In an effort to decrease the spread of COVID-19, many states are encouraging, if not mandating, residents to stay at home, while most others have eliminated any sort of in-person gathering. As a result, organizations have been forced to re-think the delivery of their in-person, instructor-led training courses. Maintaining this training is critical – not only does it create a much-needed revenue stream for many organizations, but it is also how mission-critical education information is delivered to members, employees, and learners.
Going virtual doesn’t have to be a daunting proposition. Omnipress has a quick and simple solution that allows your instructors to record and deliver course content as on-demand videos, while also supplying both print and digital course materials and supplemental resources.
1. Turn an in-person course into a series of pre-recorded videos
Work with your instructors to break up their partial day, full-day or multi-day course into shorter sections, and record these lessons using either our presentation capture and recording software or any other tool of their choosing.
2. Upload videos and accompanying PDF course materials
Your instructors will then upload these videos and any supplemental course materials, such as handouts, worksheets, quizzes and course evaluations to our secure Share File site.
3. Publish this on-demand course to your website, using our online video training platform
Once we have received all instructor videos and course materials, we will publish the on-demand course to your website using a simple line of code that we supply. Participants can then follow along with course content at their convenience.
4. Provide printed materials for enhanced learning
Create a blended approach to learning by supplementing the instructor’s on-demand videos with printed training materials like coursebooks, training manuals, workbooks, and more. We can easily print and distribute these materials—and any other items such as practice exams, handouts, etc.—directly to each participant at their home.
By turning in-person courses into on-demand video lessons, you can make sure the learning continues in this time of extreme uncertainty, while retaining at least some amount of revenue from your courses, and sets you up for greater flexibility in the future.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
If you wrote off QR codes as an over-hyped and ultimately useless fad, you’re certainly not alone. But you may want to set those perceptions aside and take another look at how QR codes could help your association deliver just-in-time learning content without having to completely overhaul your educational materials.
QR Codes: A Useful Tool Introduced Ahead of Its Time
Invented in 1994 by a Toyota subsidiary to improve the manufacturing process, a QR code is essentially an enhanced version of a barcode, capable of holding nearly 350 times the amount of information. It wasn’t until 2010 that the first QR code scanner and reader applications were released for smartphone platforms in the U.S. Soon after, marketers, retailers, and other industries began using them on a wider scale to bridge the gap between print and digital content.
The QR code was made possible by technology—the invention of the smartphone and mobile web browsing capabilities. At the same time, its lack of success is also due to technological limitations. Essentially, the QR code was ahead of its time. Back in the early 2010s, in order to use a QR code, the user had to first download a special app. They used this app to take a picture of the QR code, wait for the app to process it and redirect to a website—at a time when mobile internet connections were not nearly as fast as they are today. And on top of that, users were often directed to websites that were not optimized for a mobile viewing experience.
Why Now is the Time of the QR Code
Fast forward ten years and QR codes are making a resurgence—particularly among Millennials and Generation Z. Here’s why:
QR codes are used within popular social media apps used by teens and young adults, like Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp and Instagram
Social media platforms aren’t the only ones jumping on the QR Code bandwagon. Global industries such as food manufacturing and pharmaceuticals have implemented QR codes on labels and packaging to comply with new regulations. For instance, as part of the Smartlabel QR Code initiative by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, prominent food companies such as Coca-Cola, Nestle, and Colgate include codes on their packaging to direct consumers to a website with more product information.
How QR Codes Can Provide Access to Time-Critical Information
One of the most valuable benefits associations provide to their members is knowledge and education. Most training and education—whether delivered as a pre-scheduled, in-person instructor-led class or as an on-demand web course—is typically consumed outside the window of time when the materials will actually be put into practice. While the learners walk away with a great foundational understanding of the material, they may not remember all the crucial details they need in a real-world situation.
For example, if you’ve ever taken a CPR or basic first aid class, you may have learned how to do proper chest compressions or how to use a defibrillator. Now fast forward six months or even longer, to the first time you need to apply this knowledge. Not only are you battling The Forgetting Curve, but you are also having to do so under extremely stressful circumstances, which further affects your ability to recall specific details.
