Are You Asking Learners To Do Too Much? 3 Ways to Improve Online Learning Performance

Young businessman juggling with business items against urban sceShorter is better and less is more when it comes to online learning. That’s the message Ken and Scott Blanchard deliver in their latest column for Training Industry Quarterly. It’s about keeping each lesson contained.

“In our early designs, we had a tendency to throw everything—plus the kitchen sink—into each segment. Now we recognize that a learning design is not complete until the last irrelevant piece has been removed.”

In looking at the top three reasons why online learning often fails to deliver on hoped for results, Scott Blanchard identifies two additional design elements that need to be addressed.

Failing to Connect Learning to Work Goals

People get more out of a class when they see how professional development goals are connected to the success of their teams and organizations. The brain is like a switchboard—it decides which path information takes.

As Blanchard explains, “If an individual decides the information is important, it goes down the path of long-term retention, accelerating future use. If an individual decides the information is not that important to retain, the information goes down a different path, where it gets filtered out along with the hundreds of less important bits of information the brain temporarily records.”

Blanchard research shows that connecting training to individual and organizational goals increases the use of skills learned during training from 20 percent to 80 percent. One of the tools Blanchard suggests using is to create impact maps to identify the learning and performance requirements, clarify the expectations for learning results, and guide measurement and evaluation.

For organizations that haven’t used an impact map before, Blanchard suggests a three-step process for getting started:

  1. Focus on performance outcomes. Hold 20-minute phone interviews with senior leaders in each functional area to identify two to four strategic goals to be achieved over the next 12 to 18 months.
  2. Identify critical competencies. Gather data on the key results and critical actions that each manager must produce if the functional area goals are to be achieved.
  3. Connect training to desired outcomes. Draft an impact map based on the individual’s performance and learning objectives. Refer back to the map often during the training sessions and when you follow up on the training.

Failing to Create a Social Connection

Finally, the Blanchard’s point to the importance of making learning a social activity. They share how the most effective online learning in the world is the model used by adult education in online universities. As they explain, “Nearly all of these classes use a cohort model, with a group of people going through the content together. Learning together in a cohort creates camaraderie, stickiness—that is, staying power—and even some peer pressure. When you have people going through a program together, they get the benefit of having a shared experience. This creates a greater impact than if people are going through a program alone without connecting to others.”

For better success, the Blanchard’s recommend making training shorter, more practical, and more social.  To learn more about what they have to say about improving your online learning, be sure to read their complete article on Improving Online Learning Performance.  You can also check out a free webinar Scott Blanchard recently conducted on Building Effective and Engaging Online Learning Solutions.  Blanchard covers all of the concepts above in detail along with examples and case studies.  The recording is available on-demand, courtesy of Cisco WebEx and The Ken Blanchard Companies.

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