January 2011 Edition of Synergy News
When I designed MS Access databases for Auto Africa, The Rand Show, Saitex, Nando’s and Coca-Cola, I always followed the principle of “start with the end in mind” and training is no different. When planning a training intervention, always look at the end result. Once you have determined the end result, you can work backwards and design your high level course outcomes and then the various lesson outcomes. You will also be able to decide on the learning experiences you want to take the learner through.
Remember that you are a learner too. Look at how you learn and then turn that into a learning experience for your delegates. Many a person has commented on how well I know how the human brain functions when it comes to learning, and this is, to a large degree true. How did I get there? Very simply – I looked at myself and how I learn!
My eldest daughter recently wrote her last school exams. Mid way through the year, I noticed that although she studied her heart out when it came to Biology, she did not seem to get a mark higher than 56%. I chatted to her about this and suggested that perhaps her method of learning was not right as the effort put in did not even begin to equal the result. Well, I got the normal teenager backchat when parents query things like this and then she said, “I have been studying like this for nearly 12 years and I don’t know HOW to study any differently!” That was exactly what I needed to hear. I asked her if she could lend me her text book for awhile and asked her permission to draw up a few notes for her. I was careful to mention that I didn’t expect her to throw away her study notes, but to rather study with her notes and mine. She agreed. I set about drawing up notes with a huge amount of graphics, flow diagrams, quizzes and games.
In South Africa, our children write Prelim (preliminary) exams before their finals and I eagerly awaited these results to see whether there was an improvement in her marks. We both were pleasantly surprised to see that with the same amount of effort, her marks jumped from 56% to 67% – all due to a difference in study / learning methods.
Around about this time, I was experimenting with eLearning and had purchased the Articulate software suite. I decided to “play” around with an eLearning course for Biology. Now, not only did I add the colour, graphics, flow charts and games, but spiced it up with audio, video, animations and yet more games and quizzes. I downloaded past papers and included these as assessment questions.
Needless to say, this “new” learning methodology was an instant hit with my daughter! She actually started enjoying the subject and, as you know, when the interest is there – half the battle is won! She actually requested (to my amazement) that I put together an eLearning course for her English set works – Othello and The Great Gatsby. I must say I had a bit of a quiet chuckle thinking about what Shakespeare would think seeing his works on an eLearning platform but my objective of getting my daughter to enjoy learning were working!
And that is another point of interest – listen to what your learners have to say! Getting feedback from my daughter helped immensely – both her good and not-so-good criticism! It’s pretty much the same in a learning intervention – once you have feedback from your learners you can go about making the learning better – don’t expect a course to be perfect the first time you run it but rather see it as a work-in-progress and improve upon it constantly!
Another thing I do quite effectively (and this is a huge downfall with many trainers) is not to “test/assess” right at the end. I practice the “Teach 5 – Test 5” principle! Throughout my courses, I teach a few concepts and then test the learner’s comprehension before moving on. Therefore, by the time they get to the end of the course, even though there is a final assessment, they know the content thoroughly.
When I learn, if I do not grasp a concept, I cannot move on to the next. If I can’t get past that one obstacle, the trainer has lost me forever and I tune right out the course. By using the “Teach 5 – Test 5” principal, I can ensure I am constantly on track throughout the learning intervention. Last, but not least – don’t try to “control” the learning experience! Now, this was a big one for me to learn. This is where the trainer “steps back” and becomes more of a facilitator than a trainer – letting the group, to a large degree, direct their own learning. Initially this was a daunting task for me – I don’t know whether it was because I did not trust the process or whether I doubted my ability to “bring the group back if they lacked focus” but once I dared to venture into untested waters, I was pleasantly surprised at the result.
In the age we live in now, people want to take ownership of their own learning – they want to discover things for themselves and interact with groups to discover more as opposed to yet another trainer standing in the front of the class, rambling on endlessly with possibly yet another PowerPoint overkill! So… try to step back and not control the learning – it is not an easy task but one you will find surprisingly rewarding!
For more information visit www.synergylearningsolutions.com – a proudly South African company specializing in taking existing client training material and converting it into an eLearning platform.