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How do you develop training that works?

August 29, 2022

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Tara Sullivan

Content Writer

As someone who focuses on training, either as a provider or as a leader within your organization, you want it to work. Bottom line: if it doesn’t engage, people won’t learn. If they don’t learn, they can’t build skills.

So, the questions for the learning partners of Humentum Learning Services focused on that most basic issue: how do you develop training that works?

For quick background, Humentum Learning Services is a nonprofit learning management system (LMS) and training services offering everything global nonprofits need to create, deploy, and track training.

Humentum delivers the learning through several partners. At the 2022 Global Learning Forum, a convening for HLS subscribers to connect and hone their skills, HLS hosted a panel with several of its partners to talk about how to know what training to deliver, and how to make it appealing.

The “Staying Ahead of the Trends” panel included Patricia Santos and Caroline Quintanilha from Cegos, Esther Kioni from The Internet Society, Robert Burnside from Nomadic Learning and Vim Gottschalk from Speexx.

Knowing What Training to Create

Patricia Santos from Cegos tackled this tricky question. As she put it, the key is not just to stay on top of the trends but also to anticipate what’s coming, so that you, a provider of training, can adapt. “If the way we live is changing, then the way we work is, too. And that means the skills we need in the workplace need to keep pace.”

Cegos uses six processes for trend-watching:

1) First, they look at the world itself. Staying on top of the news, attending courses, talking with others. Let’s call this observational awareness.

2) Secondly, they tap into academic knowledge, looking at studies and research from well-known institutions. For example, studies on the future of work, and the key skills needed.

3) Practice or practical knowledge. The internal team makes sure to tap into their business partners as a type of living laboratory.  What are their clients talking about, dealing with, doing in practice? This is a good balance with the academic knowledge.

4) Analysis. Using their own systems, Cegos routinely tracks behavior. What courses are users taking, in what ways, for what length of time. Based on this behavioral data, they can develop an understanding on which to base predictions.

5) Competitive awareness. Look at what the competitors are doing – both what’s working and what might not be. They may have knowledge you don’t, or they may simply have a different perspective that leads them to a different business solution.

6) Voice of customer. Cegos uses focus groups to pay attention to feedback both positive (what’s working) as well as negative (what needs to change).

Keeping the Training Focused on the User

While Cegos addressed the broad pool of knowledge, Vim Gottschalk, from Speexx, talked about one specific aspect of knowledge: users’ needs.

As Vim pointed out, much of what worked in the physical world of in-person trainings is still good. Not everything needs to be re-invented for the virtual world. For example, you still need to have two types of user-needs assessments.

The individual: what are they hoping to gain? What is their preferred learning style?

The organization: what skills gap are they looking to fill?

Speexx uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to absorb and analyze those inputs to deliver engaging and motivating content. That’s a perfect example of using what was done before virtual learning (assessing the users’ needs) and enhancing it (by adding AI to that data).

When talking about why Speexx has a user-centric model, Vim used an analogy. “Picture a sushi restaurant, with a conveyor belt delivering tasty food right to your plate.” Whether you like it or not, the delivery is right on target.

So then it’s down to the actual sushi. If delivery is always there (online learning), what kind is best? The “best” sushi for you might be the equivalent of highly relevant learning. It’s exactly what you need and what you prefer. Then there’s the good enough sushi, which can also be delivered directly to you. That’s the equivalent of what your organization wants you to learn. It might not be your favorite, but it’s still good and still convenient.

Then, there’s the kind of sushi to avoid. It might come straight to your plate, but you really don’t want it. That’s like training that isn’t relevant to the user, or needed by the organization, but it’s still there in the system, just like the sushi varieties are all there.

The best formula is a balance. As a creator of training, you need to balance what the user wants (their ‘favorite’ sushi) with what the organization needs (the ‘good enough’), while minimizing the training that may be mandated by the geography or the industry. It’s still needed, but you want to offer many other options to balance it out.

Accessibility: Good Content Needs Good Delivery

Esther Kioni from The Internet Society talked in a different set of user expectations. In the above, delivery was neutral: the focus was on content. The Internet Society focuses on access to the Internet for everyone, so delivery is a key focus for their own training.

Not just the physical delivery method, but the accessibility of that training to the individual. As Esther said, “no one is disabled; we are differently abled.”  When it comes to training, that means offering visual, audio only, and text only.

Not only do we learn differently, but we also have different access at different times. Some areas don’t have enough Internet bandwidth, so too many videos in a training won’t work. Knowing that diversity of access, The Internet Society develops content with video and text, and also with text only. They also make sure every training is mobile-first. “Not everyone has a laptop,” Esther pointed out, “but everyone has a mobile phone.”

Another unequal resource is time. Quite simply we don’t all have the same amount of time, nor do we each have the same amount of time for training every day or every month. With that in mind, The Internet Society packages trainings in three different ways:

  • Self-paced
  • Moderated with virtual labs
  • Bespoke: customized to a certain place and time for a certain client

Answering: What’s In It for Me?

For one last look at how to make sure learning is engaging, accessible, and meets the learning needs, the panel turned to Robert Burnside at Nomadic Learning.

As he put it, “We’re all trying to answer the question of ‘why should I? What’s in it for me?’ That’s what’s in the users’ mind.”

One way Nomadic aims to meet that “what’s in it for me” need is to use practitioners to deliver the knowledge – those who are doing the work they’re teaching others about. They also take care to edit every segment down to 2-3 minutes at a time (delivered asynchronously in video, or audio only, or text only). Learners can absorb as many or as few of these topics as they choose, but the short amount of time makes it easy for even the busiest professional to learn something in a few minutes. “You can stay as long or as little as you need,” as Robert put it.

Besides a strong focus on whittling down the learning to bite-sized chunks, Nomadic roots their training in socially collaborative, cohort-based learning. By commenting and taking polls, you can see how your organization compares to others and you can join a conversation around a topic. That goes back to his comment that no one person or group has an answer to everything. By creating a group, you pull knowledge from a diverse base and can learn more, and more quickly, then relying on one expert.

Humentum Learning Services (HLS) is thrilled to partner with these organizations and more. And we know they value working with each of our HLS subscriber organizations. As Vim said, “Humentum members have an impact across the world, on people’s lives. It goes beyond the day-to-day. We’re part of that, helping the members help others.” Thank you for being part of our combined work for social good.

Learn more about what our partners offer HLS subscribers