Fast Data Makes Educational Programs More Agile

For years, organizations have been focused on the concept of “Big Data,” which is having access to a large volume of customer, operational, and financial data derived from a variety of sources. By cross-analyzing these different data sets, we can extract insights that help us make more meaningful and measurable decisions.

In other words, “Big Data” provides a more accurate picture of what’s happening across the organization.

Recently, the focus has shifted from “Big Data” to “fast data.” We still need accurate business intelligence to make better operational, strategic, and tactical decisions. But we also need to make those decisions more quickly across the organization than ever before, and that includes our educational programs.

The Rising Trend of Fast Data in Associations

In a May 2019 article by ASAE, Fast Data—or the ability to apply data insights immediately to make real-time decisions—was identified as, “one of 46 drivers of change that are likely to have a significant impact on associations in the future.” The rate of change in our world has increased exponentially—from industry and technological innovation to consumer behaviors and preferences. Organizations must be nimble and responsive to keep up with these changes. Fast data is one way to achieve agility.

Applied to educational programs, fast data might look something like this: a training professional monitors member conversations and questions to identify opportunities for professional development and creates new courses or programs accordingly. Instead of planning everything a year or more in advance, these organizations are now leaving room to deliver the education their members need at the exact time they need it.

Fast Data is a Must-Have for Education Professionals Today

In mid-2019 when ASAE published their article, the concept of fast data and its application for associations was just starting to gain traction. One year later, fast data has become an absolute necessity. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to change our priorities and in short order.

The Coronavirus has affected how every industry operates, which means at least some of our existing educational content may no longer be as relevant. We’ve had to pivot quickly to develop and implement new curricula that reflect ever-changing research, policies, procedures, and standards. Given how important it is that our learners understand, retain, and apply this knowledge quickly, we need to use real-time data, such as program and learner performance, to address any gaps immediately.

Fast data not only tells us what content to develop but how to deliver it. We have all gone virtual for the time being, but “virtual learning” is a fairly broad concept that can be executed in several different ways—from on-demand viewing of instructor-led videos to self-guided lessons and exercises. Exactly how do your participants learn best, and how do they want to engage with the content? Fast data can help you choose the tools and technologies that work best for both the subject matter and your learners.

Getting Started Down the Path to Fast Data

Creating a more agile decision-making process using real-time data should ideally be a strategy that is enabled and embraced across the organization. But for some, this will require significant organizational transformation to achieve. Regardless of where your organization is with your data access and intelligence initiatives, you can begin to adopt a fast data mindset within your own team or department.

Start by making a list of what data points you already have access to and those you could easily gain access to through collaboration from other teams, such as marketing. Some examples may include:

  • LMS or video platform user data, including participation rates and quiz or test question answer stats
  • Google analytics/website user data
  • Email performance
  • Member forums and chat topics
  • Social media conversations
  • Webinar data
  • Virtual conference chats and discussions

Determine which data sets will help you quickly assess whether your current priorities are performing as planned, and if not, which immediate levers you can pull to affect change.

Whether or not organizations are pursuing fast data as a strategic initiative, we still have an opportunity to make real-time decisions that positively impact our current programs. In most cases, we already have the necessary data. We just have to apply it in smaller, more manageable pieces to better serve our members, learners, and stakeholders.

Virtual Events: Practical Advice from an Attendee

Over the past few weeks, the conversation among meeting planners has shifted from whether to go virtual to how to go virtual with their conference.

  • How do you schedule your event?
  • How do you deliver the content?
  • How do you connect attendees?

These questions have meeting planners considering whether to design their virtual conference as a live (livestream) event, or to provide attendees with on-demand access to content. Or, a little of both.

Ultimately, we’re all trying to figure out how to replicate the best parts of an in-person event within a virtual environment. Hint: you can’t replicate it, but you can reinvent it.

Reinventing your in-person conference as a virtual event

To have a successful virtual conference, you need to truly understand what the life of a virtual participant looks like right now so you know what you can—and can’t—expect of them.

Normally, we don’t make our blog posts quite so personal. But this time, I’m going to get a little personal and share the first-hand wisdom I’ve gathered over the past week while my husband attended a three-day, all-day virtual event. Spoiler alert: while he absolutely loved the content and discussions with his peers, some of the logistics were both painful and funny (after the fact, of course).

A personal account of a virtual event experience

Typically at a conference, we’re more focused on the professional backgrounds of our attendees. But with so much of the population working from home, we must take into consideration their personal lives as well. Here’s what happened in my situation.

