And there’s this:
Even conceding that many of the “blended learning” hits are from formal education (schools, academia), it’s a little depressing that only 3% of them mention job aids. I personally doubt it’s because everyone uses job aids. It’s almost as if developers, yearning to produce ever-more-engrossing courses, are blind to this kind of performance support.
This is closely related to what Cathy Moore says in the opening minute of the following clip:
And here, at 4%… is what is possibly the least expensive and most effective approach [for blended learning]: on-the-job training tasks. Apparently we are still stuck in the mindset that training is a course.
The clip actually covers a lot of territory in six minutes, including realistic tasks, application, relevant examples, and so on, but I want to focus here on the aspect of figuring out how not to train — or, more accurately, how to not train. Cathy demonstrates the use of “a mega job aid” to enable on-the-job learning. This is her term for combining a job aid (which stores information or guidance so you don’t have to remember it) with instruction (which tells you how to apply what’s in the job aid to a specific task).
How do you know it’s a job aid?
- It’s external to the individual.
- It reduces the need to memorize.
- People use it on the job.
- It enables accomplishment.
I asked Cathy for some comments about job aids.
“Before designing formal training, consider whether a job aid is all you need.”
Here, she’s asking what makes you think you need formal training for X? Is there another way to help people accomplish the desired result?
“If you decide training is necessary, make sure the job aids are top-notch, and consider having the ‘course’ teach people how to use the job aids.”
It’s not a job aid if you don’t use it while you’re performing the task. So if you build a job aid but find that people need to practice using it, that practice should be like on-the-job use. They’re not going to be doing the real-world task from within the LMS (unless, poor devils, their real-work job is managing the LMS). Embalming a job aid inside a course is like disabling an elevator in hopes that people will learn how to get from the 3rd to the 9th floor without “cheating.”
“Don’t duplicate the job aid info in the course.”
Part of the decision about whether to build a job aid involves the nature of the task. Among the considerations:
The likelier it is that the task will change (and thus that the steps for accomplishing it will change), the more sense it makes to build a job aid — and the less sense it makes to duplicate the job aid inside a formal course.
Instead, as part of your formal training, use the same job aid people will use on the job. And figure out how to make updates easily available.
No matter what learning management ideology claims, there are only three kinds of people who return to an online course for reference information:
- People who work for the vendor.
- Actors appearing in the vendor’s materials.
- People on the job who are really bored or really desperate.
Because she involves herself with what people actually do on the job, Cathy has some inexpensive yet highly effective ideas about where to get started:
To evaluate and improve job aids, physically visit learners’ work stations and look around. What support materials have people created for themselves? Often someone on the job has already created a good job aid and you just need to “borrow” it.
Even if it’s a less-than-ideal job aid, the fact that someone’s created it and is using it suggests both that the task is important and that people feel the need for support as they’re carrying out the task. That’s one heck of a head start, and you haven’t had to create a single “at the end of this training program” statement.
2 thoughts on “Learning: blended, or blinded?”
Several years ago I realized that the training workshops we conducted were not effective and sometimes counter-productive. Since then we have moved to a model of just-in-time learning based on short tutorials (job-aids) that can be accessed by learners asynchronously. Supported by a social learning community, webinars and face-to-face sessions on specific topics.
Now, I spend a lot more time listening to the needs of my learners/clients and helping them to find the resources they need, rather than telling them what they ought to learn and overwhelming them with information that they might not need to use immediately.
Jesse, as Cathy Moore’s example showed, it’s possible to combine job aids (when to do / what to do) with instruction (like your tutorials). Probably not in every situation, but I think in far more situations than is currently the case.
Your second paragraph says that you’re letting the clients lead the way: “We need X.” “We’d like to have Y.” It’s a fairly safe bet that most of those requests are based on real-world situations important to them.
In the workplace, a major part of “learning” is the repeated application of skills and knowledge, with appropriate and useful support, to either real-life or highly realistic problems. (Another major part is the analysis of the effectiveness of that application.)
A training workshop (e.g., in-person, off the job ) can be a good way to give people an introduction to some set of skills, along with initial practice, but the kinds of support you talk about are essential for getting those skills to transfer to the job.