Friday, March 15, 2013

Holding Hands

When planning training sessions the first thing that should be considered is the learner.  Designing the training from the learner's perspective is ideal for maximizing retention rates.  But often times, what is ideal for the learner can often be met with limitations - budgeting, scheduling, and time constraints to name a few.  Utilizing the technology available for online training and discussions has been quite helpful for trainers who are working within real limitations.  But at what cost?

eBook tutorial @ my library
Libraries have been heralded as a go-to source for those needing digital resources and instructions.  There is a percentage of library staff, however, who are unfamiliar with the technology themselves.  Just as we find ourselves holding the hands of our customers as they create an email account for the first time, the same regard should be given to our library staff.  Before jumping on board with online training, we must first make sure our staff are on board with the technology involved.

Take, for instance, the growing popularity of eBooks.  This is the perfect example of a new technology which appeals to everyone but for some must be taught in a hands-on way.  Many people who would like to take advantage of an eReader are not fully equipped with the digital literacy skills to download a library eBook.  Not possessing the skills should never be a barrier.  The same scenario is true for library staff who may not own a device but are expected to teach customers how to use theirs.  For this, teaching staff in a hands-on environment with consistent follow-up is the only way.

There are times when online training is appropriate, though.  Just like web and interior design, training must rely on the user experience, or learner experience, in order to gauge usefulness.  After all, if the content is not delivered in the best manner the retention rates will be lower. At that point you can forget any limitations you were working with because the time invested would be a waste.  As a trainer, you must consider the learner and the content together and choose the best method for training delivery.  Ask yourself these questions to help you in preparation:

  1. Who is my target audience? Age, gender and ethnicity can have a lot to do with how you plan your training.  It can affect your tone, word choice, and overall demeanor.
  2. What skills do they already possess? Lacking? Knowing what the learners will bring to your training will give you a starting point.  If there is a wide gap in skills, you may consider breaking the group into two sessions or create your training based on the least skilled learner.
  3. What is the format most suitable for the content? If the content is learning a new skill, then a hands on approach may be best.  If the content is learning a new policy or guideline, a group discussion or role playing may be needed.  
Asking these questions before preparing your training will save you from doing the same thing every time.  It will also help you get the most while still working within your limitations.  Ask yourself the previous questions first, and then scale back depending on what is feasible.  You can see a list of training types in a previous post All Trainings Are Not Created Equally .

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