Both my husband and I work full time and have both been working from home since mid-March. We are lucky that we have the tools and tech that allow us to work effectively: multiple monitors, great bandwidth, dedicated working spaces. We also have two tween/teen children who, although self-sufficient, are starting to become emotionally spent from the new limitations that have been placed on their lives. We also have two large dogs who are continually confused by why we are all home and why we are not paying more attention to them.

So what did attending a 3-day live virtual event look like in our household?

First, technology was not kind to us

Do you have any idea what having one person participate in a live video event all day does to the bandwidth in the house? The effects were immediate and dramatic. I had to take my Microsoft Teams meetings from the app on my phone, not my computer, with the wi-fi turned off. The kids were booted out of their online schoolwork and from their Facetime sessions with friends. Admittedly, much cursing occurred.

My husband, who was both an attendee and a speaker at this event, was in the middle of his presentation when one of the primary internet service providers in our area had two routers fail. He wasn’t prepped for any backup plan ahead of time, so he was scrambling to get the live streaming app downloaded to his phone. 30 minutes later he was back online, with just enough time to give an abrupt wrap-up. Things happen. They really do. To prove this point further, this is the same week that, back at the Omnipress offices where only a small staff remains on-site, a squirrel took out the power and internet for several hours. No joke. And while this had no effect on my husband, it only illustrates that technology will fail at some point, for someone. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

Tuning in (and tuning out) from a busy household

When you attend an in-person conference you’re away from the office, away from home, and away from the usual daily distractions, minus an urgent email here and there. With a virtual event, however, there is no mental or physical separation from work and home. You can’t delegate your spouse to deal with a vomiting dog, a kiddo who is frustrated with their math exercise, an impromptu 8th-grade graduation parade through the neighborhood (horns blazing, of course), or the UPS driver making his third delivery to your house that day, because she’s also on an important call!

The bottom line: it’s unrealistic to think that your attendees can dedicate significant amounts of focused, uninterrupted time to your event. As hard as they may try, life gets in the way.

A virtual group conversation is harder to navigate

Networking can sometimes be awkward, at best. Recently I’ve done several virtual happy hours with close friends and I find those to be more difficult and challenging than meeting up in person. Screens freeze up intermittently or people accidentally talk over each other which affects how naturally the conversation flows. But we manage because we know each other so well.

Now try doing the same thing with a group of strangers, especially if you’re more of an introvert, like my husband. Oh, he can fake his way through “forced” social events with the best of them, but he certainly doesn’t prefer it.

His event had several different networking opportunities built into the agenda. Some were unstructured happy hours and some were scheduled in-between sessions (ouch!). Others consisted of smaller collaboration groups, which he felt were the most beneficial and effective to establish a genuine connection with a group of people who rallied around a common set of challenges. It also helped when the virtual networking events were scheduled earlier in the day when his brain was fresh and he could absorb more of the educational content.

What did we take away from this experience?

I’ve lived in the association event space for more than a decade, so when I heard my husband was going to be participating in a three-day virtual event, I watched more closely than most spouses probably would. Putting on both my event planner and attendee hat, here’s the most important thing I learned:

An event that combines both live and pre-recorded content provides the best attendee experienceand the most room to get creative!

1. Making your content available on-demand is crucial

Give your attendees a way to access session content anytime. This not only helps to reinforce learning, but it also serves as a safety net if technology fails or life happens. Make sure all your presentations—even the live ones—are recorded and available in a way that is easy to search for and navigate, along with all related session materials. This also takes some of the pressure off your speakers and their tech.

2. If you’re going to livestream, be selective

While presenting sessions live creates a sense of excitement and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), it doesn’t work for all attendees, especially those in different time zones. And it’s definitely difficult to manage as an  all-day event. Save the live streaming for the most popular portions of your conference, such as a keynote session.

3. There are many effective ways to craft a successful live/recorded blended event

As one example, you can “fake” a live experience by releasing pre-recorded content on a timed basis and hyping up the countdown on your event marketing channels. Follow this release with live, small-group discussion sessions around that content to create a sense of urgency for participants to view the content.

This also helps to create those more structured and deliberate networking conversations among attendees that tend to be more meaningful. This blended approach also makes it easier to program natural breaks in the agenda for your attendees to address everything else that’s currently happening in the background of their lives.

How Should You Serve-Up Your On-Demand Event Content?

