Creating Effective Training — The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Creating Effective Training — The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

“Question: What’s effective training?” | “women’s gray cardigan” by rawpixel on Unsplash

In a previous blog post, we shared with readers how learning needs to be ENGAGING, EFFICIENT and EFFECTIVE. For workplace L&D in particular, today’s managers and trainers face:

  1. Increased Mobility — Our teams are more mobile and distributed. So it’s hard to get everyone in the same training room. Especially true for multi-branch / multi-geographical organisations.
  2. Reduced Attention Spans — The infamous study that us humans can concentrate for less than 8 seconds, ranking us below goldfish…

Organisations can no longer ‘pre-dump’ our teams with reams of training binders; it will get lost amongst everything else that they need to get up to speed on and daily work responsibilities!

L&D managers are convinced that the best way to train teams is by:

  1. Putting training content online to supplement (NOT replace) face-to-face training. This should be mobile-optimised to be delivered directly to employees’ smart devices.
  2. Making sure training engages the learner for more effective content absorption. Even better if the training is contextual and just-in-time.

That’s where Nano Learning comes in.

What’s Nano Learning? Bite-sized, self-contained training content that is rich-media focused and peppered with knowledge checks to make sure learning has taken place.

Think of Nano Learning as ‘power bars’ that are consumed just before a key task or activity. The learning is contextual, just-in-time, and application-focused. Employees learn what’s needed, do quick assessments to confirm learning, and put their learning into action through the task. The practical application reinforces the learner, and gets the ‘muscle memory’ going.

So how do we create effective Nano Learning? Do we simply take our existing Powerpoint training decks and chop them up into 15-minute modules?

The Bad

Bad Nano Learning:

Here’s one learning module:

Did this work for you? Did you get the point of the module? Or were there too many “focus points” that you got lost in the information overload? Were you able to test yourself that you learnt what you were being asked to

The module is indeed short, but we need to do more than keep our Nano Learning modules short.

More than that, we need to keep them focused, and to-the-point. Ideally we should only teach ONE learning point per module. There’s no focus if we ATTEMPT to cover too many things.

The Good

Now try this Nano Learning module:

Good Nano Learning:

This 2nd module is short, just like the previous one. But there are several important differences:

(i) This module is to-the-point.

(ii) There are knowledge checks to make sure the learner stopped him/herself and reinforced the learning.

(iii) There is also good use of infographics, contextually-appropriate pictures and a very short, to-the-point video on how Nano Learning can be created.

In general, the rich media appeals to our learners’ right brains, creating emotional connections that imprint on memories more strongly.

In short, it is effective.

How do we create effective training?

LESS is often MORE: Resist the temptation to load in more and more information. This leads to loss-of-focus, and your effort is wasted.

SHOW; don’t TELL: Spend time sourcing or crafting visually clear media resources, be it infographics that display data or information, or demo videos.

The old adage “A picture is worth a thousand words” never goes wrong, as the learner doesn’t need to imagine what wordy descriptions actually mean.

KNOWLEDGE CHECKS: We learn best by testing ourselves continuously. Nano Learning modules that have regular Assessment (be it simple MCQ or Open-ended screens) do this effectively. The learner reinforces his/her learning, and there’s good data for L&D managers.

Create Effective Training now!

We trust these short tips helps you the L&D manager and trainer to create more effective training through Nano Learning — to supplement your workplace learning programmes.

Remember, crafting effective training requires more than mindlessly chopping up 100-slide Powerpoints into 15-minute bits.

Put thought into the pedagogical approach we suggested, and let’s all create better training for our teams.

Creating effective training for your teams, self-service, with ArcLab Pro is always free. Start now.

For more help or are resource-constrained, get in touch with us for ArcLab Enterprise, where our Instructional Designers can work with you to help craft your content into effective training. Reach out now.


Size Matters

Size Matters

Interactive Nano* Learning is small but POWERFUL learning.

(*Nano: 1 billionth (1/1000,000,000) a.k.a. bite-sized, digestible, very small)

NanoLearning: small but POWERFUL learning | Photo by Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash

In this Age of Digital Disruption, organisations need to keep employees’ knowledge and skills current.

For all of us, continuous retraining and upskilling is no longer optional. Not doing so puts us all at risk of our jobs being made obsolete and us being made redundant.

