I Can’t Make You Learn a Thing! Let the Machines Do It!

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    Can we use multiple modalities for training materials? Of course, we can.

    Really! What you learn is up to you. Retention works best if it is self-motivated. But it is up to us trainers and managers to give you the best means of obtaining the information you need and are motivated to learn. There are various methods and modalities. By methods, I mean approaches to training; by modalities, I mean training tools or channels by which we deliver the training.

    Can we use multiple modalities for training materials? Of course, we can. We can suit individual tastes, preferences really, and select the appropriate method or modality to fit the subject, importance and depth of the training; however, several questions need to be addressed first.

    From the employer: what is most cost effective? It is usually not cost effective to use more than one modality at a time, although I could be wrong, and I think to mix in several types of training may prove unwieldy by training managers unless it is done in large enough groups at separate times to make it feasible.

    I like the idea of the flexibility and the fact that we can take into account the employee’s preference, but sometimes it is just not practical. This may be one time where the welfare of the many outweighs the few. Yet, there are times when the training result itself is considered less important than just administering the training. Time management and prioritizing decisions must be made, it makes perfect sense to use these modalities on the more “no-brainer” kind of training that is really intended to be constant reminders of behavior and proper decorum in the workplace rather than a productivity issue.

    The following questions were asked by a Gov Loop colleague:

    “Which modalities should be offered for employee training based on our road to utilizing more technology?”

    That is to assume we are on a road to using more technology in training and that is what we desire. When you read on I think you’ll see that I think there are some inherent problems in overusing technology to communicate ideas and train individuals and groups without an immediate interface for feedback. Admittedly, there are some very good programs out there, but, if I had to choose, it would be one that is as interactive as possible. There is not really a way to see when the “subject” employee has disengaged mentally though.

    “Secondly, should different modalities be offered to different groups of employees?”

    Yes and no.

    Not to stereotype generations, but perhaps more traditional training methods to be utilized on older, more traditional employees – and modern-day modalities (e-learning, digital training modules) for the tech-savvy employees. What are your thoughts?

    There is an assumption that modern “modalities” or media environments are more effective for the tech-savvy employees. First and foremost, these tech-savvy employees are still employees who have the same needs as other employees, and that doesn’t rule out that face-to-face communication where direct interaction is important doesn’t work for them. Second, I think with all the emphasis on technology and the “newer” generations we may have a bigger problem. What we may gain in their technical savvy we lose in people skills–the ability to listen and respond in kind to others. This is not just a social concern.

    Schools are already seeing students who can’t communicate with others face-to-face. I’ve had students so shy they couldn’t look at me because most of their lives they were able to hide behind technology. The most prevalent mode of communication for young people today is texting, not talking.

    Teaching writing today is about unlearning bad habits and trying to incorporate the positive ones students need in life to get along and work with his fellow man or woman.

    Teaching speech is getting students to think on their feet and interact with people. That job is getting more difficult. Is it the result of the abundant use of technology.

    All that’s left now is for someone to invent a hand-held gadget that has everything we can put on a computer and we won’t have to know anything except how to look up information.

    Social technology? Who would have thought? What about intimate social relationships based on the ability to communicate with one another. Through texting?

    There was a time when being an antisocial “nerd” was laughable; now it is something to be proud of. Is this a trend we want to see develop? Not that I have anything against the techno-savvy stereotype. Granted the world is changing and we must change with it, but as people become more disconnected from each other problems develop. Think bigger. World wars happened when one country has been totally focused within.

    This may be more than my Gov Loop colleague wanted, to be sure, but it is an area of training that concerns me.

    What also concerns me is the plethora of methods and modalities available to be sold not by trainers or training experts, but by entrepreneurs marketing what sounds good–not necessary what works in all situations or with all groups of people. Sometimes an employer can’t tell the difference. A good, experienced trainer can.

    With the grim economy improving ever so slightly, we see businesses move in to encourage those dollars to change hands. The marketing of training tools has increased more as desperate employers are trying to be more efficient with their training dollars and still make their companies more productive. Training people well does make that possible in many cases, but it’s those cases where the training dollars aren’t spent on “professional training” that concerns me–those times when the training tools are touted by salespeople, not training professionals to do the same thing. If the person engaged in buying these services is not a training professional, it makes sense to ensure the products do what you want them to do–even if you have to hire a professional trainer or consultant to determine that. And, it’s probably cost effective as well.

    For what it’s worth, it makes the job all the more difficult for legitimate vendors as well as trainers. Well, ’nuff said on that topic for now.

    All that’s left now is for someone to invent a hand-held gadget that has everything we can put on a computer and we won’t have to know anything except how to look up information. Oh, wait, we have that. It’s a Smart Phone. Won’t be long before they no longer have a phone so we don’t have to talk to anyone. Wait! That would be a tablet.

    Now, I’m making fun, but we do need to be careful in how much we depend on technology to teach humans how to perform better. Faster and cheaper isn’t always better, is it? What about flexibility and creativity? And, there is the final caveat: I can’t teach you anything if you don’t want to learn it.

    There is more than one good thing about using various modalities. Some people are willing to use them because they are convenient; however, that doesn’t necessarily make them more effective. And, sometimes these modalities are more effective. At least cost effective. They also may be the most appropriate in certain training environments.

    I have no doubt I will stir some comments with this article, but that’s what you get from the cave man trainer. My philosophy lies in simple, basic, audience-approved training. Check out more of my radical ideas on my web page. I actually write and and rant about other topics besides training like public speaking, speech consulting, theatre arts and communication in general. My book, The Cave Man Guide to Training and Development is available through most major vendors of eBooks, including direct from Smashwords. My novel, Harry’s Reality, is being distributed by Amazon e-books. In it I look at what happens when people stop talking face-to-face, content to let the machines do all the work. Their fantasies and realities are one and the same until it all goes wrong.

    Don’t let your day go “wrong.” Happy Training.

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