Now imagine if there was a QR Code affixed on or near the available first aid equipment that immediately served a short demonstration video or the music loop for the Bee Gees song “Stayin’ Alive” to help you stay in rhythm with your chest compressions. QR codes can be a much more practical way of delivering the exact information you need, without having to pull up and search through a website.
Other examples where QR codes could provide just-in-time learning reinforcement:
For employees of libraries, restaurants, schools, and even corporations who may need to access to public health and safety resources, such as how to handle a specific mental health situation, overdose, or allergic reaction
For medical professionals who may want access to point-of-care resources to improve health care delivery
For technicians who need assistance with diagnosis and repair of less-common mechanical issues while on-site
If like many of us, you wrote off QR codes several years ago as an impractical tool that has lost popularity, you may want to think again. Thanks to improvements in the technology that supports the adoption and use of QR codes, these square snippets of data are gaining traction once again and are being more widely adopted not just by marketers, but by industries and end-users—particularly young professionals. Because of their ease to create and implement, organizations should consider how to adopt QR codes as a simple and cost-effective way to take existing materials and re-package them as micro-learning resources, delivered just-in-time, when they are most needed by the learner.
For those of you who recently held a conference or training course, your members are about to forget everything you just taught them (if they haven’t already). It stings just a bit to hear that, doesn’t it? But unfortunately, science tells us it’s true. The good news, though, is that associations can (and should) combat The Forgetting Curve phenomenon, at least to some extent, simply by re-packaging and re-purposing this educational content. A little cross-departmental collaboration goes a long way, too.
The Forgetting Curve: Effects of time on learning retention
Educational content is by far the top value your organization provides to your members. But its value is only realized when it can actually be applied in real-life situations. Unfortunately, from the moment a course or conference ends, we find ourselves battling The Forgetting Curve—a term coined by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus to describe the effects of time on learning retention.
Within the first few days after a conference or training course, the forgetting curve is very steep. What Ebbinghaus found through his research is that providing “spaced repetition” of learning material can soften this curve, helping us to retain more information for a longer period of time.
In other words, your educational content needs to have a life after the course or conference.
• 55% re-use conference content • 26% use it to reinforce learning after the conference
• 77% re-use training materials • 55% use them to reinforce key learning concepts after the course
While a majority of those surveyed are repurposing their educational content, fewer are using it to help promote learning retention—particularly in the case of conferences. This is not only a disservice to your participants, but it also diminishes the value of your program.
How can associations better leverage their educational content to help make learning stick?
1. Refresher courses and mini-events
Look at your most popular conference sessions and create short “refresher courses” on these topics. Add them to your training course roster or deliver them as a series of smaller, regional conferences. Not only does this increase your portfolio of programming as a member benefit, it can also create additional revenue opportunities for your organization.
2. Peer-to-peer learning sessions
ASAE recently published this article on the importance of peer-to-peer learning opportunities at conferences, recognizing the amount of collective expertise attendees bring to the table. What if you could take this one step further, and provide those peer-to-peer learning sessions after the conference or training course? Participants can have the opportunity to share their experiences and learnings as they apply the knowledge learned in the class or conference. Again, these could be developed as a series of smaller, regional in-person meetings, or as virtual events. Today, there are certainly plenty of tools and technology that can be used to foster face-to-face discussions such as WhatsApp, Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts, and Houseparty.
3. Develop post-event homework assignments
Looking to help learners apply knowledge in a practical way while also adding to your member resource library? We grew up doing homework in school for this very purpose, so why not add it as a component to your course or conference! Create a series of homework assignments for learners to complete at specific time-based intervals. If there’s an opportunity to have these count for additional CE credits, even better.
4. Create a post-event communications plan
Short, focused and frequent reminders of key points from an educational session or class is one extremely easy way to keep the material top-of-mind. Take a specific topic, session or chapter and break it up into a series of emails, each focusing on a single point or takeaway. This is not only a simple yet effective way to reinforce learning, it helps to keep your organization top-of-mind, which helps to boost retention, too.
Most of us recognize that learning is not a one-time event. It’s an ongoing process. But many organizations still deliver educational content as a one-time event—whether at a conference or in a course. Creating opportunities to provide this same content several times throughout the year will certainly increase the retention and application of the material. But there’s an additional benefit for the organization as well. By increasing your touchpoints with members, you can also increase member engagement and the value of your programs. It may require a little extra work, but it’s definitely a win-win.
