Advanced Learning & Training Techniques

Whether the medium is a textbook, computer, or the Internet, programmed learning (or programmed instruction) is a step by step, self-learning method that consists of three parts:

1. Presenting questions, facts, or problems to the learner.
2. Allowing the person to respond.
3. Providing feedback on the accuracy of answers.

Generally, programmed learning presents facts and follow-up questions. The learner can then respond and subsequent frames provide feedback on the accuracy of his or her answers. What the next question is often depends on the accuracy of the learner’s answer to the previous question.

Programmed learning’s main advantage is that it reduces training time. It also facilitates learning because it lets trainees learn at their own place, provides immediate feedback, and from the learner’s point of view reduces the risk of error. On the other hand, trainees do not learn much more from programmed learning than they would from a traditional textbook. You therefore need to weigh the cost of developing the manuals and/or software for programmed instruction against the potentially accelerated but not improved learning.

Literacy Training Techniques:

Functional illiteracy – the inability to handle basic reading writing and arithmetic is a serious problem at work. By one estimate, 50% of the US population reads below the eighth-grade level and about 90 million adults are functionally illiterate. For example, a survey of 316 employers concluded that about 43% of all new hires required basic skill improvements, as did 37% of current employees.

Employers are responding in two main ways. First, companies are testing job candidates’ basic skills. Of the 1,085 companies that responded to an American Management Association (AMA) workplace testing survey, 39% indicated they conduct basic skills testing. About 85% of the responding companies refuse to hire job applicants who are deficient in basic skills. About 3% test (and often reject) candidates for promotion based on their literacy scores.

The second response is to set up basic skills and literacy programs. For example, Smith and Wesson instituted a comprehensive program. A literacy audit revealed that many of the 676 factory employees fell below the required eighth-grade level. Formal classes were instituted to help employees raise their math and reading skills, and 70% of class attendees did so.

Since minorities are the fastest growing part of the US workforce, language training is no longer a one-way street. In many industries (such as the gaming industry) or locales customers speak a variety of languages, and for a company to thrive, its workforce may have to be bilingual. For example, Cash Creek Casino in Brooks, California, recently provided guest service training for its employees in English and separately in Spanish.

Employees with weak reading, writing or arithmetic skills may be reluctant to admit the problem. Supervisors therefore should watch for employees who avoid doing a particular job or using a particular tool, do not follow written directions or instructions; not take written phone messages; take written phone messages; take home forms to complete; or make the same mistakes repeatedly. Literacy training is sometimes one aspect for diversity training programs, as “The New Workplace” features illustrates.

Audiovisual-based training techniques like films, Power Points, video-conferencing audio tapes and videotapes can be very effective and are widely used. The Ford Motor Company uses videos in its dealer training sessions to simulate problems and sample reactions to various customer complaints, for example.

Audiovisuals are more expensive than conventional lectures but offer some advantages. Of course, they usually tend to be more interesting. In addition, consider using them in the following situations:

1. When there is a need to illustrates how to follow a certain sequence over time, such as when reaching fax machine repair. The stop-action, instant replay, and fast or slow-motion capabilities of audiovisuals can be useful here.
2. When there is a need to expose trainees to events not easily demonstrable in live lectures, such as visual tour of a factory or open heart surgery.
3. When you need organization wide training and it is too costly to move the trainers from place to place.

Simulated training (occasionally called vestibule training) is a method in which trainees learn on the actual or simulated equipment they will use on the job, but are actually trained off the job. This is a necessity when it is too costly or dangerous to train employees on the job. Putting new assembly-line workers right to work could slow production, for instance, and when safety is a concern as with pilots simulated training may be the only practical alternative.

Simulated training may take place in a separate room with the same equipment the trainees will use on the job. However, it often involves the use of equipment simulators. In pilot training, for instance, airlines use flight simulators for safety, learning efficiency, and cost savings, including savings on maintenance, pilot cost, fuel and the cost of not having an aircraft in regular service.

Simulated training is increasingly computer-based. In fact, computerized and Internet-based tools have revolutionized the training process. Specific methods include computer-based training, electronics performance support systems, and learning portals.

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