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What to Look For in a Technology-based Learning Program

November 1, 1999
With tighter training budgets, companies are seeking alternative methods of training professional development skills such as Sexual Harassment Prevention, Managing Difficult People, and Resolving Conflicts.

As a result of increased merger and acquisition activity and continued downsizing, companies need better ways to assimilate and retain employees, and improve their overall work force performance. An effective solution is technology-based learning, which is growing at 30% a year.

Unlike classroom training, technology-based learning offers consistency of training methodology and content, as well as the ability to track user participation and success. Development costs are also reduced, as are travel and employee time away from the office.

By offering realistic interactive simulations in the privacy of their own home or workspace, employees can practice without fear of embarrassing themselves or offending others, and immediately see the impact of a response in a given situation.

What to Look For in a Technology-Based Learning Program:

Learning objectives linked to business goals
Does the software content describe concrete learning objectives? Are these learning objectives in line with current, specific business goals?

Solid instructional design
Don’t mistake whiz-bang special effects for solid instructional design. Does the software adhere to the latest adult-learning techniques; namely, a self-directed, task-specific, learn-by-doing design?

Appropriate use of media
Is the program merely a reproduction of a workshop manual or binder? This "text under glass" approach rarely works. It’s difficult enough to get people to read a manual; try getting them to read lengthy text on a computer screen.

Engaging and interactive methodologies
Adults learn by doing. The software should engage the participant in realistic situations through a variety of interactive media, such as high-quality video, audio, and animation.

Realistic examples and situations
Adult learners want direct links between what they’re learning and real life. Cartoons may get a smile, but if they are irrelevant to the learner’s work environment, they are time wasters. Examples and situations used should grab the user’s attention and credence.

Friendly navigation
Effective technology-based learning is highly intuitive, enabling the learner to navigate through the program quickly and easily. Example: Users should be able to quit the program quickly at any time, and then return later to the exact spot in the program.

Skilled application assessment
All good technology-based professional development programs should be able to assess how well employees can apply the skills they are learning to real-life situations.

Tracking capabilities
One of the benefits of technology is its ability to compile critical information and facilitate analysis. Effective technology-based training can track results individually, departmentally, and organizationally.

Multiple deployment options
Most organizations have a wide variety of technological platforms. To make technology-based training available to as many people in the organization as possible, it should offer a variety of deployment options, such as CD-ROM, the Internet, or your organization’s Intranet.

When it comes to professional development software, it’s a mistake to simply rely on eye-popping graphics and attention-grabbing software. It all comes down to learning by doing—still the best, most effective learning method there is.

SOURCE: © 1999 HR Outlook newsletter, Drake Beam Morin. Reprinted with permission. For more information contact shari_critchley@dbm.com or visit Drake Beam Morin at http://www.dbm.com.