Education, Training Pros: Weigh in on the Future of CE

For the sixth year, Omnipress launched our annual Training Trends survey and we need your input!

Each year, we collect data from continuing education and training professionals to understand trends surrounding educational content, including how learners want it delivered, how organizations provide it, and what changes lie ahead as new technologies are introduced and preferences change.

In March, we compile this data into insights that are published in our annual Training Trends Report.

The goal of this report is to use benchmarks and trend data to provide ideas as you set priorities and plan for 2020 and beyond.

Here is some of what we learned from the 2019 Training Trends Report:

  • Education professionals, who were already offering at least 11 different courses or programs, expected that number to increase in the coming year
  • These same professionals were also delivering content for each of these programs in a variety of formats
  • While educational programs have the potential to deliver significant value to the organization, there is was a self-reported gap between this opportunity and program effectiveness
  • Although widely discussed, many of the “hot button” learning trends like AI, VR, and mobile were only being put into practice on a limited scale
  • Organizations had not made significant advancements in preparing for Generation Z

What does 2020 look like for training professionals and what new challenges and opportunities will arise? We need your help to determine that.

The survey takes just 9 minutes to complete. All responses remain confidential for the report. As a thank you for your time, you can choose to be entered into a drawing to receive a $100 Visa Gift Card!

Please take a moment to complete the 2020 Training Trends survey. Feel free to pass it along to your colleagues too. We look forward to sharing the results with you in March/April.

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.

Just Released: The 2019 Training Trends Report

 

Hot off the presses! Our 2019 Training Trends Report is available for download. As a new year kicks into high gear, changes in technology, learner demographics and preferences are creating new challenges and opportunities for training and continuing education professionals.

For the past three years, Omnipress has surveyed over 100 continuing education and training professionals from associations, corporations and other organizations to understand how education is being delivered to learners today, and which trends training professionals are keeping an eye on for the future. This year’s report highlights just how valuable training and education is for organizations, as most have plans to increase the breadth and depth of their programs in 2019. But for training professionals who already manage a significant content portfolio and a wide array of responsibilities, this additional growth may create strategic tradeoffs.

For instance, this year’s report indicates that 51% of respondents currently offer at least 11 different programs or courses, with 60% of respondents expecting to increase that number in 2019. Education professionals are also delivering this educational content in a variety of formats to address the diverse preferences of learners. As a result, respondents are spending more time than they would like on tasks such as managing content changes, and less time on strategic initiatives designed to advance and grow the organization.

What are some other key findings in 2019?
• On-site, instructor-led programs are still the predominant way organizations are delivering courses and workshops, although there has been a noted year-over-year increase in self-guided e-learning opportunities
• While educational programs have the potential to deliver significant value to the organization, there is a self-reported gap between this opportunity and program effectiveness
• Although widely discussed, many of the “hot-button” learning trends are only being put into practice on a limited scale, if at all
• Organizations have not yet fully addressed the needs of younger generations

The purpose of this report is not just to shed light on common trends, but to help spark a strategic conversation on how organizations can leverage their greatest asset—educational content—to strengthen their connection with new and existing learners.

Download the free report to read the full results.

The Future of Continuing Education Can be Found in K-12 Classrooms

 

It seems that you can’t go a day without reading an article about current and emerging trends in continuing education—from micro- and just-in-time learning, to mobile technology and gamification, to virtual and augmented reality.  But these tools and tactics are just the means to an end. Behind the jargon is a macro-level trend of greater significance: how we deliver education is fundamentally changing because our understanding of how people learn best is changing. The origins of this shift can be traced all the way back to the K-12 classroom.  The school-aged learners of today will soon be the adult learners of tomorrow. And their current classroom experiences are going to affect professional development programs in the future.

We spoke with four long-time K-12 teachers to discuss how and why the classroom has changed, and how this has changed the role of both the student and teacher in the learning process to better understand how continuing education programs may need to evolve to meet the needs and expectations of tomorrow’s workforce.

Five Fundamental Shifts in Classroom Learning

All four teachers we interviewed indicated that the K-12 classroom has undergone a significant transformation in the past decade. While each represented different grade levels, subjects and school districts, they all identified the same five themes present in today’s educational environment.

