virtual reality,” but we see it as a distinct category. These videos are also often called “immersive” videos because the intent is to immerse you in whatever environment they display. They are videos where a view in every direction (360 degrees) is recorded at the same time, typically by using a omnidirectional camera. The viewer has control of the viewing direction. We used an Insta360 Nano camera (purchased for $199) to record video and Wonda VR (subscription-based software as a service with a free trial) to create an immersive, interactive prototype for our team to test.

What we explored

We took commercial games available for Vive and Playstation VR, videos we could get via Oculus store and via Nintendo, and an interactive 360 video we created ourselves and allowed people to play. Via virtual reality headsets, people cooked recipes, battled spaceships, demonstrated archery skills, competed in a luge competition, and played a fancy form of Pong. They escaped from a crumbling skyscraper under attack by unknown enemies. They solved puzzles that emerged when placing a Nintendo DS over a simple “AR” card. In the interactive 360 video we created, they figured out where the safety hazards were in our office.

Our reactions to it

VR made several of us nauseous – not just one or two of us, but a few of us. For me, at least, the feeling of motion sickness lasted a few hours afterward. We aren’t unique. A quick scan of the landscape reveals that motion sickness with VR is a common problem (25% – 40% experience it). Women experience it more than men. People over 50 and 12 and under have more trouble with it than those in between those ages.

Despite the motion sickness, almost everyone was at least initially engaged by what they saw and experienced. There was lots of laughter and variations of the phrase, “Oh cool!” echoing around the area as people experienced the various games and apps.

The headsets required for VR and the 360 video were cumbersome and not super comfortable to wear. Google Cardboard viewer isn’t a comfortable device to use because of having to hold it up to your head. But a cheap $25 headset like this works just fine for viewing videos.

What we learned and what we’ll recommend to customers

Virtual Reality

There are very specific situations where full-blown virtual reality will definitely make an amazing difference in a learning experience. Those situations will be very specific and the minority of corporate situations rather than the majority of them. The best use case is going to be cases where learners need to build skill prior to being able to perform on a job. And this skill is difficult or impossible to simulate without creating an entire artificial training environment of some sort. (Think about surgeries, firefighting, operating large, complex expensive equipment.)

Even in situations where the use case is strong, these hurdles must be addressed:

  • Hardware requirements – Right now, users have to be tethered to a computer, which puts some constraint on where you conduct training.
  • Motion sickness factor – The high incidence of motion sickness means that the duration of most VR experiences must be limited (10-15 minutes seemed to be tolerable for our team. A few of our experienced VR users did say that motion sickness becomes less pronounced if you gradually increase your exposure over time, but most training situations won’t allow this.)
  • Development and maintenance expenses – Right now, VR is expensive to produce. It requires 3D art, skilled programmers, and specific tools that aren’t in the “rapid authoring tools” category.
Augmented Reality

Our team was decidedly mixed on this. Brandon points out that its best uses are going to be as a reference tool or guide. Consider the backup cameras in newer cars. These contain digital overlays to make it easy to guide your car as you back up. This use of augmented reality is simple but very effective. We all agreed it could have some great specific applications. But these would be more reference or resource applications than training applications. For example, agricultural sales reps might benefit from being able to position a phone over a field and “see” a crop emerge from the ground and virtually “grow” in front of them, showing them what a plant looks like in its natural environment at various stages of its development.

At its simplest level, being able to position your phone over an icon on a piece of equipment and have a troubleshooting checklist become visible could be helpful.

360 Interactive Video

This technology excited us the most. Wonda VR let us create interactions that a viewer can control with eye movements. This allows learners to practice making decisions in an environment that mirrors the one in which we want them to demonstrate skills or recall knowledge. The price is right, the solutions are easy to develop, and videos can be watched as 3D experiences… or not, depending on equipment and need.

Lessons Learned From a Former Biotech Training Manager

biotech training

Life science organizations face unique training and development challenges. The subject matter is highly technical, there are many different roles to train and the industry is highly regulated. While some learning strategies cross over well from other industries, life science trainers know all too well that what works in retail or hospitality may not transfer to their world.

