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Leveraging the learning retention approach

October 29, 2018

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Mark Nilles

Learning & Development Guru

This is the fifth and final blog in this series. The first four blogs discussed why learning retention is important and beneficial, how to develop learning retention programs, and the challenges of learning retention programs. Read previous blogs here (each about a 5-minute read). If you’re interested in reinforcing what you’ve read through these blogs and experiencing a learning retention program, sign up for a learning retention program based on this blog series here!  Shortly after signing up you will start receiving learning retention emails from me.

In this blog, we’re going to explore various use cases for learning retention programs.

The first point is that learning retention is useful to support any type of structured learning event, whether in-person or online, synchronous or asynchronous, blended, shaken, or stirred. (If you’re offering shaken or stirred learning, by the way, please give me a call—I’m always thirsty for knowledge!)  A similar approach can be taken outside of a structured learning event, too. More on those options shortly.

The three primary ways I see learning retention programs helping professionals working in the international development and humanitarian relief sector are to support:

1) intenal professional development (e.g., staff training);

2) partner capacity building;

3) training and technical assistance for beneficiaries.

Each of these types of interventions are designed to achieve specific objectives—learning or otherwise—and can be supported with the learning retention approach outlined in the previous blog articles in this series.

Each of these interventions would also profit from the same three benefits of learning retention outlined previously:

1) better results through reinforced learning and encouragement to apply learning in the workplace;

2) more data to track and measure participation and performance after the conclusion of an event; and

3) extended participant engagement demonstrating an ongoing commitment to their success.

Plot twist! The approach to learning retention discussed throughout this blog series is not limited strictly to learning retention.  The same underlying approach can be used to deliver learning (not just reinforce it).  It can also be used to solicit feedback or input. And finally, it can be used for onboarding of new employees, team building, and similar activities.

When using this type of program to deliver learning, the feedback provided after a participant answers a question is a very important opportunity to support effective learning. As such, such a program needs to be viewed by participants as a valuable learning opportunity—not an assessment. Using this type of program to deliver learning allows for opportunities to track and measure knowledge gains.

For example, we recently deployed a program for internal staff that presented information about new data security regulations that some staff were vaguely familiar with but on which no formal training program had been delivered. The program delivered three questions each week for four weeks—twelve questions total.  However, we only wrote and delivered nine unique questions. As those nine questions were being delivered, we tracked which had the lowest correct answer rates. The three questions that staff answered wrong most frequently were asked again as the final three questions of the program, which allowed us to see the learning gains on those topics. (The least dramatic gain was from 22% correct to 39% correct; the most dramatic saw the correct answer rate move from 15% to 78%.) We haven’t used this approach to prime learners before a workshop or to conduct baseline testing, but that’s a possible use case, too.

The programs we run internally with the Humentum team also serve as team building opportunities.  We use this approach internally not only to deliver or reinforce important learning points on data security, new policies and procedures, office safety, and other topics of interest across the organization but also to continue building and strengthening our team—sharing information about who we are, how we can work together, and soliciting input for team events and activities. A similar approach could be deployed to support onboarding of new employees who are exposed to a wealth of new information upon joining the organization—not to mention new colleagues, new processes, new cultures, etc.

Because this type of program extends engagement with participants and demonstrates a commitment to success, it is a useful platform for soliciting input and feedback from engaged participants. For example, we offer participants of our Annual Conference a program that incorporates this approach.  Unlike traditional workshop participants, Annual Conference participants choose their own learning pathways, so it is difficult for us to reinforce specific learning points. However, we can still use this approach to encourage the transfer of learning from the conference to the workplace. And we can use the approach to solicit additional feedback about the value of the conference and areas of improvement. This allows us to keep the conference evaluation short and gather thoughtful input from participants when they’re back at work and able to give a realistic assessment of the impact of their conference experience.

You may have already figured this out, but I’ll mention it anyway: these alternative use cases can also be integrated into a standard learning retention program.  In other words, you can reinforce learning of tangible learning points, solicit input, and demonstrate learning gains in the same program.

Main points:

  • Learning retention can be used to reinforce any type of teaching—learning modality
  • This same approach can also be used to deliver learning, build teams, solicit input
  • You can experience a learning retention program!  See below for details!

This is the final blog in this series. But it doesn’t need to be the end of our journey together!  If you’re interested in experiencing a Humentum learning retention program and reinforcing the concepts shared in this blog series, please sign up here. I will need your first and last name and a valid email address.

Providing this information will trigger the start of a learning retention program for you. You can unsubscribe from the emails any time. Your email will not be used for anything other than delivering the learning retention program, but if you’re interested in receiving newsletters, workshop information, etc. from Humentum, you can let us know here.

Thanks for your reading. If you want to continue the conversation on learning retention or other approaches to support improved performance in the workplace, please feel free to reach out to me directly (mark.nilles@humentum.org) or leave a comment below.

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