Is your association considering—or currently offering—mobile training programs? Follow these simple steps to optimize your existing educational content for mobile learning.
Why Consider Mobile Training and Learning Programs?
One of the top trends in training and education is the development of mobile training and learning programs to make learning more accessible. Mobile content is not only convenient for the learner, but it can also increase retention and productivity by delivering critical knowledge at the exact moment it’s needed. Also known as “just-in-time training,” organizations are recognizing the benefits of pairing in-depth learning with opportunities for real-time reinforcement and practical application. For this to truly be effective, however, content needs to be optimized so that it can be searched and delivered quickly on a mobile device. The practical applications for just-in-time learning are considerable. For example, think of the technician who is on-site to install or repair a specialized piece of new equipment. Although they were formally trained on the process months ago, the ability to access reinforcement material will help increase accuracy and productivity. Simply by scanning a QR code on the equipment, or clicking a link to a searchable resource library, that technician can pull up the exact documentation they need to complete the task quickly and accurately. Within the office environment, just-in-time training resources empower employees to make decisions and handle difficult situations with greater confidence. In a perfect world, this just-in-time content would be developed specifically for mobile training. Short instructional videos or easy-to-follow visual documents tend to be the most user-friendly in these situations. But developing all new content may not be practical for many organizations due to limited financial and personnel resources. However, it is possible to use the content you already have for a mobile learning program if you take a few simple steps to ensure it can be delivered to the user quickly.
Provide a centralized “home” for your mobile content
Members and employees need to be able to find relevant content easily. Provide cloud-based access to a centralized library where this content is stored, whether that’s within an existing LMS or an online resource library. Whatever tool or system you choose, make sure the search functionality is powerful and dynamic enough to provide robust search results for the user.
Modify document layout, if possible
While it may not be possible to completely re-create shorter, more visual content, look for opportunities to modify the layout of existing, multi-column documents to a single-column format where possible to reduce or eliminate the need for left-to-right scrolling. While vertical scrolling is common on mobile devices, horizontal scrolling is extremely disruptive to the user, increasing the time it takes to read a document while reducing overall comprehension.
Minimize the file size
Mobile devices, although convenient, are limited when it comes to processing power. The last thing a user needs in a time-critical situation is to attempt to access a PDF file that takes minutes to open or download. If you are developing new content for mobile training and learning, create it with the intention to minimize file size. Limit the number of fonts and use lower resolution photos and graphics. If you are working with an existing document, there are several file optimization tools available in Adobe Acrobat®. The exact steps will depend upon which version of Acrobat you’re running, but some general guidelines include:
Use the Reduce File Size command or PDF Optimizer
Enable Fast Web View in the File > Preferences dialog box
Unembed unnecessary fonts
Downsample or compress images
In longer documents, create bookmarks or hyperlinked table of contents
If your educational content takes the form of a longer textbook or training manual, it may be impractical to break it up into separate, shorter documents. But it is possible to make these documents easier to navigate by creating bookmarks in your PDF to create jump destinations that link to other documents or web pages. If you are housing your educational content in an online resource library, each publication can be broken out into easy-to-navigate, hyperlinked sections and backed with contextual search capabilities so users don’t have to scroll through hundreds of pages to find the answers they need.
Mobile Training Can be Worth the Time it Takes to Optimize Educational Content for Your Learners
Providing quick, easy, and just-in-time access to learning and training materials is going to continue to be a key component of mobile training programs moving forward. It not only increases retention and success for the learner, it also increases program value by providing practical application of education concepts when they are needed most. Eventually, educational content will need to be designed with this in mind. But if you don’t have the resources nor bandwidth to tackle this today, don’t let that stop you from testing some small pilot programs. It is possible to re-use existing content by taking a few, simple steps to optimize documents for mobile delivery.
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:
Advancements in one product category (fabrics, washing machines, paper towel durability) caused a ripple effect on other, related product categories
Advancements in certain product categories changed our habits, lifestyle and expectations
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.
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.
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:
Bring yourself fully
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.