To explore these challenges in greater depth, I interviewed Dennis Carroll, Senior Learning Designer here at Bottom-Line Performance. Dennis has seven years of training, learning development, project management and staff management experience in the life sciences. Specifically, he was a Global Training Manager for Envigo RMS, Inc – a pharmaceutical and biotechnology research company. His experience gives him a unique perspective on the day-to-day challenges life science companies face and how they overcome these challenges to deliver effective training.

How did you end up in a training role at Envigo?

I worked in laboratory animal science at another organization right after I finished my undergrad in biology. I moved up from a contract position to a full-time position in the lab animal science training group. My new manager, David, oversaw all of the technical departments in the company’s lab animal services group. I eventually took over  more management responsibility (Controlled Substances, New Hires, etc). David left to join Envigo as a global director, and asked me to join him in the newly created role as global training manager.

What knowledge or skills did learners at Envigo need to have to be successful in their jobs?

The scope of the training group was predominantly focused on the operations teams – the folks who bred rodents used in research applications, and maintained the facilities. The biggest focus was on process-related training. There were many QA/QC forms to be trained against, and little infrastructure surrounding how folks would be trained. Most learners were left with two options: read dense SOPs and/or work with a more experienced person side-by-side.

What challenges did you face when trying to help these learners build the necessary knowledge/skills?

The organization is global. The biggest challenge there is designing training that meets all of the various national laws associated with laboratory animal production. The second biggest challenge is implementation: the learners typically worked within a facility for 8+ hours/day with no access to the internet; there were few people designated as trainers; and time was very limited for onboarding and ongoing training.

What was the most rewarding thing about your job as a training manager?

Getting to meet people from all over the globe. Being able to come in, hear their concerns, and work with them to design and develop solutions that would meet their needs.

What methods did you use to deliver training at Envigo? And do you feel like those methods were effective?

We developed an onboarding instructor-led training (ILT), delivered by ‘regional trainers’ (myself and two others hired for the role), that proved to be effective in reducing turnover at the sites in which it was delivered. We chose those sites specifically for their high levels of turnover, and were able to demonstrate a reduction in that key indicator. We also developed a global biosecurity training, designed for leaders in the organization. This was extremely successful in creating lateral communication across sites, and getting learners to troubleshoot biosecurity concerns within their facilities.

Other options we pursued included SOPs/work instructions deliverable via mobile device (iPad for the most part), and a video onboarding series.

In your experience, what are some unique challenges for trainers at a biotech or life science company versus trainers in other industries?

The roles are extremely technical. It’s hard to find that unicorn who can be effective both in life sciences and in learning design, development, and implementation. Another challenge is how spread out most life science groups are. Because of the level of skill set specificity for each group, it’s very difficult to create effective learning solutions that apply to all groups equally.

How has your life science and biotech background helped you in your role as a Senior Learning Designer at BLP?

Many of our clients are in this type of field. The benefits I’ve realized include being able to speak easily and fluently with senior-level client managers about their work and know how to communicate with them succinctly and to the point.

Think back to when you were first starting out in a training role. If you could give your former self advice, what would you say?

Get buy-in early and often. From the organizational leadership to the learners themselves. Having everyone participate in learning design and development makes the learning solution not only more effective, but usually leads to having more resources available and fewer roadblocks in development.

Come and See Us at LTEN 2017

Bottom-Line Performance will be speaking and exhibiting again at the 2017 LTEN Conference and Expo. Join us for one of our sessions or come say hello at booth 407!

The Life Sciences Trainers & Educators Network (www.L-TEN.org) is the only 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the professional goals of trainers and educators in the life sciences by providing the clarity, community and career resources needed to excel in leadership and learning. Founded in 1971, LTEN has grown to over 1,700 individual members who work in pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device and diagnostic companies.

6 Pervasive Corporate Training Pitfalls

corporate training

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. I’m sure you’d want to mention just how often the content you need to teach changes, and how you are often left with too much to cover and too little time to do so.