Join us for a live, 30-minute webinar on Thursday, May 28th, where we’ll take a tour of the Omnipress Virtual Conference & Event Platform. It’s a simple and cost-effective way to serve-up on-demand content for your conference. And yes, it will be recorded and available on-demand in case you can’t join us!

Why Your Virtual Educational Event Shouldn’t Be 100% Digital

Over the past two months, we’ve experienced a race to go virtual across all aspects of our personal and professional lives. From birthday celebrations and happy hour meet-ups with friends. To meetings, conferences, and instructor-led training events nearly everything we do outside of our immediate household is happening online. But going online doesn’t mean that all of your educational content should be delivered digitally. In this (now) virtual world, there are still significant benefits to offering a blend of printed and digital materials to enhance learning.

Using a Mix of Media to Increase Learning Comprehension

Since the rise of the internet, e-readers, and mobile technology, researchers have been studying the differences in reading and learning comprehension when content is provided in digital format versus print. In 2017, the American Educational Research Association published findings from their research on the impact of reading print material versus digital and what effect each has on learning retention. Here is a summary of some of their key takeaways:

Reading on a digital device:

  1. Students prefer to read digitally
  2. They read faster online than in print
  3. There is little-to-no-difference in how well the student understood the main idea of the selected text when reading online versus reading in print

Reading printed material:

  1. Students tended to read more slowly in print
  2. Comprehension of more specific details and concepts was significantly better in print than digital

Reasons for the difference in deep learning on a digital device versus print

When you think about how we generally consume content online or on a mobile device, we’re conditioned to “scroll and scan” as a means of sifting through a tremendous amount of content—in our social and news feeds for instance—as quickly as possible. Interestingly, the act of scrolling itself was found to be more disruptive to comprehension than turning a page.

Additionally, researchers since the 1970’s have noticed that memory appears to be visual-spatial. The tactile sense of progress through a book aids the reader with understanding the progress of the story or text.

These findings, however, do not mean that a virtual course or conference is inherently less effective. What it does mean is that there is a place—and even a significant need— for both to co-exist as part of an integrated learning strategy, instead of the either/or approach that many organizations tend to take today with their educational programs.

Using a Mix of Media to Increase Retention and Application

Incorporating a blend of print and digital materials into your virtual educational programming does more than increase initial comprehension. Allowing participants to learn multiple ways also increases learning retention and application.

According to the Principles of Adult Learning & Instructional Design, we tend to retain only 10% of what we see, but 90% of what we see, hear and do. Judy Willis, a noted neurologist and researcher on learning and the brain observes, “The more regions of the brain that store data about a subject, the more interconnection there is. This cross-referencing of data means we have learned, rather than just memorized.”

Using a Multi-Media Learning Strategy in Your Virtual Educational Event

In-person events provide a tremendous amount of value that can’t always be easily replicated in an online environment. So instead of trying to mimic in-person learning, use your virtual educational event as an opportunity to re-think how a multi-faceted approach could work together to provide a better learning experience for participants. Some considerations include:

  • What is the role of each element of your course or event? For instance, the learning materials could serve as a general introduction to a concept, while the speaker or instructor video takes a deeper dive to help reinforce the content. Meanwhile, supplemental materials, exercises, and virtual discussion groups could help participants apply knowledge in practical scenarios.
  • If your in-person event uses printed learning materials such as manuals, books, proceedings, etc., why not send materials to virtual participants ahead of time? This will not only help maintain the value of the event, but it will also help to build pre-event anticipation to help boost participation.
  • If you are sending printed materials directly to individual participants, consider adding elements to the page that provide a gateway to a multi-media learning experience. One example would be incorporating QR codes that direct the reader to supplemental learning tools such as videos, interactive applications, or even a podcast.

While we don’t know what the future holds, it’s highly likely that virtual educational events such as training courses and conferences won’t fully replace in-person learning. Until these programs can resume, think about how you can use your virtual platform to deliver a more multi-dimensional approach to learning. Chances are, once we go back to in-person events, this same approach—engineered in reverse—will become a new standard for delivering education.

Printed Training Materials: Design Tips For Learning Retention

In recent years, the definition of a “successful” training program has shifted. Instead of being a numbers game (how many people completed a course), more emphasis is being placed on how well learning is retained and applied. In response, the continuing education classroom has evolved from a place where learners passively consume information to a more interactive, collaborative, and hands-on learning environment.

