A few weeks ago I wrote a post on my personal blog titled “How is Technology Redefining Training?“. In that post I shared some of the different ways technology is impacting the way people are trained and learn. That post focused on the technologies themselves.
This post explores the concept of “Redefining Training with Technology” from different angle. What does the phrase “Redefining Training” really mean?
When the prefix “re” is added to a word, we generally assume that the action is taken again; so “redo” is to “do again”. While that is proper usage of the “re” prefix in general, it’s only partially correct when it comes to the word “redefine”.
According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, the word Redefine has two definitions.
1: to define (as a concept) again
2: to reexamine or reevaluate especially with a view to change
When I talk about “Redefining Training”, it’s this secondary definition that I am using. We need to reexamine and reevaluate how we define training, especially with all of the changes going on in organizations due to technology.
Here are some of the ways I see training being redefined by technology.
Redefining Learner Expectations
This is the big one that more than anything will drive change. We live in an on-demand world. If I want to learn about something, I’m not going to wait for someone to teach me. I’m going to reach into my pocket, pull out my smartphone, and find the answer. More specifically, I’m probably going to find exactly the information I need – no more, no less.
That’s not that way most learning is built in organizations today. Too often we push content to learners, and in the absence of knowing what they need and when they will need it, we use the “Spray and pray” approach and try to give them everything.
Technology has already redefined how we look at learning in our daily lives. Those everyday activities are going to redefine the expectations workers demand for learning within their workplaces.
Redefining (or Eliminating) the ‘Default’
If there’s one expression that is routinely applied to the training industry, it’s this one:
“If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
Too often our industry gets caught up in the one-size-fits-all solution habit. We have a method of training that is comfortable (note – just because it’s comfortable doesn’t mean it’s effective) and we stick with it. Many organizations that have leaned on classroom workshops just take that mindset and shoehorn it into elearning, mlearning, or any other delivery mechanism. We become so comfortable with the teacher/student course model that it functions as our default solution.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying classroom workshops or expert/novice courses are bad. When applied to the right context, they are hugely effective. Despite what you might have heard, there’s nothing wrong with the structure courses. Courses are fine; it’s the idea that any one type of solution can be looked at as the default solution to any problem that needs to change.
So in this case the redefinition of a default for training is to not have any default solution in the first place.
Redefining Project Scope
If we’re redefining “training default” by not having one at all, that completely redefines the scope of any performance improvement project. When you don’t start with a default solution in mind, your possibilities become endless. You can truly look at the uniqueness of each performance problem, and consider the best way to approach building a solution.
This is another way redefining training means doing things differently. When most instructional designers think about designing learning, it usually falls under the heading of designing content in a way it can be consumed. That approach isn’t sufficient any more.
Instructional designers need to consider more variables when designing learning than ever before. How is the content being accessed? When is it being accessed? Does the solution require the work to be interrupted, or can the worker receive support right in the process of work?
Technology has made learning and performance support available in ways that didn’t exist even a few short years ago. Each different approach has unique advantages and limitations that will impact the overall design strategy.
Some of you might be reading this and thinking “I don’t have those options, as I have no budget.” Yes, learning professionals will always have to work with a budget, and yes, many learning departments will continue to operate as a lean group. However, this doesn’t mean that only organizations with large budgets allocated to learning can take advantage of the latest technologies.
The gaps between the learning technology ‘haves” and “have nots” is shrinking. For every expensive technology there are usually a number of much less-expensive options that can accomplish the same goals just as well. Technology solutions that can be used for learning are more accessible today than ever before.
There was another aspect of ‘redefining resources’ tucked into that last sentence. Too often we constrain ourselves by only looking at technologies that are used to build learning when we define learning technologies. We need to look at all available technologies as potential resources and consider how each can be used to enhance learning.
The ultimate redefinition of training comes in the form of redefining ourselves as professionals in this field. When we start to look at the expanded view of what learning and performance support is, and the opportunities that are available to us via today’s technology, we truly redefine ourselves and how we approach our jobs each day.
Join the Conversation
It’s this definition of redefining training – by doing things differently using technology – that we are exploring in the three featured sessions at this year’s Learning Solutions Conference and Expo.
Lance Dublin will be leading a session exploring how learning professionals can meet today’s training challenges with the technologies that exist today. This session will explore how technology has transformed the way organizations work, and how learning professionals can use these same new technologies to offer enhanced and innovative performance solutions.
Will Thalheimer will share a new option for elearning: Subscription Learning. This new approach uses technology in ways that can offer a new learning option for workers, and perhaps completely redefine your organizational learning strategy.
I’m also excited to be moderating a panel of experts who have already started walking down the path of using technology to redefine how their organizations look at training. I’ll be joined by a great panel including Jane Bozarth, Karl Kapp, Molly Petroff, Richard Russell, and Mark Britz, all of whom will share the successes, challenges, and lessons learned while redefining training in their organizations.
I hope to see you at the Learning Solutions Conference and Expo this March, where you can start your personal journey of redefining training.