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ONLINE TRAINING: how to keep motivation strong when zapping is the new norm?

26/04/2017

Learners are increasingly able to find information for themselves, thanks mainly to widespread use of the internet (Google, Wikipedia, etc.).

There is a huge body of tutorials, how-to videos and discussion forums by line-of-business experts online, making it quick and easy to find the solution to many work-related problems.

So what does an ultra-connected learner stand to gain from the distance or blended training courses offered by his company, which are not as instantaneous or fast as his own search results?

And if the learner has to take the training course anyway, how can the trainer get him lastingly engaged in the course when he has to make time for it in his everyday workflow?

To keep learners’ motivation strong, many think the answer is to shorten the average duration of e-learning solutions. The duration has been cut down to 10 to 15 minutes, or even much less in the case of videos, whereas it used to be more like 30 to 45 minutes just a couple of years ago.

Talking point

Can motivation, which is a decisive success factor for a training course, be maintained from a distance?

What we know

Our lifestyles and our fragmented digital practices increase the risk of diluting our motivation for distance-learning courses, as shown by the high drop-out rate for MOOCs.

Moreover, the question of how to keep school students motivated in the digital age is a broad-based issue that has the French national education system worried and is not specific to the education and training community.

Philippe Carré devised a model that presents the different motivations of the learner. These motivations are seldom unequivocal: it is more a matter of working out which of the many motivations is the «dominant» one.

It is easy to deduce from this model that these motivations should always be taken into consideration when designing a training programme, since they underpin the achievement of all of the objectives the learner has set for his training, whether implicit or explicit.

In addition to working out what prompts an individual to train, it is interesting to note that there is often a misunderstanding in companies, which might explain, at least in part, the gap between the course design and the way its users perceive it. In his motivation model, Philippe Carré underscored the difference that often exists between HR departments’ motivations and employees’ motivation when courses are being organised. HR departments often have economic objectives (cut costs, sell more, etc.) while employees are more motivated by a desire for greater personal fulfilment in their work or a desire to increase their value on the job market (vocational objective). The annual Cegos survey has even revealed the predominance of the «professional operative» motivation (do one’s work better) over the career advancement motivation.

What we think about it

MOTIVATION CAN’T BE FORCED

The learner has to be involved and made to feel personally responsible. One of the success factors for a course lies in its «co-construction by the learner himself». The good news is that e-learning modules, more than any other course format, provide ways to engage the learner and support him through to the end of his training:

  • Needs targeting can now be refined using the various online evaluation and self assessment tools. Right from the beginning of his training, the learner can be guided directly to a suitable learning path for his level of competency, with a very clear picture of the benefits he can expect to reap.
  • Defining learning objectives is made easier by the use of specific online training modules. For example, a video will show a specific movement, the learner can join an online community to tap into other people’s knowledge or obtain explanations, etc.
  • Answers to specific situations can be provided more rapidly. Tutoring by subject matter experts, either online or in classroom situations, and either synchronous or asynchronous, has become an increasingly common feature in companies’ blended training programmes. In 2011, tutoring by subject matter experts was a training method used in 20% of the blended training projects entered in the e-Learning Excellence Awards (a ceremony organized by Cegos which distinguish for 6 years the best multimodal learning systems). This percentage has steadily risen, reaching 60% of the projects entered in the 2014 edition.
  • There is greater responsiveness to changes in job fields and knowledge, to suit people’s character and psychological makeup.

The more the formats offered match the learner’s preferred learning channels, the more effective the training will be (one learner might prefer a book, another a series of videos, another articles, yet another quizzes, etc.). Digital solutions offer enormous possibilities in this respect.

This notion of customising learning strategies is one of the essential keys to activating learners’ motivation.

This is why training portals are becoming the norm: they offer several different types of training methods, suited to individual learning preferences.

Learners are offered a standard training course, but are free to choose to suit their affinities (entry by type of resources), the time available, and the problem they want to address first.

Successful training programmes are those that can cater for each learner’s preferences. A good example of this is the CFPB (banking industry training centre), which won the Cegos e-Learning Awards in 2012. The organization set up an extensive training programme on the theme of «anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing». The programme owed its success largely to the very flexible format of the learning modules in synchronous and asynchronous mode: e-learning modules, quizzes, presentations, classroom learning, etc. Its success also stemmed from the fact that the exercises, which were based on real-life examples, were both fun and serious. And lastly, the highly personalised nature of the practice exercises: participants could choose between three learning styles: «guided», «supported» or «free».

The result was a «bespoke» training course, tailored to each participant’s level of experience.

HUMAN RESOURCES MUST EVOLVE TOO

Today the role of Human Resources departments and training managers is more to fuel the motivation ecosystem than to build courses. The aim is no longer simply to train people: we also need to create the right conditions for people to learn.

  • Personal Knowledge Management is a key skill, and one of the foundation skills identified in the training & development Reform. Quite apart from the legal requirements, it is a skill that allows the company to benefit from all of its employees’ individual initiatives.

It also lets employees go «over and above» the training programmes offered by in-company training departments. Learners no longer train out of obligation but because they see the training offered as complementary (and doubtless more reliable) to any courses done outside the company setting.

To reap the benefit of learners’ self-study initiatives, companies need to let out the reins, let learners study where they will, and even accept that they might not follow the course through to the end.

from Innovation Handbook, Cegos, 2016