Two key factors have major implications for the way we conduct training in the workplace today, or educate our children in school for that matter.

  1. Knowledge gets outdated much more quickly today.
  2. Our attention spans now average 8 seconds (FYI the average goldfish’s is 9 seconds).

It is ineffective to have 3-hour lectures, where a trainer stands in front of the class and lectures without break, or learners doing anything ‘interactive’.

This is especially true for millennial learners, who no longer have deep fixated attention spans. Instead, millennials “multi-task”, where attention is divided amongst many concurrent activities (aside: our brains don’t actually focus on many different things at the SAME time, but rather, SWITCH between different areas of focus — more on this in a future piece).

It’s also questionable if one-way content delivery in training settings adds much value since there’s already so much knowledge and content that is readily-accessible on the web by learners. In fact, the proliferation of web and digital media also makes it harder to get learners’ attention.

When the ‘competition’ is the latest superhero movie or hit mobile game, the teaching & training profession has its work cut out, to design and deliver knowledge in a manner that at least captures learners’ attention (for those 8 seconds anyway), and more importantly, effect the learning.

There is a better way:

We’re talking about NANO learning: bite-sized, digestible, on-demand learning.

Effective learning.

2 quick points:

  1. Learning in short bursts is not new. For example, the Israeli army, on recommendation by Daniel Kahneman (of “Prospect Theory” fame in collaboration with Amos Tversky), converted the training of tank drivers from a series of 2-hour sessions to 30-minute bursts, during the 1970s Yom Kippur War. This helped tank drivers get educated more quickly and effectively, and reduced war fatalities.
  2. We’re not advocating that trainers and educators do nothing more beyond break down 3-hour lectures into 5 minute chunks — lock, stock and barrel. Nano Learning is more than simply putting a shrink ray gun on a classroom lesson and nothing else.

Nano Learning is a PEDAGOGICAL FRAMEWORK where we work through the entire content base and think hard how to package it into bite-sized, interactive modules that best help the learner understand and absorb the content and learning points.

We’ll talk more about the science and pedagogical aspects in a subsequent post, but first let’s think about how we can operationalise Interactive Nano Learning for our organisations.

How do we start?

So, what does an organisation’s Learning & Development team need to do, to put this in practice?

  1. Start Small (pun intended) — Rather than propose an institution-wide overhaul, start by securing the support of a small group of stakeholders, and use it to get corporate leaders’ buy-in.
  2. Involve the TRAINER — Interactive Nano Learning never REPLACES the trainer & the educator, and we should work with in-house (or external) trainers to repackage learning content into a series of bite-sizes. Remember that the human brain works well with packs of threes, so that might be a good number to reach for, to keep training digestible, and show a progression path.
  3. Reach the LEARNER — The average person today touches his/her phone more than 2600 times per day. So embrace technology that can help to deliver your training content TO YOUR LEARNER. Hence, a digital platform might be your best bet.

Ultimately, it is all about letting our data guide us. Does this new form of nano learning help deliver content in a better way?

Hence, it’s important that we set very specific milestones and desired end-outcomes, so that we can measure effectiveness, which will help us secure buy-in to extend the framework to more parts of our organisations.

A good way to start may simply be to take 1 specific training module, like a new-employee onboarding programme, and break it down into a bite-sized format.

This Nano Learning format can be sent to the new hire ahead of them joining your company, and contain key information that they need to know: Start date, who to report to, dress code (if any), things to bring/prepare for etc.

Then when your new employee shows up on Day 1, they at least have some knowledge in their minds, and helps ease them into the new environment.

Talent is the most important resource that every organisation has.

It takes time, effort and costs to search, interview, recruit and hire every new team member. If employees leave because they feel they are not being trained properly, the re-hiring for the role hurts the cost by explicitly adding to firm hiring costs, and implicitly by dampening morale (and increasing workloads) of team-mates who stay.

So it’s in every organisation’s interest to train employees properly all throughout their journey with the firm.

Interactive Nano Learning can be a big help in making this training bite-sized and on-demand, better delivering the requisite content and skills to members of your team.

Don’t take our word for it. Try it for yourself…

p/s: We’re excited to let you know that WE HAVE LAUNCHED ARCLAB PRO!

