I was forced to take an online class recently to learn skills that I will not need to use for at least three months. A gun wasn’t placed at my head so maybe “forced” is a bit strong, but I certainly felt forced. The situation was this: a university for which I teach occasional online classes is in the process of changing over to a new technology platform. The change-over schedule was announced and the area where I teach will be one of the last to implement the new technology, which will be several months away. However, all instructors must take the five-day new technology orientation class now. Will I remember what I’ve learned when it is time to use it? I doubt it. Fortunately a lot of the instruction is via text documents that can be saved, so I have tucked them away in a digital file for future reference when needed.
Research has consistently shown that transfer is limited when trainees do not have the opportunity to perform, sometimes known as opportunity to practice, newly acquired skills. In many studies, the opportunity to perform was rated as the highest form of support for learners, and the lack of opportunity to use training was rated as the biggest obstacle to transfer of the training.
Here are some suggestions and reminders to help support trainees’ opportunity to practice and perform newly learned skills:
Before training, communicate with trainees’ managers and ask them to plan time and assignments for when training is completed, so trainees can immediately try out their learning. This communication can be auto-sent to managers at the same time class registration is confirmed.
During training, provide opportunities throughout the training – whether live training or self-paced elearning – for the trainee to plan when and how they will begin using what they are learning. Encourage them to discuss this with their manager.
After training, send follow-up reinforcement messages to trainees reminding them to find opportunities to practice their new skills.
Prepare participants who aren’t able to practice or perform right away. Provide a manual, short documents and/or web-based support tools for them to refer to when they have the opportunity and the need to use what they have learned.
Set up social media communities to provide support and learning at the moment of need. Send periodic reminders to visit the communities to give and get assistance and advice.
Often there is not a choice as to when training is offered and when new skills can be practiced. We should all do our best to try to reduce the time between training and performance. And when it’s not possible to narrow the gap, provide support tools to narrow the gap.
Until next time…