Less knowledge, more learning. An 8 minute brief on structuring training content for a new business age.
As an active consultant trainer, I have seen and… er… admit to good, bad and ugly. I invite you to learn from my mistakes before you assess training needs, then design and develop content for millennials and mobile natives?
“You can facilitate learning of anything, to anyone, at any age”
Professor Ted Wragg
That education professor’s one liner, delivered one morning in Exeter, UK, inspired my love of training and communication.
#1 SEEK AND APPLY INSPIRATION
My tip #1 starts with Ted. And TED, twitter and JK Rowling. It starts with you seeking inspiration wherever, whenever and from whoever. File them – by applying those inspirations you will own and ‘burn’ for your content. Trust me, that makes a difference.
#2 TRAIN FOR CHANGE MAKERS
Protecting children online, digital marketing, sustainable transport – whatever the content I’m burning for – my ‘red thread’ starts with the new age of change:
- the growing demand for transparent and sustainable business
- automation and electrification disrupting transportation,
- digitalization and new ‘industry 4.0’ production techniques coming to all sectors
These, together with (#4) the rapid pace of change of 1-3 and elsewhere, are the pillars of a new industrial revolution. A revolution streching from whole markets and to requirements and roles.
New competence requirements are evolving and may not yet be clear. I focus on tools and skills to enable those I train to be change makers rather than victims of change. It means focus less on the what-you-know and more communication and learnability. A borrowed term from machine learning, I mean that we aim to support and improve the capacity to learn after the training.
#3 ASSESS NEEDS EARLY
Ask yourself the questions “what do I need to get across” and “what’s most important?” Being clear from the start allows you to prioritize, cut out excessive content and make time for meaningful learning experiences.
|Possible Key Questions|
|Knowledge||Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?|
|Understanding||Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?|
|Skills||Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?|
|Values||Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?|
|Learnability points||Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?|
#4 SIMPLE AND BITE-SIZED STRUCTURE
Communicate a strong framework at the start of the training. This provides the signposts for the path you want your students to explore. For me, it is an extension of the presenting adage “tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you’ve told them”.
Taking a 30-40 minute lecture as an example, I like to provide a framework of between 3-5 bite-sized ‘lecturettes’ – activities each with a maximum of five key learning points. I use a theme, for example a colour, to link each lecturette. Then summarize the lecture. Applying the communications ‘ABC’ of accuracy, brevity and clarity and avoiding jargon are ever more important. Millennials are no more impatient than baby boomers but they have been led to expect more.
#5 BUILD IN FUN AND GAMIFICATION
Experience-based learning was a given for the generation before Millennials. Millennials will judge you first and foremost on whether they, and you, are going to have fun. It is a key part of their experience based learning. So, build in fun, engaging scenarios and challenges into your learning experiences. Where possible provide for immediate results and feedback.
Table: Millennials swap between learning styles
|Doer||Actively involved in the learning process. Wants to know how they will apply learning in the real world. Prefers information presented clearly and concisely.|
|Feeler||People-oriented, they focus on feelings and emotions. Expressive expressive, Feelers thrive in open, unstructured learning environments.|
|Thinker||Reason and logic are their comfort zone, and they like to share ideas and concepts. They analyse and evaluate and welcome independent work.|
|Observer||Often reserved, they watch and listen carefully. They often reflect before participating. Learning through discovery is where they excel.|
source: author, based on Hamza, 2012
A trainer of children (pedagogy) and adults (andragogy) I recognise that both demand a clear structure, fun and relevance – but key differences arise as adults link to their greater experience.
#6 PROBLEM CENTRIC, NOT CONTENT CENTRIC
Millenials, like most adults, approach training with the expectation that it will help them solve real issues, now. In short, training focus must be problem-centric rather than content-led. The journey should allow for engagement and discovery.
#7 COMMUNICATE PURPOSE
Unspoken by so many are the questions, “What does this mean?” “So what?” “Why?” Further, Millennials look beyond themselves to the bigger picture. So, take care to build in the meaningful ‘whys’ into your content.
#8 USE VIDEO
Trainers compete for attention and memory retention in an information-overloaded world. Video and e-learning materials allow greater access to information efficiently. In training I have made effective use of video ‘explainers’ and case studies, but also blog resources, infographics and webinars.
source: hubspot 2016, retrieved April 2017
I like the scenarios, flexible pace and repetition that e-learning materials allow. From the millennials’ perspective they provide the touch, simplicity and on-demand style expected. From the training administration perspective the also provide automated KPIs to monitor, track progress and record achievement.
#9 FLIP THE CLASSROOM
Flipped classroom means you share lecture content before the lecture. Students study the materials, or do the required reading/research before class. It suits millennial learning styles and results in more meaningful learning and debate in class. It works – try it!
I’ve taken the next step of challenging small groups of students to deliver the lecturette to the rest of the class. My business inspiration was a customer presenting their supplier’s account development plan back to the supplier’s account team. Risky? Counter-intuitive? Maybe but it builds genuine trust and clears misconceptions. I think the loss of control is justified purely by clearing out that mother-of-all-evils – assumptions.
#10 STUDENT SOURCED MATERIAL MATTERS
Prepare your learning environment with boards for student sourced information. Give students sticky notes and ask them to record their unspoken or ‘parked’ items and put them onto boards at any time. News, Examples, Questions, Time-line and Glossary are headings I’ve used. The point is to increase relevance, link to students’ own experience and gather up-to-date examples. Building in a daily review also ensures thorny terms and questions get covered. I find it a vital part of training groups and a useful way of addressing the gap as modern academic textbooks deliberately drop case study and example material to protect their shelf-life.
So, there. Ten useful tips the obvious ones of 1 new concept at a time and use great imagary. Was it useful? Do comment with what works for you.
Author: Neil Johnson, BSc MSc PGCE, BotniaBlue
BotniaBlue is a start-up that supports your business to connect confidently.
Our content, communications and training services have an international business perspective. We track ‘what’s turning our world upside down’, and share clarity and actionable insights for those that will drive better business.