This has changed the role of the instructor, for sure. But what about your printed training materials? Does the design of your course books, workbooks, and training manuals support an interactive approach to learning?

Printed training materials have the power to serve as more than just text on paper. We’ve compiled these industry-sourced ideas to transform your course materials and support a multi-dimensional approach to learning.

  1. Consider User Experience for Print

Design plays an extremely important role in the usability of your training materials and coursebooks. White space, fonts, visuals, colors, and flow all play a role in how thoroughly and quickly learners not only consume but truly understand the information being presented.

  • Present Content in Shorter Sections. In today’s digital world, most learners have difficulty focusing on longer pieces of text. Consider reducing the length of your chapters and sections, and providing more frequent breaks in the material so readers have a logical place to pause and digest.
  • Turn Text into Graphics. Use supporting visuals and graphics wherever possible to accompany or replace text-only content. Iconography allows you to present complex visual cues quickly while minimizing the amount of text needed. If you are outlining list-based information, try substituting pages of text with a simple-to-follow infographic to help increase retention.
  • User-Friendly Production Specifications. How the book or material will be used dictates how it should be produced. If learners will need to write answers or take notes on the page, paper stocks and binding types matter. Use an uncoated stock for notes pages, as they are easier to write on. Additionally, ensure your piece lays flat. Coil binding works better than saddle-stitch for this purpose.
  1. Incorporate Multiple Layers of Learning

Mastery of a topic is rarely achieved by one read-through of a single piece of content. Most of us retain information by having that same content presented multiple ways. Here are some ideas of how to do that within your training manual:

  • Start each section or chapter with a quick overview of the topics to be discussed
  • Use call-out boxes that provide additional context, such as a “Putting It Into Practice” example
  • End each chapter with a chapter summary, highlighting the key takeaways
  • Incorporate quizzes and reflection exercises throughout each section to foster immediate retention and application
  • Create space for “brain breaks” or even doodling throughout your book to help learners refocus and refresh
  1. Provide a Direct Connection to Supplemental Learning Materials

Extend the learning beyond your book. Incorporate multi-media tools to provide real-world examples and applications.

  • Direct learners to supplemental online materials including videos, podcasts, and virtual renderings that can be accessed on a mobile device. Use easy-to-read vanity URLs or even QR codes—yes, they’re back!
  • If you’re looking to make a more seamless transition from print to digital while still providing the tactile experience of print, consider adding a companion digital flipbook. These multi-media tools have become more relevant in recent years because it’s now easier than ever to incorporate dynamic content such as embedded audio, video, and hyperlinks within printed text.

As you evaluate the strategy and design of your training programs to facilitate better performance from your learners, it’s important to also examine your printed training materials. Be sure to incorporate a design that not only reflects the quality of your training content but supports your learning retention and application goals as well.

Agile Training: A Crucial Piece of the Giant Training Puzzle

We live in a world where the ability to be nimble, flexible, and responsive is becoming increasingly more important. Demands on our time and resources continue to rise, while at the same time delivery and performance expectations have also increased. In response, many organizations (Omnipress included) have started to adapt and embrace a culture of agility—from how we develop and launch our software products, to how we approach our strategic planning and even our marketing programs. Until recently, it never occurred to me that the agile process also translates to training and development.

After doing some digging into what Agile Training and Development means, and understanding how it’s being put into practice by associations and corporations, a huge lightbulb went off and all the pieces of the giant “Training Puzzle” fell into place:

Most of the hot-button topics that we tend to focus on, such as micro-learning, mobile learning, just-in-time training, and peer-based learning are all the cause and the effect of Agile Training and Development. This means that we’re all currently working on agile learning, whether we realize it or not.

What is Agile Training and Development

The idea of agile learning design is not a new concept. Organizations have been discussing and experimenting with this principle for at least a decade.  Essentially, agile learning design takes the agile framework of IT product and software development—meant to increase speed-to-market and market responsiveness through an iterative process— and applies them to the practice of instructional design.

In contrast, many organizations have historically used an ADDIE approach (or Analysis-Design-Development-Implementation-Evaluation), where development follows a linear series of phases (best known as “waterfall” in the software development world).

Agile learning addresses both how educational content is created, tested, and distributed and how organizations structure themselves to create a culture of continuous learning.

Using the Agile Framework for Course Development

For course development, the traditional ADDIE approach dictates that all segments or modules of a course are scoped, developed, and tested together. While potentially more thoroughly vetted before release, this approach can take significantly more time to complete, and late-breaking changes more costly to implement.

