Planning and Prompting to Make Training Stick

Independent learning such as self-paced e-learning courses are used more and more in today’s workplace.  When learning professionals don’t have direct contact with learners, how can we help to make their training stick?  Two techniques, when used together, can make a big impact:  planning, and self-regulating prompts.

Recent research has found that when participants are required to develop a pre-training plan for their self-paced online learning, that they are more likely to complete it and will learn more and better.  The plan should include when, where, and how much time the participant is going to devote to each module and how they are going to overcome barriers and distractions to their learning.  Note:  My Sticky Note on action plans provides ideas for post-training planning.

In addition to pre-training planning, a second technique called self-regulation prompts should also be used:  these prompts (pop-ups or screens inserted into learning modules) ask the learner to think about what they’re learning.  When these two techniques have been used together, research shows that participants learned more/better, and were less likely to discontinue participating in the learning.  While the research was conducted with self-paced e-learning, these techniques could also be applied to live virtual training and even face-to-face instructor-led training. 

Whether you are the course author, administrator, or manager, here’s what you need to do, for each 4 hours or module of training:

  1. At the beginning of the course or in a pre-training email provide a messagethat says:  Research suggests that creating a plan enhances learning and assist people in completing training.  The primary reason people drop out is they lack the self-discipline necessary to succeed in online training.  The barriers to success that many people succumb to include failing to set aside enough time for training and completing the course in an environment full of distractions such as TV, email, colleagues, and family members.  Take a moment and develop a plan for how you can overcome these barriers.  It also may be helpful to provide a form for this.

  1. Provide a deadline for trainees to complete the training.  Inform trainees the approximate time needed to complete each module.

  2. For self-paced e-learning, provide a calendar and ask participants to select dates when they plan to log into the course, and for all modalities, ask them to think about how much time they plan to spend reviewing. 

  3. Instruct participants that they need to have a quiet study environment free from distractions. Provide a check box or other form for participants to check the study environment they plan to use: home, work, library, friend’s house, coffee shop, metro/bus/train, or other.

  4. In each learning module, insert 3 self-reflection questions at different points in the module:

  5. Do I understand all of the key points of this training material? 

  6. Am I concentrating on learning this training material? 

  7. Are the study strategies I’m using helping me learning the training material? 

Note:  It’s important to do all of the above.  Asking participants to plan without also prompting them to reflect during the training has not been found to be effective.

Until next time…


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