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Kris McIntosh: Learning Designer

How We Currently Train

The traditional learning model—the one we’ve all experienced throughout childhood, not to mention through the majority of training—is not actually an effective way to transfer knowledge. Participants that attend lecture-based training forget just about everything they hear. And with remote learning, or “eLearning,” this lecture-based model is mostly being replicated online. Participants sit through a slide show with either a live or pre-recorded soundtrack. The worst part? Not only is it not effective, it’s boring.

But if it’s not effective (and it’s boring), why do companies continue to replicate this “sage on the stage” model of training over and over… and over… and over? Maybe because they think it is the easy way—you have experts that know how to perform tasks and solve problems, so just have them tell everyone else how to do it, right? Maybe it’s because they’ve never worked with a learning designer who knows a different method—that’s the way they learned, so that’s the way they teach. But to these two potential reasons, I have two questions:

1. Can you just tell someone how to do something complicated?

2. Is it really the way they (the experts) actually learned?

How Do You Learn?

The fact is, experts become experts through many different avenues, most importantly through their experience (especially learning through mistakes and failures). Sure, they may learn some facts and tasks through training and by doing their own research, but basically, they have learned through the experience of solving problems (and from the mistakes they made along the way) over a long period of time.

Think about it. When you want to learn something new on your own, what do you do? You probably google it to read about how to do it, then you may watch an online video showing you how to do it, step by step. And then you give it a try. If you were successful, you learned. And if you weren’t successful, you also learned. Basically, you learned by

That’s not only an effective way of learning, it’s also engaging. And retention is much higher than most other methods. Instead of passively listening to someone talk about how to do something, participants actually get to do that thing—and they learn whether they succeed or not. In fact, your staff may actually learn their lessons more thoroughly through failures. And the best part? It’s okay if they fail because the training environment is a safe place for everyone (there are no real-world negative effects of failures on staff or the company).

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