We love what we do at ThinkingKap–we love to create training that is creative, engaging, fun, and memorable.
That said, we’ve taken enough courses ourselves to know most training isn’t like this. And sadly, many people seem to think that training has to be boring and that fun is out of their budget. We know every project has constraints and the job needs to get done – but we’d all really prefer if the finished course could be something everyone is happy with. You feel me? While sometimes we’re asked to do “good enough,” we’d rather deliver “awesome!” So here are the principles that drive what we think results in awesome.
How will you know if you’ve succeeded if you don’t know what success looks like? Before starting your project, ask yourself two questions:
“What do we want to accomplish?” and “What does success look like at the end of the tunnel?”
Determine what your participants will be learning and what impact their new-found skills and knowledge will have on your business.
Box checking is not a strategy for success. Remarkable and measurable results come from a clear vision of what you’re trying to accomplish. If you haven’t thought about what results you want from your training, you need to think about how you’ll justify “meh” training outcomes to senior management.
Have a Plan
The fastest way to get off track when developing your course is to not have a track at all. Once you have your vision for success, think through the steps you need to take to get there. Agree on your approach and stick to it.
At ThinkingKap we have devised our own process, and while it was originally designed for eLearning Design and Development, we adapt it for every project. Your process doesn’t need to be exactly the same as ours, and doesn’t even need to be the same across your different training projects, but you need a process. Everyone needs to be on the same page, and you need a plan that aligns your team with your end goal, a roadmap your entire team follows to guaranty you all end up in the same place. Destination…SUCCESS.
Give a Rip
Creating training is hard work, so make sure you staff your core team with people who are passionate about the success of the project. Ideally you want a team made up of individuals who show up ready to work, who don’t think there are any stupid questions, who look to find answers, who meet review deadlines, who make decisions and stick to them, and who are generally ready to live and die for your project.
OK, nobody needs to die in the process, but a little blood, sweat, and tears can make all the difference in in the finished course.
Sometimes the little things really are the big things – like that pimple on your face or that stain on your shirt from lunch. All eyes are drawn to it, and it distracts from what you have to say. It’s the same with sloppy work; it looks unprofessional and undermines your message.
Your team undoubtedly worked hard to put together your training masterpiece, now don’t let it fail because learners are too busy counting your misspellings to focus on what they need to learn. If your learners feel like you didn’t care about the details in your course, how can you expect them to care enough to learn from the course?
Connect the Dots
Learning is a science and our brains are the laboratory where connections are made between the neural pathways that take in new information and the memory that stores it for later use. Don’t worry, you don’t need a doctorate in neuropsychology, but you do need to understand that new concepts (the unknown) need to be presented in a way that connects them to what learners already understand (the known).
Jumpstart learning by making sure examples and scenarios are realistic and that they take place in situations relevant to what learners experience in their own work environments. This helps the learner make connections between what you’re teaching and what they already understand within the context of their workplace. Reinforcement and practice makes neural pathways stronger and more resistant to forgetting. BOOM, SCIENCE!
Don’t Strain the Brain
We love brain science so much that we have two principles dedicated to it.
For learning to happen, content needs to be presented efficiently. Pacing and organization of training topics is crucial. Presenting information before it has been explained, or droning on ad nauseam are both counter-productive and can severely jeopardize the success of your training.
Don’t get in your own way by interfering with your learners’ focus and attention. Streamline information so learners can more readily apply it within the context of what they already know and understand, and work with their limited attention, not against it. Yay Science!
Albert Einstein flunked his first college entrance exam…just sayin’.
Challenge is good and people learn from failure. In fact, the things we learn from failure and mistakes are actually the most resistant to forgetting. Any baby who ever touched a hot stove out of curiosity knows this.
Resist the urge to get by with the same old factoid knowledge check. You don’t make students feel confident by spoon-feeding them dumbed-down information, you do it by giving them the sense of accomplishment that comes with mastering something challenging. Sometimes the best lessons come from the things we don’t get right the first time.
Creating teachable moments where learners dispel myths, break habits, or overcome challenging obstacles can be powerful. Even if learners don’t achieve the optimal result in your challenge, the experience can still generate meaningful lessons they can take with them.
We can’t tell you how many clients start their conversation by apologizing for their courses and saying their content is boring. What we can tell you is that your content is only as boring as you are. The best way to ensure your training is not a success is to put the learners to sleep. Zzzzzz.
Fun can be infused into almost any topic, and a creative approach is the most efficient use of your training time. Creative scenarios keep learners engaged and eager to find out what’s next.
But it takes an effort to create engagement. It’s easier and faster to slap together boring training with little interaction, which is why most training is boring – faster and easier often win. But why would you want to do that to your learners? You’re not trying to punish them. (Or are you?) Life is too short and work is too hard to make training something to be dreaded. What’s more, fun training produces better results. People pay attention and remember things they enjoy.
Make training something your learners enjoy and they will not only remember more of what you taught them, but they might actually look forward to taking your next course.
Clap your hands. Stomp your feet. Blow a whistle. Ring a bell. Do what you must to demand your participants’ attention. If you are willing to do it in the classroom – why not do it with eLearning. Engagement is the single most important factor for training success. It literally doesn’t matter how great you think your course is, nobody will learn anything if they aren’t paying attention to it. (Did we mention that we hate boring training?)
Success requires, at the very least, that your learners engage with your content. So, it’s critical you do whatever you can to maximize this engagement: relevant examples, realistic problems, humorous (or at least conversational) tone, meaningful activities, or challenge games, to name a few.
Attention spans keep getting shorter and shorter as workers no longer have to rely on their memory to recall knowledge that can so easily be spoon-fed to them. “OK Google, what is Sexual Harassment?” You have to overcome this tendency to disengage if you want your training to stick.
Taking the path to awesome training takes courage. It takes courage to reject boring and embrace creativity. It takes practice to be creative. It takes time to find inspiration and ideas. It takes passion to find good ideas and put your own special touch on them.
It also takes courage to trust your vendor. We know some of the things we suggest may be outside your comfort zone, but that’s how we got awesome! That’s how we won multiple eLearning awards. That’s how we keep getting better every day. And that’s how we continue to challenge ourselves so your training is successful.