  1. Moving away from a defined curriculum

All of our teachers remembered a day early in their careers when they were essentially handed a textbook that served as the class curriculum.  Each day consisted of some amount of rote instruction, with lessons pulled directly from the book. The learning, as one teacher noted, was much more “spoon-fed” to students, with some moderate amounts of hands-on or group activities to enhance the lesson.

Today the curriculum is much more generalized, with teachers being given guidelines on the topics that need to be covered and the foundational skills that must be learned. But it is up to the teacher on how they want to deliver the material. As a result, teachers are given a lot more freedom to get creative with lesson plans.

One example from a foreign language teacher illustrates this perfectly.  Historically, foreign language instruction included memorization of vocabulary lists. But this does not promote true language fluency. Many of today’s teachers are ditching the standard vocab tests and instead approaching foreign language instruction using the same building blocks we used to learn our first language—through active listening and speaking for the duration of the class, using relevant, real-life applications.  In one Spanish teacher’s example, she has students answer questions about themselves in Spanish as best as they can, and the class takes notes. She then plays a trivia game where the students guess things about their classmates based on the notes they took.

What is the impact this flexibility is having on teachers? According to one member of our panel, “We have to be okay with not knowing everything while we allow our students to try something new. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but in the end, we all learn from it.” Another teacher indicated, “We used to be pretty siloed in our own classroom. But today there’s a lot more collaboration happening in teaching through at-school teams and virtual connections—to get ideas from our peers, understand what’s already been tried and refined before we bring it to our classroom. We’re all figuring this out together.”

  1. Teacher and student roles have changed

With the migration away from a pre-defined curriculum, teachers spend less time at the front of the classroom telling students what they need to know. In today’s classroom, the teacher often models new material and then, “lets the kids run with it,” moving through the classroom to provide guidance. Teachers are also spending more time working with students to set learning goals and helping them craft a plan to reach these goals.

Conversely, this means the students have more accountability, as they play a more active role in their own learning.

  1. Students have more choice and voice in their own learning

With increased participation and accountability, students are also given greater flexibility in choosing how they learn best.

For one teacher, subjects from math and science to social studies can be taught any number of ways. Given the same subject and learning goal, some students may decide to use art supplies to create a project, some may use a computer program, while some may make a movie or slideshow.

This concept of student choice also translates to the classroom layout. According to all four of the teachers we interviewed, you generally won’t find many classrooms in their schools that contain the standard rows of desks. Many classrooms feature flexible seating arrangements where the kids can sit where they want, including at group tables, in bean bags, on couches or even on the floor. With a more fluid learning process, there is often more movement incorporated throughout the day, with students transitioning to various areas in the classroom based on the current task or assignment. According to one teacher, “As long as they’re staying on-task and not distracting others, it’s up to the student to determine what works for them.”

  1. Technology is the great facilitator

Our teachers agreed that technology has played a large role in this transformation. Tablets, laptops and other devices have become substantially more prevalent in the classroom. Two of the school districts have implemented a 1:1 ratio of student-to-device, while others supply a variety of devices for use in the classroom. These devices help facilitate a more personalized approach to learning. Math apps, for instance, allow the learner to follow a self-guided path based on their current level of proficiency. Instead of simply putting pen to paper, students can use technology to perform research on-the-fly and bring concepts to life.

  1. Assessments have changed

Historically, tests and other learning assessments have been recall-based (does the student remember what was taught?). But some school districts have started to more widely recognize this does not necessarily reflect whether the student comprehends the material. Testing methods have started to evolve to more accurately reflect true proficiency through real-world, application-based assessments. As one teacher puts it, “We’ve moved from testing on whether a student can remember what’s been taught, to whether they know how to use it.”

Additionally, some districts are also starting to use grading systems that separate effort from proficiency. As one teacher illustrates, “An ‘A’ student and a ‘C’ student can easily be equally proficient. The only difference is the amount of effort they need or choose to put in to get there.”

What’s Driving These Changes in Classroom Learning?

