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Does Your E-learning Training Pass the 3 Principles Test? (A look at Principle 3)

“When are we ever going to use this?”

We’ve all heard that familiar groan coming from students questioning the relevance of their education.

Although cliché, the question is a reasonable one: How is what I’m doing today applicable to what I will be doing tomorrow?

While a teacher’s vague response regarding the importance of gaining problem-solving skills and learning how to think  may be reasonable for a class of high school students, it will not suffice for your e-learning training program.

Training programs designed to improve job performance need to directly transfer to the job.

When you look over the content of your e-learning training program, you need to ask yourself whether it allows for maximum transfer of training to the job.

The ultimate goal of any training program, including e-learning, is to help learners transfer the skills and knowledge they have gained to real-world job applications. If learning is not transferred to the job, then time and money spent on training may have been wasted.

Here are four things you should consider if you want your e-learning training program to transfer to the job:

Include practice that simulates the job situation.

Practice should replicate tasks that are required on the job. Teaching higher-level skills, such as problem-solving and decision-making, outside the context of the job situation will not necessarily equate to these skills being used effectively on the job. Along with that, having learners simply demonstrate knowledge of new information without demonstrating how it will be incorporated in the job environment will likely not effectively transfer to the real-world job. Learners’ ability to recall and use information on the job will be improved if the cues and situations used during training are identical, or nearly identical, to those that are used on the job.

Include examples of expert performance.

Learners are more likely to acquire expertise in an area if they are shown the methods and thinking used by experts. E-learning needs to show learners the way an expert performs the skill, including appropriate thinking, problem-solving and decision-making used when performing the skill. In other words, not only do learners need experts to model their methods, but also they need the thinking behind the expert performance to be made visible. Using onscreen coaches and worked examples with explanations are two ways this can be done. When learners understand how an expert approaches a problem or performs a skill, they are more likely to emulate similar approaches.

Allow learners to compare their responses and strategies to those of an expert.

To help learners efficiently develop relevant job skills, they need opportunities to compare their performance to that of an expert. By providing a means for learners to assess their own thinking processes and strategies against those of an expert, learners will have a gauge for whether they are on the right track.

Promote the formation of learning communities.

By nature, people tend to gain expertise by sharing information, giving and receiving tips and ideas, with those who have similar interests. These types of interactions, which can easily occur in traditional, face-to-face classroom settings, need to be included in e-learning training programs. E-learning design can capitalize on this type of sharing by including training program elements that encourage learners to engage in meaningful exchanges of ideas. The use of blogs, discussion forums, synchronous events such as online conferencing, wikis, chats, message boards, and emails are all tools that e-learning can include to foster the development of learning communities.

“When are we ever going to use this?”

The answer should be a definitive: “On the job.”

When learners exit your e-learning training, they should be able to immediately transfer that training to their job.

During this 3-part series, I challenged you to put your e-learning training program to the 3 Principles Test:

Does your e-learning program…

optimize learning?
develop expertise?
transfer training to the job?

I’m interested in hearing about your challenges and thoughts regarding the 3 Principles of learning, and I invite you to return to read my future posts on e-learning where I’ll provide more concrete ways of applying the 3 Principles.

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