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Effectively Structuring Your Learning Programs

When designing a learning program, our goal is always focused around how can we help our learners retain knowledge and effectively apply it in the workplace. While the goal may seem obvious, reaching it is much more a challenge. In today’s environment, learning professionals are constantly competing for the mindshare of their learners, which is why the structure of your program is crucial. Learners expect content that is relevant and structured in such a way that makes it easily digestible. Here are some quick tips to consider when building a learning program…

Take a Baseline

Learning is not a one-size-fits-all model. So why design your program in that fashion? It is important to understand the common areas your learners are struggling and bring them content that is both valuable and relevant. One of the most effective ways to do this is with a pre-assessment. This pre-assessment can be delivered ahead of the ILT/vILT with content structured around the main program objectives. Once the learners have taken it, see where the gaps reside – What content did learners not seem to understand? What questions were most frequently missed? What wrong answers were frequently chosen? Once you understand where your learners are struggling, adapt your session. Spend extra time where your learners need it and simply review areas of strength. As instructors, it’s important to be flexible in order to cater to the needs of your learners.

Additionally, this pre-assessment can serve as a great measuring stick for evaluating the knowledge gained throughout the course. Comparing pre- and post-assessment scoring is an easy way to understand improvement amongst your learners. It also serves as a great indicator for where additional coaching may need to be done. Remember, the learning journey does not stop once the learner leaves the classroom!

Include Check Points in Your Curriculum

How do you understand learners are grasping concepts today while in class? Maybe you ask questions or read body language. Or maybe, you don’t do anything. Whenever you are teaching a concept, it is important to validate that the knowledge is being understood and captured. An effective way to do this is via Knowledge Check Points built into the course at natural intervals. Before moving to the next subject or line item in the agenda, provide a short two to three minute activity. This will not only allow you to begin to anchor the knowledge, but also show you if the concepts from that section are sticking. If you notice certain concepts being missed, spend time before the next section reviewing. Doing this will ensure proper knowledge is being committed to memory before any type of reinforcement is done.

Don’t Forget to Reinforce

One of the most overlooked aspects of learning comes in the form of reinforcement. Often times when a class is completed, the learner goes back out into the world without ever touching the content again. Being that we are familiar with the “Forgetting Curve,” we understand that the likelihood of someone remembering the content one day, seven days, or even 30 days after the course is unlikely. To prevent this, it’s crucial that a reinforcement plan is created to accompany each one of your programs. While your reinforcement range will vary from content to content and persona to persona, it’s important to keep the following in mind:

  1. Reinforce with different modalities: Reinforcement isn’t just about answering more questions. While proposing questions to learners is certainly a method for reinforcement, things such as video, PDFs, PowerPoints, etc. provide a great refresher on key concepts and are likely content piece you already created!
  2. Don’t ask the same questions: Simply asking learners the same questions encountered during training will only reinforce their knowledge for how to answer that question. Rephrasing questions around the same subject matter will ensure the learner understands the material versus just how to answer a question.
  3. Learn from your learning data: Be sure to review the outcomes from your reinforcement activities to see where individuals are struggling. This data can be provided to managers for additional coaching and be used to tweak the content for future programs.

Last Thoughts

While we all understand the importance of knowledge retention, it’s crucial we have a learning program structured to help us achieve that. Understanding our learner’s knowledge gaps, constantly checking their knowledge, and lastly, reinforcing their knowledge will vastly improve your learner’s retention and thus, your organization’s performance. While these suggestions may seem basic in nature, proper implementation of them will lead to you and your learner’s success.

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