Technology has certainly played a role in the changing classroom, simply because it provides more ways to teach the material. But, according to the teachers we interviewed, research was the central driver. Over time, studies have shown that a one-size-fits-all approach is not necessarily the best way to engage students and support retention. The teachers we interviewed agreed. One teacher noted, “Students remember things they want to know. So, by taking subject matter and allowing them to apply it in a way that is most meaningful to them, we achieve the same goal.”

The Impact on Continuing Education Professionals

For training and education professionals focused on adult learning and professional development, these changes in schools could have a major impact on curricula and certification assessments for future CE programs.  These young professionals will enter the workforce expecting their learning experiences to be delivered in a way that is consistent with their previous schooling. Now is a great time to start experimenting with small changes to existing programs to see what works best.

In a previous blog article, we provide some food for thought on how Generation Z might shape your organization’s continuing education programs.  Here are some other ideas to consider:

  1. Does all the learning have to take place during the course or in the classroom? Are there opportunities to provide real-world applications of the material within a certain timeframe that can then be used for a future assessment?
  2. Are your instructors capable of evolving their role from teacher to facilitator? Do they have the skills to adapt the material from the course book in creative and personalized ways?
  3. You’ll want to provide options for how your learners interact with an apply the course material, while keeping your workload and budget manageable. Can you achieve this by providing simple guidelines for your learners, while putting them in charge of how they want to learn?

While it’s impossible to predict the future, taking a glimpse into the K-12 classroom certainly provides some indications of how principles of adult learning will continue to evolve. Each organization will have to determine the best way to adapt in order to achieve program goals in a way that realistically aligns with resources.

Don’t Let Millennials Kill Your Training Programs, Too

 

Have you read the news that apparently Millennials are killing just about every product category we’ve held sacred for decades? It would be easy to dismiss this phenomenon as just one more way the so-called “entitled generation” is changing society as we know it.  But this would not only be a gross over-simplification, it misses the mark on a larger—and perhaps more important—theme: status quo doesn’t exist anymore, especially when it comes to your training programs. Even the most steadfast products and processes can become obsolete through a simple change in perspective.

There are numerous articles that have been published on the subject, all providing slight variances on the Millennial “hit list.” Here is a quick summary.

  • Ironing: an unnecessary skill in today’s world thanks to business-casual work environments coupled with improvements to fabrics
  • Napkins: the more versatile paper towel is a perfectly good substitute, so why spend money on both
  • Casual dining chains: faced with an abundance of convenient options that are also higher-quality, such as third-party delivery service and meal kits, “good enough” food doesn’t have to be good enough
  • Department stores: many failed to provide neither the convenience of online shopping nor the visual appeal and interactivity of popular bricks-and-mortar stores such as Apple and Ulta
  • Wine corks: a case where function and simplicity wins
  • Doorbells: replaced by the simple (and quieter) “I’m here” text
  • Fabric softener: a quick cost-benefit analysis has this product providing little perceived value

While the items on this list are all very different from each other, their slide into obsolescence is the result of three common themes:

  1. Advancements in one product category (fabrics, washing machines, paper towel durability) caused a ripple effect on other, related product categories
  2. Advancements in certain product categories changed our habits, lifestyle and expectations
  3. Someone simply stopped and asked, “Why?”

This disruption isn’t just limited to home goods. It can—and is—occurring in just about every industry, including education. As training professionals, how can you stay ahead of obsolescence? It’s not as daunting and terrifying as it sounds. And, it doesn’t require a complete overhaul of your current programs.

Inventory Your Training Programs

Pretend you’re a new hire in your organization. Take inventory of every aspect of how you deliver your training programs—from how learners register for the class to how the educational material is delivered. As you do, ask yourself why you do it that way. Ask multiple levels of “why” if necessary, to get to the core reason. If you get stumped, don’t feel you have a solid answer, or if the answer doesn’t make logical sense after you really pick it apart, then this may be an area you want to address.

Ask Millennial Learners 

If you can easily access a list of your young professional members or prospects, see if you can recruit them for a quick online panel discussion or survey. You can use more traditional tools such as SurveyMonkey, or you can do a group video chat using social media live video tools on Facebook, Snapchat or Houseparty for a virtual “face-to-face” topic discussion. Get their perspective on the process and see if there are any aspects of your programs they don’t understand, appreciate or value.

