IMG_1035Much like monotone lectures or subtitled movies, there’s another contender for the “most likely to put you asleep” award – eLearning courses, often embedded in a LMS (Learning Management System). And it doesn’t bode well for your company’s training efforts if you rely on such a passive method of training.

Once upon a time, eLearning modules were praised as technological advances (and they were, briefly), but now I don’t know of many people who look forward to this mode of learning – do you? eLearning courses are hard to love, that’s for sure. This white paper on the topic, The Illusion of e-Learning: Why We Are Missing Out on the Promise of Technology, explores the crux of the dilemma. The typical “instructional strategy is reading text, watching a streaming video of the average instructor, or following an audio-over-PowerPoint presentation.” And “trainees often [find] the training dull, rigid, and not related to their work.”

None of this is new. Both the instructional methods and trainee reactions have been the norm since the launch of these products. And beyond an “unwillingness to insist on measurable outcomes” typical eLearning courses particularly fail in Operations & Maintenance (O&M) training for three reasons:

1) There is NO PRACTICE. Available technology is limiting the instructional strategy and students are fed one-way instructional content like videos, images, and voice overs.

2) There is NO FEEDBACK. ‘Next Page’ style courses don’t allow the opportunity for the user to get feedback on what step he/she did wrong and how to self-correct. Wouldn’t it be great if an alert popped up saying “Warning: you picked the wrong tool for this step“?

3) There is NO relevant TESTING. multiple choice questions don’t prove a technician can remove and replace a part. You know what does? – actually removing and replacing a part!

And looping back to outcomes, “three-fourths of corporations use course completion as a measure of effectiveness”  – and that makes little sense. Is that how YOU would measure effectiveness of anything? If you watch a cooking show, even if you paused to take notes, can you replicate what you saw a week later from memory? Merely completing watching something is not effective – and it certainly isn’t mastery, which is the ultimate goal of any training.

Practice IS everything. This is often misquoted as Practice makes perfect.”  – Periander.

The most telling comment in the “Illusion of Learning” study shared though was from an InformationWeek question (and response): “Does eLearning work? If I invite 50 people into a session, is there learning? If it’s well-structured, there’s the right content, we’ve taken care of who we invite, and there’s a payoff at the end, they’ll probably learn as well as they would in the classroom—which isn’t very well.”

But wait – so now we’re telling you that classroom learning doesn’t work very well either? Yes. Being told about something does not help you learn and remember it. Being shown something does a little better (though not much). True learning happens when participants can practice what they’re learning. We’ve covered the logic behind this in-depth before and there are many studies speaking to this as well – like this study from Purdue University comparing hands-on learning to lecturing where “researchers found that students who built the hands-on water purification system had ‘a deeper understanding’ of the concepts than the students who had lecture-based lessons.”

Why is that?

If there is no practice, there is NO TRAINING” – common field saying.

A check box on an LMS dashboard is not the same as going through 43 steps required to remove and replace a part yourself. Typical online eLearning courses mistake clicking ‘submit’ for interactivity.

How did this happen?

In our efforts to reduce training costs and expensive live training, we have, as an industry, reduced what used to be hands-on ‘engaged’ training into Powerpoint ‘next page’ style passive learning. And to compensate for that loss of engagement, some of us will embed some images, graphics and maybe even animations to show more. The problem with all of it is that it’s still a lot of ‘Showing’ and almost zero ‘Doing’.

Remember, when it comes to knowledge retention, people remember:

learn by doing retention pyramid diagram

This is where Virtual Training Simulations (or 3D Interactive Training) can bridge the massive gap between cost-prohibitive live training sessions and ineffective passive eLearning. Simulated learning – much like gaming – requires active participation.

You’ve likely seen people fall asleep watching movies, but not while playing a game! The key factors are Interaction and Participation. One is a monologue and the other is a round table discussion.

To explain this point visually, below is an example of how ‘Remove & Replace’ procedures are typically learnt online. Simply watching these graphics does NOT provide the same learning as actually performing it yourself.

Replacement of a Ferrari Testarossa clutch thrust race

Now consider this Virtual Training Simulation in comparison (below is a video capture of a user ‘in action’). It engages at every step, and gives feedback on the performance:

Which one would you want your operations and maintenance techs to complete? Which would provide the best long-term results – and ROI – for your training dollar?

To summarize, the three key pillars of effective Virtual Training today are:

1. Learn-by-Doing or practicing virtually – instead of seeing, reading or any other form.
2. Mobile and touch focused – Elegant and user-friendly apps, not complicated like a software program.
3. Uncompromising visual quality – closely mimics reality.

I know you have questions and I’m happy to answer them – particularly the tough ones! Please reach out here!