Monday, January 28, 2013

Cutting the Fluff

Training = Suffering. Usually.

Training, whether in a classroom or online, often includes way more than you need. Icebreakers. Interactions. Tests. Group activities. There is nothing worse than a day of training that should've taken an hour.

But fluff in training is often expected, even encouraged. That's because instructional designers often focus on "pedagogy" rather than "andragogy", and learning managers focus on "butts in seats" instead of return on investment (ROI). 

Pedagogy means "to lead the child" (, which is not what we're doing in the business world. Instead, we're training adults who bring experience to the table. That's why I get flustered whenever anyone in corporate training speaks of pedagogy instead of "andragogy", the science of training adults (

When instructional designers approach corporate training as they would K-12 education, the result is too much unnecessary "instructional scaffolding" ( For example, let's say I'm developing training about setting up a home office. If I follow a "pedagogical" approach, I would take 5-10 minutes to explain the characteristics of the perfect desk chair. Then I would ask learners to choose a chair from a set of photos that matches the requirements of the perfect desk chair.

If, however, I follow an "andragogical" approach, I show learners the photos first and ask them to choose the correct chair. If they get it right, I can move on to the next topic, or I can ask them to give me the reasons for their choice. Either way, I'm banking on their experience as adults to trim the time required for training.

In doing so, I'm maximizing the ROI of the training. Less time training = More time working. But the thing is, many learning managers don't pay attention to ROI. Their bosses only ask them, "How much training did you develop this year? How many people did you train? How much training time did each employee have this year?" The questions should be, "How much revenue did your training directly result in? How much cost savings did we achieve as a result of your training?"

But, answering questions about ROI = Suffering. Most learning managers feel that level 4 and 5 evaluations take too much time and too many resources. I don't think that's true. Brinkerhoff's Success Case Method ( makes it pretty easy, and the results are eye-opening.

I think adragogy and the Success Case Method take the suffering out of training for learners, instructional designers, and learning managers. Let me know what you think.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Power of Video for Learning

Your training department has become a well-oiled machine when it comes to building and deploying self-paced eLearning courses. Congratulations. It's about time. 

The trouble is, eLearning is almost always overkill - especially now that learners would rather rely on their mobile devices instead of their PCs. So what do you do?

Quick, easy-to-follow video tutorials.  

Think about it, if you're not terribly worried about production value, you could shoot and post videos to YouTube in fewer than 10 minutes. Because someone did that for me, I was able to learn how to fix a vacuum cleaner, tie a bow tie, and play the harmonica in an afternoon. I didn't care how professional the videos looked. I cared only about the content. Because it was spot-on, I learned quickly. That's what your learners want too: just-in-time, super-relevant content they can access on their phones or tablets. 

As an example, imagine you work on the floor of a manufacturing plant. Your boss says, "Joe called in sick. I need you to run the bottle-capping machine." You've never run the machine. Should your boss send you to the PC for a couple hours of eLearning? No. 

You should walk over to the machine and use your phone to scan the QR code posted on the machine. (Don't know what a QR code is? Check it out here: See what I did there? I sent you to a video to quickly learn something new.) The QR code accesses a video that shows you how to turn on the machine and run it successfully. You can pause the video, rewind it, whatever you need to do to learn how to run the machine. Easy.

When I shared these thoughts with an L&D friend recently, his mind went straight to videos that have actors acting out a scenario - like "How to handle an irate customer." As a result, he wasn't a big proponent. "Too much effort goes into writing the script, storyboarding, hiring actors, and editing." However, when I qualified my fondness for videos by saying they should be step-by-step instructions with only one person in them, he agreed that would be a lot faster to produce. Cool.

The next issue with videos is hosting them. If you put them on YouTube, you can choose the private setting so only certain people can see them. Or, if you're really concerned about proprietary information, you can use a video hosting service such as BrightCove (

Finally, if you find that execs require high production value or insist on eLearning because they prefer glitzy stuff, start showing them numbers. Say, "If you can settle for slightly lower production value, I can get this training out in a quarter of the time and it will be as (or more) effective. It will save $$$." Plus, you can tell them how that frees up your time to create even more training programs. 

That's powerful stuff.

PS. Speaking of ties - imagine a bow tie with a QR code printed right on it that takes you to the video showing you how to tie it.