Keep an Eye on Other, Seemingly Unrelated Industries

Millennials are supposedly killing department stores because these stores don’t provide the shopping experience they want—hands-on and interactive. Guess what? This is their expectation for just about everything else they encounter—including education. How can associations provide this experience? For instance, can you deliver the same content in a way that supports a “show me, don’t tell me” model through hands-on applications instead of lectures?

Start Small, and Keep it Simple

Training professionals have enough disruptors keeping them up at night, from gamification and mobile learning to program growth and success. Thinking about how to completely overhaul your existing training programs to remain relevant doesn’t have to be one of them, because it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach. Sometimes the simplest changes are the ones that have the greatest impact.

As the voice of your industry, associations provide tremendous value to members and learners. How this value is delivered, however, may need to change as the needs and preferences of your learners change. One of the easiest ways to keep evolving your training and education programs is to take a time-out now and again and challenge yourself to question old assumptions. You may find new—and even better—ways to deliver education.

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.

A Lesson on Innovation for Continuing Education Pros

 

Innovation is a concept that is often tossed around a little too freely without much definition of what it really means, or even how to achieve it. In almost every industry, organizations are tasked with finding ways to continually innovate and transform—in the continuing education and training industry, this means continuing to produce innovative educational programming. Without a clear understanding of how to apply such an abstract concept, however, most of us tend to default to focusing improvements on the very concrete, daily tasks in front of us. The opening keynote session at this year’s ICE (Institute for Credentialing Excellence) Exchange Conference led by Dr. Megan Alrutz, encouraged attendees to experiment with the notion of innovation, even if it meant going beyond our comfort zone.

Innovation and Continuing Education Programs: 2018 ICE Exchange Opening Session

The format of Dr. Alrutz’s 2018 ICE Exchange opening session was anything but traditional. Dr. Alrutz directed a group of several hundred continuing education professionals, sitting at tables of 6-10 participants, to discuss thought provoking questions such as:

  • Can you innovate without risk?
  • Can you have safety with innovation?
  • Think about a time in your life when you stepped into the unknown.

She encouraged us to “play in the space that is uncomfortable” and challenge ourselves to grow during these discussions. She compared this “uncomfortable space” or “threshold” to that where the ocean meets the cliffs. This space is not the calm found in the middle of the ocean, nor the solid foundation of cliff formations. The threshold is the place where the energy of the waves challenges the sturdy and majestic cliffside. This is where innovation happens.

As the groups engaged in lively discussion, a very distinguishable buzz and energy permeated the room. This energy continued as everyone came back together for the full-group discussions. As the conversation started to dissipate, a sense of calm washed over the room. It was at this moment that Dr. Alrutz would throw out another question for group discussion, bringing with it the same buzz, followed by calm; buzz, then calm, again and again. The room became a tangible illustration of the very threshold where the ocean meets the cliffs that Dr. Alrutz described earlier. I believe this was her way of demonstrating how innovation is supposed to feel: moments of buzz and chaos, followed by brief moments of calm.

With a clearer understanding of what innovation looks like, the next challenge is how to make it happen. What do you need to do to step into the threshold of innovation? According to Dr. Alrutz, there are two simple commitments each of us needs to make:

  1. Bring yourself fully
  2. Challenge yourself to take a risk

If you can find small moments throughout your day to incorporate these two commitments, even while tackling your daily to-do list, you’ll be on a path to innovation without even realizing it.

Embracing New Learning Trends: Are Associations Lagging Behind Corporations? Not Really.

 

In any organization, there are moments where leaders and team members stop and wonder how theirs compares to others in their industry. Are we really as far behind as we think? Are our challenges really that unique? How have others responded?  Most of the time, it turns out you’re not as far behind as you think, your challenges aren’t unique, and others are looking to you and asking the same questions. For associations, a question that may come up often is, “Are we implementing new training and learning trends for our members?”

All that being said, it can also be extremely beneficial to look outside your own industry to get an even better sense of what’s actually happening in a larger landscape and use that as your benchmark. For associations, this may mean looking outside your direct industry, or even taking a cue from the corporate world.

