Knowledge Acquisition and Skill Acquisition Are One Continuum
There is a continuum between knowledge acquisition and skill acquisition. The best way to really help learners battle the forgetting curve is to actually get them in a state where they are practicing the use of this knowledge. And when they're doing that in realistic situations, learners are taking that knowledge and making it personal and part of their story – greatly increasing retention.
Situational Decision-Making Is Something We Can All Learn
There are two components of skill acquisition: practice and coaching. Practicing alone is not very effective, and coaching is the catalyst. If you have an expert mentor guiding the way, the learning curve goes up dramatically. Practice and coaching must be combined to be the most effective.
We all would want someone coaching us on how they actually think through and make decisions. A coach's goal is to make their mental models more visible to the learner, so the learner can start incorporating those models into their thinking. As such, situational decision making is linked to the mental models of the coach.
What Can L&D Professionals Be Doing to Improve Learning Design and Delivery?
Most organizations know how to train employees on a one-to-one basis. However, many L&D professionals are challenged with training new staff every year, or with training very large teams on complex processes. Scale continues to be an issue with training.
Training Managers to Become Experts and Coaches Doesn't Work
Often times, subject matter expertise is held by only a few individuals within a company. It's not easy to transfer this knowledge to managers. Additionally, making managers coaches, which often happens in the sales world, can be problematic as well. Video and webinars may solve the geography issue, but they're passive, impersonal, and lack interactivity.
How Technology Helps Training
The start should not be with technology itself, but rather with identifying your organization's learning and performance gaps, then asking how technology can bring about behavior change. Figure out what you really want to scale and automate, so that you can free up your trainers, coaches, and managers to focus on more high impact activities. What was once a one-on-one exercise can now be carried out with technology, bringing cognitive science principles to life.
Realism in Virtual Training
In face-to-face workshops, there is often role playing or case studies. However, the virtual experience needs to feel as real as possible so that the learner can transfer that to the real world. "High-fidelity simulations" have been proven in medicine, military, aviation, and other fields, to not only improve retention but also transfer to real-world situations and effect behavior change. If it's a conversation, you really want to create a virtual conversation.
What Would I See as a Learner?
The learner is immersed in a realistic situation, where there are virtual humans. For example, there could be a sales professional and a prospect, and the learner is making decisions on how best to proceed. The learner is also receiving virtual coaching feedback as they move forward.
We've developed the technology for the Web browser, which can be accessed via any device, including mobile phones. Learners may not necessarily be at their desk when they need a refresher, so we've made 'learning on the go' a possibility.
Our technology was developed in large part from several Small Business Innovation Research awards from the National Science Foundation.