A few weeks ago we surveyed continuing education and training professionals to learn more about which resources they turn to for ideas, inspiration and information on trending topics such as micro-learning, blended learning and getting ready for Generation Z. This survey was conducted as a response to what we’ve been hearing from our friends and customers in the industry—that there isn’t a centralized resource specifically for those working within associations.
So where do CE professionals gather online and in person? As expected, in a variety of places. Some are more vertical-centric, while others are geared more toward the corporate training industry, but provide best practices that can be applied across all organization types. There were certainly resources mentioned that we are very familiar with, and others that were completely new to us.
Here is a summary of the results:
A majority of the respondents serve in leadership roles at associations.
We provided a list of the more well-known conferences designed for Training and Education leaders to choose from. Turns out, our respondents don’t actually attend many of them. The top conferences attended include the ASAE Annual Meeting and the Association for Talent Development (ATD) International Conference and Exposition. There were quite a few singular answers provided in the “Other” category, demonstrating just how fractionalized the resource landscape is. Some of the “other” answers provided include:
We then gave the respondents an opportunity to list any and all of the online industry resources (newsletters, blogs, webinars, etc.) they find to be the most valuable for keeping up with trends and best practices. Once again, the answers given were all over the board.
A number of respondents also mentioned they look for ideas in LinkedIn discussion boards, through discussions with other associations, peers and vendors.
Several times, respondents took the opportunity to tell us they didn’t feel there was a “perfect fit” resource within the industry.
It’s not surprising, then, that respondents overwhelmingly indicated they would be interested in attending more peer-to-peer learning opportunities for association-based continuing education and training professionals, if they were available.
It’s clear that with so many potential resources available, many of which don’t quite get to the core of challenges and opportunities specifically for associations, education and training professionals find it worthwhile to have more opportunities to learn from each other, in both formal and informal settings. Perhaps this will be the start of a larger grassroots movement to make that happen.
In an earlier post, we discussed how micro-learning—or “the delivery of bite-sized content nuggets”— is considered to be the #1 trend for training professionals in 2018. But this doesn’t mean it’s being widely executed. While some organizations are starting to experiment with their offerings, most are still figuring out how to get started.
The discussion of micro-learning is typically centered around online and mobile-based training programs, which, according to recently-compiled data from a series of industry studies, is one of the primary reasons that the implementation of micro-learning programs isn’t as widespread as you would think. Continuing education professionals stated that the time investment required to create online and mobile-friendly content is a major barrier, particularly for those who are already tasked with growing their programs using the same or fewer resources. Meanwhile, according to the same series of studies, nearly three-fourths of participants provide printed training materials. If there is a clear, strategic benefit for your organization to create programs that consist of smaller learning segments, it may be possible to pilot a program by re-thinking how you present your print-based content.
Historically, course books and training manuals have been designed to support long-form learning, organizing content into longer chapters that both introduce complex concepts and dive into all of the supporting details. Recently, however, some organizations have started looking at ways to redesign existing content in order to serve up the same information smaller pieces that can be consumed and referenced much more quickly. Here are just a few ideas to consider:
From One to Many
Take a large, single course book and break it out into a branded series of separate pieces that are each more singularly focused. In doing this, you may have room to play with the format and add notetaking pages or other self-reflection and application exercises to make the content more personally relevant.
Keep Sections Short
If you determine that offering a single course book is the best way to deliver your program, consider reducing the length of your chapters and sections, providing more frequent breaks in the material so readers have a logical place to pause and digest.
Turn Text into Graphics
If you are outlining list-based information, try substituting pages of text with a simple-to-follow infographic to help increase retention.
Provide Easy Access to Supplemental Digital Material
Most of us are never more than an arm’s length from our phones or other mobile devices at all times. Rather than presenting all of the necessary information in your printed piece, consider using print as a means to give a more concise overview or introduction of a topic, with directions throughout the piece to supplemental online materials from your organization or your industry’s thought-leaders, including videos, podcasts and virtual renderings that can be accessed while the learner is reading.
If you are looking to incorporate micro-learning practices into your existing continuing education programs but don’t feel you have the time or resources to develop online and mobile-friendly content, consider starting with your printed materials. This not only gives you an opportunity to take a fresh look at existing content, but is also a lower-cost way to test-pilot micro-learning techniques before making a larger investment in new, digital materials.
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.
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.
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.
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.