We recently had the benefit of sitting in on a webinar sponsored by Training Magazine and presented by Dr. Allen Partridge, Senior eLearning Evangelist with Adobe. In his session, Trends in Training and Learning Management, he reviewed a compilation of data from several different surveys of corporate continuing education professionals to identify learning trends and compare them to what these professionals are actually doing in practice. The webinar focused on concepts that are also prevalent topics of conversations within associations as well, including the rise of mobile learning, gamification, video, micro-learning, and learner engagement.

It turns out, while new ways to deliver learning are topics of frequent discussion, in practice, corporations aren’t any further along than associations. And, many of the tried-and-true methods of course delivery are still just as popular today. Here are four of the learning trends highlighted in the webinar.

Instructor-Led Training & Printed Course Materials

Despite the rise of virtual learning options, one survey revealed that 4 out of 5 respondents deliver training through in-person presentations—a trend that has remained consistent over the past the past ten years. The reason: when learning is a conversation, engagement and retention are higher. Additionally, nearly three quarters of survey takers said they use print materials to deliver their training, whereas only ten percent offer mobile and tablet-based materials.

Mobile Content

Speaking of mobile-based materials, although only ten percent currently offer mobile and tablet-based materials, there is an overwhelming sentiment that mobile-based learning is something most respondents acknowledged they need to do. Device versatility, ease of access to content and just-in-time reference to content were all noted as important criteria to have in place to encourage greater usage of digital training programs. But the time investment required to create mobile-friendly content was a major barrier. Many organizations are starting by creating only a fraction of content for mobile—particularly their newer content.

Microlearning

Based on the research, microlearning is considered to be the number one learning trends for training professionals in 2018. While implementation of this training strategy is growing, the buzz is still greater than reality. This is primarily due to the fact that there isn’t a clear and uniform definition of what microlearning means, and therefore, how it should best be executed. Some consider it to be “informal learning,” others “mobile learning” or even “short learning.” Each of these definitions serves a unique purpose and warrants its own strategy.

Gamification

While gamification is a major topic of discussion, corporate training professionals haven’t fully embraced this learning trend yet.  72% of respondents surveyed don’t use gamification in their learning programs, and only 14% feel very confident that gamification increases employee engagement in training. Some of the reluctance stems from the perceived cost of implementing it, coupled with the doubt that it actually drives behaviors that are sustainable for the long-term.

If your association has not fully embraced some of the top trends in training strategies and learning engagement, not to fear. Your corporate counterparts haven’t either. But they are starting to think about how to take small, deliberate steps toward implementation so they are ready to engage future learners—something every organization should be thinking about.

It’s Time to Adopt a “Yes…and” Strategy

 

Have you ever heard of “Yes, and…” thinking? It’s a rule of thumb in improvisational comedy designed to keep a scene or game progressing. The premise is that a participant must accept a provided statement from their scene partner, and then expand on that line of thinking. More recently, businesses and other organizations have incorporated this principle as a means to improving team communication and effectiveness.

I recently saw a fantastic example of “Yes… and” activated in a way that may be interesting for association and education professionals.

Over the past several years, associations have debated the best way to deliver educational content to both meet the preferences of learners and the objectives of the organization. As Millennials entered the workforce, the thought was that more continuing education programs needed to migrate online or to digital-based delivery methods, as this is how younger generations wanted to engage and learn. Several research studies, however, have demonstrated that printed content facilitates better focus, understanding and retention—particularly when it comes to complex concepts and specific details. There are several theories on why this is the case:

  • 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
  • The act of scrolling is disruptive and interrupts focus
  • Our tendency when we interact with more leisurely content online is to skim and pull out keywords and points, and this behavior carries over even when we read for learning

Despite all of its advantages, print does have certain limitations that digital content could easily supplement. Given that, 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, there is opportunity to pair the strengths of print with other supplementary tools such as video, audio and kinesthetic-based content.  Two authors are currently testing this concept.