Conversely, the agile approach prioritizes speed over perfection, breaking these segments into smaller pieces, which are developed in faster sprints. Each sprint is highly iterative, collaborative, and responsive to testing and feedback. As a result, training can be released and assessed faster, and, according to some experts, ultimately results in more successful programs.

The Need for an Agile Learning Culture

So, why the need to develop and release new programs and content more quickly? Because the world is changing faster than ever and we need to be able to keep up.

We have real-time access to more data than ever before and can use this insight to both develop and respond to new technologies, systems, expectations, standards, and processes. This fuels the need for more training and more training content. In fact, our 2019 Training Trends Report notes that 51% of survey respondents offer more than 10 different educational programs, and 60% expect this number to increase in the coming year.

Not only do we need agile processes to create training content, but organizations also need to foster an agile learning culture so that employees can adapt and change more quickly and effectively. In the IT or product development world, the agile framework promotes speed-to-market. In learning, agile promotes speed-to-proficiency.

For organizations, this means making learning part of a continuous, sometimes even organic process. It means on-demand access to educational content, at the times and places it’s most needed. And it means promoting peer learning and collaboration as part of the training process.

Sound familiar? This is the exact reason that topics such as micro-learning, mobile learning, just-in-time learning, and making learning experiences more hands-on and collaborative are so prominent in the training industry right now. These practices help facilitate agile learning in the workplace by making training and development more effective, efficient, and practical. At the end of the day, it’s all interconnected. We’re all in the business of agile learning, whether we realize it or not.

The Need for More Agile Trainers

What we’re hearing from many organizations is that one of their greatest roadblocks is the trainers, who may be used to delivering education in more of a traditional lecture style. Within the agile learning framework, these subject matter experts need to be nimble and flexible, too. Like what we’re seeing in the K-12 classroom, they need to serve more as a facilitator or moderator than a lecturer to foster discussion and collaboration. And they need to feel comfortable pivoting within the classroom if necessary, based on how learners are responding in real-time. As an industry, how do we collectively train our trainers to be more agile instructors?

While topics such as mobile and micro-learning have always sounded like a good idea, I’ve run into plenty of instances where organizations feel pressure to adopt these practices because they are becoming so prominent, without necessarily stopping to examine why. What is the driving factor behind these trends? The answer…agile. There is a growing need for all of us—designers, learners, organizations, and instructors—to be more nimble, flexible, and responsive so that we can keep up with the rapid pace of change, and, ultimately, do the great work that helps us fulfill our mission.

Should Associations Take A Blended Classroom Approach to Instruction?

 

Blended learning first emerged as a buzzword for continuing education professionals more than a decade ago and continues to be considered among the top trends for continuing education programs because of its effectiveness for knowledge delivery and retention. As a result, many associations have implemented a blended learning strategy into their training programs, offering learners the opportunity to access education both in the classroom and through e-learning. Looking forward, there are indications that the conversation is starting to shift from blended learning to blended classroom, and associations may want to take note.

Blended Learning vs. Blended Classroom

Typically, the term “blended learning” is used to describe an approach to training that mixes traditional, classroom-based instruction with online learning modules outside the classroom.  While the use of e-learning tools is a way to extend the learning experience, this traditional approach to blended training may not go far enough to meet the needs of learners—particularly the emerging Generation Z. In response, some organizations, taking a cue from trends within the K-12 learning environment, are focusing on ways to blend multiple learning formats and technologies within a single classroom setting to meet the personalized needs of learners and provide deeper knowledge.

In the most common execution of blended learning, the only component that is truly “blended” is the subject matter. Although complementary, the in-person content is delivered separately, and often in a separate context, from the e-learning modules, which can lead to inconsistencies in both delivery and retention. Additionally, in the traditional approach to blended learning, the classroom content typically takes the form of a lecture, with little opportunity for in-field practical application.

Within a blended classroom, a learner may interact with printed materials, an LMS, mobile content and even virtual and augmented reality technology all as part of a single learning experience. E-learning is no longer a separate activity, but rather, it becomes integrated into the classroom, and vice-versa. The role of the in-person training becomes less about delivering fundamental principles, and more about facilitating a deeper understanding of how to apply the knowledge.

