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What I Learned About Learning and Training

A Conference Report by Michelle Grasty-Colont

I’ve wanted to be a teacher my entire life. There are photographs of a very young me with scattered stuffed animals, posed in front of them with a makeshift blackboard in my family’s den, “instructing” them on whatever knowledge I wanted to share.

Years later, when I went to college, I pursued educational psychology. There, I became fascinated with the mechanics of how humans learn. While parts of the brain and learning theories were the epicenter of our classes, I kept coming back to my passion of understanding the motivators of why people want or need to learn things, and how my role as an educator could guide and mold an individual’s experience with a subject.

At Galaxy Digital, my job is to create learner-centric training sessions for our customers. I am always thinking about how we can evolve our training materials and prepare what people need to feel empowered and confident in using our software. I also attend conferences to meet fellow training managers and learn from esteemed leaders in the field of adult education. This past spring, I attended the E-Learning Instructional Design Certification Program in Atlanta, Georgia. This program is hosted by the Association of Talent Development and lasted two days, where we created instructional design, discussed the joys and hurdles of our field, and came out certified in e-learning instructional design.

The certification program introduced training processes called ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, Evaluation) and SAM (Successive Approximation Method). We compared and contrasted these two methodologies and discussed how important it is to use a process that puts learner motivation and what they want to learn in the forefront. We also discussed the CCAF (Content, Challenge, Activities, Feedback) Design Model, an e-learning tool used to create powerful instructional interactivity.

Our instructor led us through these seven keys for developing design strategies to enhance learner motivation.

  1. Build on Anticipated Outcomes: Help learners understand their involvement in the e-learning will produce outcomes they care about.
  2. Put the Learner at Risk: If learners have something to lose, they’ll pay attention. This key needs to be done with care though — if the risk is too high, you’ll overwhelm the learner. The risk should increase with the learner’s ability. An appropriate risk may be preventing a learner from moving forward in their training until they complete a challenging task, creating urgency to encourage learner motivation.
  3. Select the Right Content for Each Learner: Are your trainees receiving information they can use and apply?
  4. Use an Appealing Context: What creates an interesting world for interactivity? Is your training visually stimulating? Build suspense through storytelling!
  5. Have the Learner Perform Multi-step Tasks: Multi-step tasks create purpose. Learners will experience a sense of accomplishment as they complete each step, increasing attentiveness and motivation.
  6. Provide Intrinsic Feedback: Intrinsic feedback is information the learner receives as the natural result of an action or process. As the learner performs, they should be encouraged to self-correct and adjust based on immediate outcomes. For example, a student may be given a goal, and feedback is provided based on how close the learner comes to reaching this goal.
  7. Delay Judgement: As learners wait for your confirmation or review of their work, they will begin the process of self-assessment and self-evaluation while tension mounts. It’s important for learners to be able to review their own work.

ATD and Allen Interactions e-Learning Instructional Design Certificate Program, copyright 2017.

While meeting all seven of these keys is not always possible, they are important to keep in mind when developing training that will encourage learners to stay with the training program and inspire them to apply their knowledge with confidence.

Ultimately, I left the program with a deeper understanding of the concept of learner-centric trainings and the power of performance, beyond just content retention. I also learned more about how motivation is arguably the most important piece of adult learning, and that putting strategy into training development is invaluable. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting fellow training managers and instructional designers, learning more about their experiences, and while we were each unique and worked in different fields, hearing that we shared similar feelings of success and frustration, dedication and curiosity.

I am sure the little girl who sat in her living room talking to her fuzzy, make-believe students would love knowing that I still get a rush whenever I learn a new way to make a concept click, or that I have a new tool to help someone understand something that was once so difficult to comprehend. Education will always be my passion, and I’m grateful for this certification experience to give me more confidence to pass along this knowledge to our customers.

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