What do you want from training?
Of all the questions you could ask somebody designing a learning programme such as a training course, “what do you want” could be the most difficult one.
What outcome would you like to see from the course you’re putting together? It can be terrifically hard to come up with a clear and simple answer, because there are so many other things to think about at the same time. Should we use video, or put more resources into quizzes? How will we publicise the course? What’s our deadline… budget… target audience… and so on.
Another reason why the question is so difficult to answer is more philosophical: no two people agree in detail on what learning is. For some, it’s the remembering of facts; for others, it’s the application of processes. Some people believe learning is “the changing of behaviours”, while others think it means changing how people think or view things.
Coming back down to earth, what’s a practical way to tackle the question? The traditional approach is to create a statement of learning outcomes, centred around action verbs.
Here are some examples:
- “describe the properties of inert gases”
- “repair a refrigeration system”
- “read and correctly interpret a marine radar screen”
But this sort of learning outcome doesn’t cover everything in a meaningful way. “Manage a sales team” is definitely a desirable outcome, but there’s something missing. Likewise, “prepare a marketing strategy” is a useful learning goal, but again it lacks something crucial.
Very often, the question “what do you want” has to go hand-in-hand with the question “how will you judge whether or not the learning has been successful?”
And in business, it’s very often the case that a learning programme is a response to a problem or a business challenge. Are field staff failing to deal with customers as politely as call centre staff do? The answer might be customer service training. Or perhaps accidents on a new assembly line are unacceptably high, which prompts HR to design an educational programme for staff to improve knowledge of safety.
In Canvas, our client portal for training programmes, we’ve put Goals at the centre of everything, and we ask three vital questions:
- What is the goal for this activity? (Eg, Are you trying to create awareness of something, to encourage thinking, to get people to practice something, to demonstrate something, to ensure compliance with something etc)
- What will success for this activity look like? (Eg, Number of visits / Number of tests taken / passed / simple completion of all topics)
- What problem does this activity seek to solve?
In this way, we try to help people answer that tricky question “what do you want?” And as the training and learning needs or organisations evolve, we’re currently working on the next generation of Canvas, to make it even more useful. Watch this space, as we’ll be announcing important changes and improvements in the coming months.