How does this play out in practice?  Here is one example: An instructor may introduce a broad concept using a printed coursebook, then have learners turn to a video or e-learning module to illustrate the concept. The instructor then may incorporate independent study time for participants to use AR and VR tools, e-learning simulations and printed workbook exercises to deliver personalized, hands-on application of the discussed concepts, followed up with group discussions to share experiences and ideas.

Consider a Blended Classroom Approach to Learning for Your Association

While blended learning is a major topic of conversation among adult continuing education and training professionals, the execution of a blended classroom is most commonly found in K-12 and even technical and trade school programs. Which is the very reason associations may want to start thinking about applying it into their continuing education programs. In a few short years, your newest (and youngest) members will be conditioned to expect it.

CE Professionals: What Are Your Go-To Resources? Take Our Quick Poll

In the past few weeks we’ve heard from several continuing education and training professionals who are looking for more opportunities to hear how other organizations are tackling key issues such as micro-learning, online and mobile content, gamification and blended learning. While there are a variety of resources that provide information, there does not appear to be a centralized source of ideas and networking for those that develop and deliver continuing education and credentialing programs. This piqued our curiosity.  So we’d like to hear from you!

We’ve developed a very quick survey for individuals who develop, manage and implement training, education and credentialing programs for associations and other organizations. We’d like to know where you go to gather ideas and best practices from your peers. The survey will take less than five minutes to complete, and we’ll be sure to share the results.

Take the poll

Personalizing Training Leads to Better Results

 

My favorite topics for these blog posts are the ones that stem from conversations with organizations on the front lines of training adults. Recently, I was speaking with Todd Macey from Vital Learning, a company with a long history of training leaders and management of Fortune 500 companies. As we were talking, I realized his insights into the personalization of learning could be helpful for all organizations that provide training.

Personalizing Training

Todd pointed out that companies are moving away from offering a large online-only library of courses. This self-study approach has been a popular way for companies to facilitate cost-effective training over the past few years, but not necessarily meeting their learning objectives: “Companies are rethinking that approach of giving access to a bunch of courses and letting participants go their own route. That type of solution is not providing the results they are looking for and it’s not robust enough.”

Instead, Todd sees a shift towards a hybrid learning style approach that combines online course content with an element of instructor-led training, either online or in-person: “More and more companies are emphasizing that blended approach. They get the efficiency and ‘just in time benefits’ of an online experience, but couple that with a robust learning plan, one-on-one coaching, skill practice with others on their team and follow up exercises.”

Adding a Local Element to Training

Companies are also adding an additional layer of personalization to their training by finding ways to use local resources when possible. Organizations are turning to local facilitators, local universities and community colleges to enhance the learning process. The extra level of local control allows content to be tailored to the area, rather than taking a national, one-size-fits-all approach. Todd added, “A big reason people are starting to prefer local is that people like to have a more personalized experience. I think part of it too is that companies want to be personalized to their company and the individual learner.”

To Todd and the team at Vital Learning, it all comes down to results. “Online courses can be good if you are looking to improve a specific task. This approach does not work as well with soft skills or more complicated skills where you need more interactivity and practice.” Todd thinks adding elements that personalize the learning creates an environment that helps the skills, “become second nature and really sink in to become part of your process and use them on the job.”

Thank you, Todd, for sharing your perspective!

Optimize Your Courses for Millennials’ Unique Learning Style

 

Not too long ago, Millennials were the generation to plan for, the group of professionals who would someday be starting their careers and joining associations. Things have changed, however, as Millennials now make up a significant—and growing—portion of the workforce. As this generation looks to advance their careers, associations that offer continuing education opportunities tailored to meet their needs will be the resources that Millennials turn to.

It’s not enough to simply welcome this new generation into your existing courses. Technology has helped Millennials develop a different learning style than previous generations, and as a result, they expect your continuing education courses to meet these unique needs. Courses that blend traditional resources like workbooks and study guides with flipped classrooms, bite-sized learning and social media will be more likely to appeal to Millennials.

Flipped Classrooms

In the traditional classroom setting, an instructor introduces a concept during an in-person lecture. Students are then expected to complete assignments on their own to further their learning.

A flipped classroom reverses this approach. Students use study materials such as textbooks or online course content to learn new concepts ahead of time. Classroom time can then be used to discuss the material and allow students to participate in activities that reinforce those concepts. This method allows for more collaboration between students, and more individualized instruction for students who have questions about the material.

Blended Learning

Online training materials—particularly those accessible via a mobile device—offer students the convenience and flexibility to access materials any time they please. But this does not mean they are interested in forgoing printed materials completely. Instead, digital materials can be an effective supplement to traditional training materials.