Are any of these challenges yours? According to our 2017 Learning and Remembering Survey, there’s a good chance they might be. We asked 150 L&D professionals what challenges they face when attempting to deliver effective corporate training. Here are the most common responses:

As you probably noticed, the most common training challenges cited are highly interrelated. For example, lack of time to either create effective training or participate in training could lead to low learner engagement and lack of knowledge transfer. And because this often leads to poor results, managers are unlikely to support future training endeavors. Without this support, it’s hard to come by the budget and buy-in needed to do training right.

If only your former self had known what was coming! Let’s take a closer look at the top six training “pitfalls” that came up in the survey results.

Not enough time for training

At over 21 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 – organizations face time restrictions every day. This is especially true when trying to squeeze training into employees’ busy schedules. Constraints like these can make it seem impossible to create training that really makes an impact.

The solution? Consider breaking training up into smaller chunks. Your busy employees need something quick and easy to access. Sales reps, for example, 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. But microlearning could be a good solution to help people fit learning into their busy schedules.

Learners aren’t motivated or engaged

How much of your company’s training only exists to check the box? How often is your job ready to comply with regulations or teach basic, routine procedures that employees must follow? It’s easy to see how corporate training like this can become rather dull and why this was the second-most mentioned challenge in the survey. And when employees take this training, it’s no surprise that they disengage and fail to see how what they are learning impacts their job or their organization.

In a recent project, we partnered with a mining company to revamp their onboarding and annual refresher program. The goal was to connect compliance training with business needs while creating an engaging learning environment. The curriculum uses gamification, game-based learning and hands-on activities instead of standard lectures to engage employees. While these approaches were needed to increase engagement, the most important thing we did was help learners see how day-to-day processes they were learning connected to the big picture. And learners who understand the ‘why’ will usually produce better results.

Managers and stakeholders don’t buy in

In the survey, lots of respondents also mentioned their struggle to get managers and stakeholders to buy into a new training program. For example, maybe everyone agrees your company training is outdated and deserves a fresh new look. But one stakeholder isn’t convinced that training is the answer to your problem. They argue that past training experiences failed and wonder, “What will training really fix?

We know from experience that training can change a learner’s knowledge, behaviors and attitudes as long as it’s planned carefully and designed to meet specific objectives. This is why we perform rigorous analysis upfront to identify a company’s pain point. We also identify what the course/curriculum should lead to as an output in learning knowledge, behaviors and attitudes, and why content has to be specifically focused on those objectives.

Training doesn’t lead to knowledge transfer or retention

Oftentimes, organizations expect their employees to learn and remember everything. Knowledge retention is important because you don’t want to spend a lot of time and money to create and implement a learning solution that no one will remember. Yet stakeholders and designers make choices every day that thwart training efforts and result in wasted dollars that yield no result. Learners take a training course, return to the job site, and don’t apply what they learned because they don’t remember what they were taught.

If it’s so easy to forget, how do we get people to remember? We know from experience that short-term learning strategies aren’t the best solution. But the right corporate training can make a significant impact on the success of your training plan. It should be designed in a way that helps learners remember by teaching and reinforcing key skills and knowledge. This is why you must carefully consider learning science during the instructional design process.

Problems with technology and accessibility

Lots of organizations also face challenges when it comes to technology and training accessibility. While learners might prefer a more “anytime, anywhere” approach to learning, the L&D department struggles to put the tools and technologies in place to make it happen. The IT department and existing mobile device usage policies are often roadblocks to mobile learning adoption.

What sets successful learning technology implementations apart from the rest is usually not the new technology itself, though that should obviously be good and suitable for the target learner. The real difference-maker is implementation. You need a way to objectively evaluate technologies and separate the good from the bad. We’ve come up with this simple technology checklist to help you out.

Not enough budget for effective corporate training

Funneling money into learning and development hasn’t always been viewed as a good way to spend company budget. This is because it’s hard to predict the impact training actually has on company performance. Sometimes, organizations may not see the outcomes they want from past training and may be reluctant to invest in future training.

We recommend you show stakeholders why the training matters and how it connects to the business goal. We also recommend using automated tools or templates that already have a learning framework in place. You need a tool that allows you to deliver high-end training and one that is much more cost effective than building a learning solution from scratch. Knowledge Guru is one such tool; others exist as well.

Want to view the rest of the survey results? Access the 2017 Learning and Remembering Report.