John Parsons of IntuIdeas and Harvey Levenson, former Cal Poly Graphic Communication Department Head, recently launched the first textbook to use Clickable Paper Technology in an effort to combine print and multimedia engagement. This newest edition of Introduction to Graphic Communication, originally published in 2007, uses the book as an anchor to additional reference material to help reinforce the concepts introduced in the book.

Regardless of whether or not Clickable Paper Technology gains traction or is simply the first evolutionary step, it’s clear that the time has come to stop trying to make a choice between print or digital content. More organizations will start thinking about how to incorporate a “Yes…and” strategy, leveraging the strengths of each medium to increase both the effectiveness and attractiveness of their training programs.

Get Your Training Courses Ready for Generation Z

For the past several years, a common theme around the strategy planning table is how to attract and retain younger members. With each passing year, this conversation is less about the long sought-after Millennials, however. The oldest of this generation is now in their mid-30’s. Many associations now have their sights set on the up-and-comers known as Generation Z. And what everyone is starting to realize is how different they appear to be from their predecessors.

Who is Generation Z?

Although there are some reported variances in the dates that define Generation Z, the general consensus is they were born between the mid-to-late 1990’s (roughly 1995) through the 2000’s (roughly 2010).

The eldest are in the process of graduating college and hitting the workforce, while the youngest are busy creating Google presentations, blogging and creating iMovies as part of their elementary school curriculum.

They are a very multi-cultural generation that is even larger than Boomers and Millennials. Today they represent over 25% of the U.S. population. And in just 5 years, they will represent approximately 20% of the workforce.

And, their overall outlook on life—their ambitions, goals, and the way they plan to achieve them—is the product of events and innovations that have completely changed even the world that Millennials knew. This is (potentially) a very different generation.

Turmoil and Technology Has Made Them Pragmatic, Entrepreneurial

A Non-Standard Path to Success

Generation Z felt the fallout from the Great Recession and has never known a world without terrorism. Unlike the so-called “entitled” Millennials, they understand that success isn’t guaranteed. They are prepared to work for it, and to make it their own.

  • They actively seek out opportunities to learn, develop and grow
  • They aren’t necessarily set on taking a linear path to success
  • They have a greater entrepreneurial drive than their predecessors, and have grown up in a world where they’ve seen (via social media) even their youngest peers have success with self-derived ventures
  • They are also more financially conservative than their predecessors

Beyond Tech Savvy

For Millennials, technology was very much present in their lives, but as a parallel activity, something to “play with” in their free time. Contrast this with Generation Z, where technology is fully integrated into everything they do. It has changed the model for how they interact with the world around them, how they learn and, most importantly, how they process information.

  • Where Millennials are the generation that shares content, Gen Z is the generation that creates it
  • In the classroom, a Gen Z student uses multiple platforms (including both print and digital) simultaneously to learn and reinforce a single concept, and often has the opportunity to choose how they want to learn
  • Thanks to DVRs, media streaming and 24/7 connectivity anywhere, the concept of appointment-based anything is fading fast

Social Media Maturity

For Gen Z, social media is no longer a new fad. It’s an established reality. And while it is the basis of a majority of their social connections, Gen Z is much more “mature” in their use of it than Millennials are.

  • Social connections matter even more to Gen Z more than to Millennials. They want to be culturally connected, and have a tremendous fear of missing out (a.k.a. “FOMO”)
  • At the same time, they are more conscientious of social media privacy, and tend to be drawn to more private forms of social interaction such as Snapchat, Secret and Whisper

How Gen Z Might Shape Your Association’s Educational Programs

Today many associations grapple with how to remain relevant at a time when access to free knowledge is just a click away. But there’s good news. Gen Z will find tremendous value in the growth opportunities that associations provide by increasing knowledge and facilitating connections. As long as you can adapt to their needs and meet them on their terms.

Here are 5 things to consider in your next program development and planning session:
1. Is there an opportunity to re-define the classroom setting, using unique and non-traditional locations as a means to help apply learning?

2. Is there an opportunity to develop sessions that allow attendees to co-create content as a means to facilitate learning and professional development?

3. How might you combine instructor-led training and self-guided learning as part of a single learning strategy (versus an either-or approach)?

