July 30, 2014

In the past, after completing one’s schooling (maybe only through the eighth grade) one became an apprentice. An honorable first step because it meant you had a “career path,” and you knew what you were going to do and how you were to do it. You were going to acquire a skill.

Traditionally, the passive “live instruction-as-lecture” method became the norm for teaching the needed skills before the trainee moved onto the plant floor to practice under “ol’ Charlie’s” supervision. You learned, for example, how to take a pump apart — not by reading about it, but by doing it.

Today, there are three reasons why organizations cannot help but fail when using this approach. First, workplace lectures have proven to be generally ineffective due to the listener’s inability to retain much more than a small amount of the instruction heard at a single sitting. Secondly, there is not enough time available from a “right sized” work force to do live instruction in the “expose and practice” discrete segment way. Thirdly, the complexity of the skills required to operate under today’s workplace requirements go far beyond what has been required of our non-reading population in the past.

The better answers today lie in full-motion video and graphic animations because media can be more effectively used to transition a student into the actual job performance setting.

Suppose that, just before completing a media lesson, students are instructed to “get box number 12 off the shelf.” In box number 12 are all the components they have just learned about. In effect, they get to do actual hands-on practice. Then, when they get to the shop floor, they will have learned, seen, and practiced everything they’re now going to be asked to do. And, if an optional audio button is accessible whenever print appears, non-fluent readers can exercise that choice while the fluent readers can ignore it.

In addition, gaming and graphic simulations can accomplish the same end result when presented as “A Virtual Reality World” (a computer-based simulated environment where the characters take the form of avatars).

Those of us involved in training must tailor our courseware offerings to the learning cultures of our trainees. And, that means full-motion video and graphic animations.

I will be on vacation next week. More on Monday, August 11 – – – – –

— Bill Walton: co-Founder, ITC Learning