ArcLab Pro is a Software-as-a-Service web tool and platform that empowers organisations to build Interactive Nano Learning modules that can be easily distributed to teams to help them onboard and upskill.

ArcLab Pro provides easy-use templates, learner analytics, everything you need to effectively train your team with Interactive Nano Learning. There’s no software to download or install, no lock-in periods, no minimum number of learners.

Simply sign up, and start creating and investing in your team TODAY!


Learning in the age of Star Wars

Learning in the age of Star Wars

Star Wars fans all over the world eagerly await The Last Jedi. It’s an extreme vision of the frontiers of technology, though science fiction sometimes does lead to science fact.

Back on Earth, we’re seeing more drones around us, there are cars driving themselves, and many other new technologies that would fit right at home in Star Wars.

Positively, these new technologies and other innovations in robotics and artificial intelligence have potential to do much good for society.

Imagine robots doing all the work we find dangerous, dirty and/or repetitive, like that in Star Wars. Wouldn’t that make our lives better? Technology can also help us do more work with fewer workers and time, a boon as our societies age.

But the message that makes headlines is that of ROBOTS TAKING OUR JOBS AWAY.

While I ultimately view technology as neutral, there WILL be groups that are hurt and groups that gain.

Optimists point to the fact that with every major scientific breakthrough, society ultimately harnesses the innovations to create better (and more) jobs.

The “This Time is Different” crowd points to the increased pace of change for this particular transition, raising concerns that robots could displace many more workers much more quickly. This gives little time for the now-redundant workforce to learn new skills that the economy needs.

The person who loses his/her job due to technological innovation is NOT going to care that society overall has benefitted from the new technology. All (s)he experiences is the loss of a job and income, and uncertainty for the family’s future. The pain is felt at a PERSONAL level.

What about Learning?

The best thing to do is get prepared. Technology is a tool, and we can all learn how to use it to our advantage.

The learning can in fact be pretty fun, and accessible at all ages.

For our children, the folks at Tinkercademy teach the young (& young-at-heart) coding and electronics in a fun and relevant way.

The climax of a recent Tinkercademy coding class was a race of littleBits R2s droids to the finish line. VROOOM!!

Besides stoking “Fast & Furious” ambitions (no bad thing if properly applied), the kids learnt to use their hands and tools to build hardware, and learnt to program the software to control their R2 droids.

They mastered the technology. It became their friend.

Step 1 in preparing for life in the age of Star Wars.

What about Workplace Learning?

Learning can be fun for the working crowd too.

Crucially, it needs to be EFFECTIVE.

I was reading Star Wars from a Certain Point of View (yes, all about Star Wars here… ). The blue-boxed section is about the “e-learning” experience of officer from the Empire (the ‘bad’ guys), obviously ineffective.


Despite Star Wars’ technological advances, learning hasn’t quite kept pace…

It’s a reminder to us that education practices aren’t innovating enough compared to the breathtaking developments in other sectors.

That’s the irony. We are upgrading many parts of our economy, from retail to transport to finance to healthcare, with breakneck speed.

But we’re not upgrading the most important part as much or as quickly: Us, People. Human Beings.

That needs to change, and we’re working hard to help.

We’re working particularly hard to help up-skill the under-served groups of the economy: the factory worker, the F&B professional, the retail assistant, the store-clerk, the construction worker… traditional “Blue Collar” folk.

We believe that new (and newly-designed) jobs will be created in these existing industries and occupations, and their existing workforce needs the most help in up-skilling.

We’re focussing first on the efficacy of the learning, taking into account shortening attention spans, and our new on-the-go, on-demand lifestyles.

Here’s what’s in store:

Learning that is easily consume-able, effective, and not just “acknowledged” like that hapless Star Wars character I read about.

Learning that workers can access on-the-go, leads to tangibly better skills and hopefully higher pay.

Learning that is interactive, trackable and seamlessly integrated into HR practice, giving managers insight on their staff’s learning and helping them to holistically develop staff to contribute productively to business goals.

Learning that is holistic, effective, scalable and saves companies and managers time and cost.

Say hello to Learning in the Age of Star Wars.

Say hello to Interactive Nano Learning.

May the Force be with you <(-_-)>