4. How can you more effectively tie print and digital materials together in a complementary way? For instance, does it make sense to use print to introduce a complex topic, with digital tools such as video, interactive platforms, virtual and 4D technology to facilitate hands-on application of the concept?

5. In looking at your printed materials, how might you re-develop and re-design them to provide shorter pieces of content with more visual cues that support the text?

Although Millennials are still extremely relevant to associations, it won’t be long before all eyes are on Generation Z. How accurately can we predict future preferences based this current profile of a very young generation? It’s too soon to tell for sure. What is certain, however, is that, just as with Millennials, it won’t be long before we’re reevaluating and reconsidering today’s best practices. And it’s never too early to start planning ahead.

Now Available: 2018 Training Trends Report

Educational programs provide a tremendous source of value for associations and other training-based organizations. That’s the takeaway from our 2018 Training Trends survey. The majority of respondents in this year’s survey (67%) look to capitalize on this fact by increasing the number of programs they offer. The focus on core strategic initiatives in the coming year, including program and content development, however, may need to come at the expense of other tasks.

How will this outlook impact those responsible for developing and implementing educational programs? We conducted an online survey of 111 continuing education (CE) and training professionals to understand their challenges, opportunities and priorities in the coming year.

Download the 2018 Training Trends report to learn:

  • How much time do CE professionals devote to program development tasks?
  • How effective are these programs in helping organizations reach their goals?
  • What percentage of the budget will be allocated to on-site training vs. online training in 2018?
  • What is the most common way for educational content to be re-purposed?

Takeaway #1: Continuing education takes place in a variety of formats.

Eighty-four percent of survey respondents indicated they offer multiple options for learners to participate in seminars, courses and workshops.

Offering learners choice on how they receive their training means CE professionals must also provide their course materials in a variety of formats. Print retains its lead as the most common format for course books and study guides, with online training materials coming in a close second. Mobile resources for training saw limited use in 2017, but with trends like microlearning on the rise, it will be interesting to see how these numbers evolve in the next few years.

Read the full report to learn how CE professionals balance developing new course content with other top training priorities.

Turn Your Training Seminars into an Event

Finding new ideas to improve your training seminars can be a challenge. Developing, promoting and facilitating instructor takes a significant amount of planning, leaving little time for brainstorming the little extras that make the sessions so memorable. This topic came up around the office the other day as I was talking with a co-worker that specializes in conferences. We grabbed the video camera and sat down for a quick chat about some ideas program coordinators can borrow from their event planner colleagues.

We hope our conversation sparks some new ideas that help make your next training seminar an event to remember!

Video Transcript

Dan: So as an association, you know the difficulties in putting together your workshops and seminars. There’s a lot of things that go into planning it; how do you make it more exciting? I had a chance to meet with Matt Harpold here at Omnipress and talk about how meeting planners could turn that workshop into something more of an event, something really exciting!

Dan: You work with a lot of AMCs, a lot of meeting planners. They’re used to putting together big events, organizing hundreds or thousands of people coming together. What are some of the things that the meeting planners think about that could pertain to some of the program coordinator?

Matt: The piece that could be leveraged more is the learning that you can make on the connections side. Learning from your peers.

Dan: Have a social hour?

Matt: Have a social hour, happy hour, or even just go and get dinner.

Dan: Go and get together with some friends and colleagues and learn about some things on an informal basis about the industry and some things that they’re dealing with.

Or even take advantage of, let’s say you’re in Pittsburg, for example, and there’s something in the industry that your group is coming together on, do a field trip or something of that nature.

Matt: You learn more about the area, the culture that’s around those spots and really learn things that are outside of that classroom.

Dan: An example that I was just thinking about now is maybe you association is focused on food or food safety or restaurants, or something of that nature, so you may get together to raise money for food pantries in the local area, or you may get together and clean up a park.

Matt: Kind of making it more of an event rather than just having the “I’m hear just to learn”. Sometimes you can learn things outside of a classroom.

Dan: Thanks Matt, great conversation! Hope you have a few take aways you can implement with your next workshop or seminar. And if you do, please leave us a comment so other people can see what’s going on and really benefit from you ideas, as well. Thanks for your time!