As our Millennials and Training report shows, 59% of Millennials prefer printed materials when learning new concepts. Offering training materials in both print and online formats is the best way to accommodate Millennials’ diverse learning styles, and is key to helping them succeed in your courses.

Bite-sized Learning

Millennials want access to content when and where they prefer, and this applies to your educational content, as well. Structuring lessons into bite-sized or micro-learning segments can appeal to their shorter attention spans and make it easier to fit learning into their busy schedules.

Utilize short videos, small chapter sections and other more succinct lessons. Resource libraries are also good ways to allow learners to return to the material whenever they need to. The goal is to provide material in a convenient format that offers the flexibility of on-the-go access.

Collaboration

Social sharing and engagement should play a role in your continuing education courses, in-person and online. This generation thrives on networking and collaboration, so encouraging your learners to interact with their peers is an effective way for them to deepen their understanding of a topic.

Online collaborative learning may also be an option for your training courses. This allows learners to work together even when they may be geographically dispersed, creating an interactive online learning community.

Social Proof

Millennials often rely on the recommendations of their peers to help them make decisions. Not only do they consume these testimonials, but they also like to share their opinions with others. This phenomenon of peer recommendations is called social proof.

Offer Millennial learners the option to help spread the word about your training courses online through guest blogs, Facebook events and online reviews. They’ll appreciate the ability to share their opinion, and you may see an increase in enrollment as a result.

Gamification

Incorporating game-like features into your learning materials, both inside the classroom and out, can increase learners’ engagement. Consider adding incentives, rewards or leaderboards to online training materials and try to incorporate competitive aspects to in-class scenarios and challenges to “gamify” their education.

Credentialing

If your course provides learners with a certificate or something similar to recognize course completion, consider utilizing technology to better apply this to your digital natives. Provide Millennials with a digital credential, or online badge, they can display on social media sites like LinkedIn.

Millennials will be able to show off their industry-specific skill set and accomplishments while your organization benefits from word-of-mouth advertising within their networks.

Fine-Tune a Training Program for Your New Generation’s Learning Style

It’s important to recognize how Millennials’ unique learning style differs from those of previous generations. Associations that are able to structure their training courses to include blended learning, bite-sized materials and offer engaging, collaborative approaches will become the resources Millennials turn to as their careers’ progress.

Instructor-Led Training: Is It Still the Delivery Method of Choice for Continuing Education?

As technology continues to expand into more areas of our lives, some in the continuing education field have predicted the move from in-person, instructor-led training to an on-demand, digital approach. As we talk with customers and other CE professionals about the future of the field, however, we realized something: while the trend has been predicted for years, we’ve seen very little abandonment of instructor-led training.

Rather than a complete switch from instructor-led training (ILT) to digital learning, continuing education courses often include both in-classroom and digital training. Trainers and educators are now offering more options for learners to consume their educational materials how, when and where they please.

We turned to ATD’s State of the Industry Report, as well as our very own State of the Continuing Education Industry Report, for the data to support these conclusions.

Instructor-Led Training Still Leads the Way

Although there has been a slight decline in instructor-led training in recent years, it’s not declining nearly as fast as some association professionals had anticipated. From 2012 to 2015, the percentage of instructor-led training courses declined by 7%. That’s only a 1.75% decline on average each year. At this rate, ILT will still be the most popular way for organizations to deliver training for approximately another decade (2026).

Dan Loomis, Omnipress Director of Training and Publications, said, “With the popularity of digital and mobile formats emerging in the continuing education industry, I was surprised to see that instructor-led training isn’t declining as fast as some believed it would. It’s pretty clear that ILT is still an essential part of the learning process, and will be for years.”

A Workforce of Traditional Learners

Most of today’s workforce was educated in a classroom with an instructor and printed materials. Even those entering the workforce more recently, like Millennials and Gen Z, did a majority of their learning in the classroom, despite having digital materials and the internet at their ready.

As one Millennial told us during our Millennials & Print study:

“I think that, when it comes to educational materials, I will always favor print over digital. While we (Millennials) are the first generation to ‘grow up’ with technology, the technology we grew up with is completely different than it is today and it was used in completely different ways. I had access to a computer both at home and school, but in elementary school it was used to learn to type. In middle school it was used to learn Word and Excel. In high school, it was used for research and writing papers. I wasn’t reading textbooks online, I wasn’t taking class notes on a laptop. The first iPad was introduced in my sophomore year of college and I didn’t purchase one until I graduated. While it is possible to highlight and markup materials digitally on an iPad, it was never part of my educational life—I didn’t learn to learn on one.”

-Emily Wiseman; Director of Administration at Association Management Partners & Executive Directors, Inc.

So, as more Millennials join your organization and attend continuing education courses, many still expect instructor-led courses rather an online-only environment.

Flipping the Classroom to Use In-Person Learning Time Efficiently

It’s clear that instructor-led training remains a significant component of the continuing education experience, albeit not the only part. Since ILT is so valuable, your organization should focus on how you’re using classroom time to make the most of it. One way you can capitalize on in-person training is through the “flipped classroom” method.

“Flipping the classroom” is a popular idea often used in higher education. The concept essentially flips the “traditional” method of teaching in order to better use the students’ classroom time and enhance their understanding of the material.

In the traditional teaching model, an instructor will introduce a new concept in class, typically through an in-person lecture. The students will then take time outside of class to complete activities to reinforce the new ideas on their own.

In a flipped classroom, students take time to learn a new concept outside of the classroom; this can be done through textbook reading, a recorded lecture or many other forms. Then, when students meet in class with an instructor, their time is devoted to interactive group learning. This way, instructors can work one-on-one with learners to further explain course concepts, answer questions and help students solve problems in groups or to apply the new information to real-world situations.

Flipping the classroom combines instructor-led training and digital course materials to deepen your learner’s understanding, help them improve retention, and use class time efficiently.

While it’s safe to say that learners expect more options for how they receive continuing educational materials, it’s also clear that instructor-led training is still a major part of the training experience. Help bridge the gap between generations of learners by offering multiple ways to access materials and effectively use time spent in the classroom.

Note: This is an update of an earlier article that was published in April 2016.

Choose the Right Method for Training Millennials

 

As Millennials age and encompass more and more of the workforce, they’re going to require continuing education classes that meet their unique needs. Your association must find ways to help these members learn, and that might require changing up the way your courses are delivered. One of the most popular trends in continuing education is the push toward online learning. However, the switch from traditional classroom learning to online-only might not be the best move for your organization.

The first step in creating new continuing education methods is to identify your association’s goals and understand what learning strategies will best help your members. You have a few options when it comes to training Millennials.

Online Training Materials

Millennials are all about technology, and they will likely expect at least some of your educational content to be accessible online. Putting your materials online lets students have access to information 24/7. Many platforms are now mobile-accessible, as well, making it even easier for members to reference materials on their smartphones and tablets on the go.

Offering online training materials can be a big investment, but it can have a big return, too. E-learning is increasing in popularity, and mobile device usage has been growing over the years. Millennial members will likely appreciate the ability to learn on their own time on whatever device they prefer. If you decide to put your courses online, try separating the lessons into bite-size sections so that people can easily complete one or two on the go, rather than having to pick up in the middle of a long chapter.

Traditional Classroom Learning

Despite the growing popularity of online course materials, it isn’t always the best option for training Millennials. Before you throw away all of your printed materials, know that research shows Millennials still value print for educational purposes. We surveyed Millennials for our whitepaper, Millennials and Training, and found that 86% of respondents think there’s still a place for printed materials. More than half of the respondents also said that it is easier for them to learn from printed materials. But what about those students who also want things online?

The Compromise: Blended Learning

Blended learning is a method that incorporates both traditional classroom settings and online courses. There are a number of ways to accomplish blended learning, including varying levels of printed and online materials. Students have the ability to learn from both the printed page in a normal classroom setting, as well as complete sections of the course online on their own time. If your association has a growing Millennial member base with differing needs, blended learning may the best place to start.

Don’t feel like you have to jump to online learning right away. Consider your members and their needs, then try out a method that you think is best. Be sure to involve your Millennial members throughout the program and get their feedback. If the first few classes go well, you can expand it to other programs. Ultimately, the best method is the one that works for your association’s goals and your members.

What types of continuing education methods are you finding successful for training Millennials?

Why Associations Should Layer Their Members’ Continuing Education

 

Watch Dan Loomis and Janel Savich talk about “Learning In Layers,” a concept introduced in a recent issue of TD Magazine. In this video, Dan and Janel discuss how the concept of “layering” provides a useful framework for associations to find a balance in their online, in-person, and print training resources.

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