How to use learning technologies to improve learning transfer

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AuthorNick DaviesChief Commercial Officer (CCO)
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Reading Time8 minutes
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As hybrid models of working and learning become more common, learning technologies such as the learning management system (LMS) and learning experience platform (LXP) are powerful tools for creating effective blended learning strategies. According to Training Mag’s Training Industry Report, 28% of respondents consider technology and increasing remote training as the biggest L&D challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is a need for more investment in the technological infrastructure of L&D for remote and hybrid work environments.

So, what does this mean for learning transfer? Will it help or hinder the ability to apply the learning to daily work?

Learning in the flow of work

‘Learning in the flow of work’ is a term first coined by Josh Bersin in 2018. It refers to learning undertaken without causing disruption to daily work and reduces time away from the role for training.

With the help of learning technologies, employees can access the relevant learning content at the point of need. For example, perhaps an employee needs help setting up a new workflow in their marketing automation software. Logging into their learning system means employees can learn on the job without having to take time away for a lengthy course. It’s learning made efficient, relevant and convenient.

Think about how you access learning at the point of need in your own day-to-day life. When you have a problem—say, you don’t know how to work a particular function on a car music player—chances are, you’ll do a quick Google search on your smartphone and find a help video that can give you an answer in seconds. You wouldn’t want to be trawling through articles and videos about the different music players, unrelated information about the car or a round-up of price comparisons. Without searching for specific terms, the mammoth task of sifting through a rapidly-growing wealth of information proves frustrating and off-putting.

This is why curation is key.

The curation and aggregation of content is a key part of any learning system. The modern L&D practitioner no longer ‘spoon-feeds’ content to learners by creating content and pushing it to learners in classrooms and traditional online courses. Today, by using the appropriate technology, we can grant learners control of their own journey to give them a more personalised and self-led experience.

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For example, the Thinqi ‘Playlists’ feature is a handy tool that allows you to aggregate content from different sources quickly and easily, combining them into a single piece of learning content. This is achieved through an easy-to-use search function and a simple drag and drop tool. Found a brilliant article to complement a video or presentation? Add it to a playlist or simply bookmark it and it’s there for future reference, whenever it’s needed.

No fear of losing it in an ever-expanding sea of content—it’s right there for whenever it needs to be referred to again.

How can you guide employees to similar content to help them with their tasks? The answer is ‘tags’. Just as hashtags on social media can guide people to related content on a topic, tagging an article in Thinqi can allow a learner to click on the relevant tag from a useful resource, providing them with a Smartie-trail of related resources to help them solve their problems.

The result of learning in the flow of work is a modern approach that allows the acquisition of new skills to be applied directly to the work—minus the expense and time of days spent in the training room.

Good news for busy employees and great results for return on investment.

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Setting better objectives

We’ve already discussed how improving the objectives you set is key to guiding learners to success. What you set out as learning outcomes should be what you assess at the end of the learning journey, and aligned to performance key results. They should inform the design of the ongoing and final assessment activities that are critical to checking learners’ understanding and progress. Learning outcomes should also shape the feedback you provide learners.

Objectives completion in Thinqi will show that a person has performed in their role, then goes a step further to include a subjective rating, which shows just how well an employee has transferred that knowledge into performance. Managers can set objectives for their team members and align them with department goals to ensure everyone is working towards a shared vision of success.

When we consider the purpose of training and learning from a business perspective, the ultimate goal is to increase overall productivity and performance to achieve a defined standard. By ensuring that learning is applied at a team, departmental and organisational level, the result is a high-performing workforce ready for the future.

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Collaboration and social learning

For more effective learning transfer, we must refresh learners’ knowledge by encouraging them to participate in interactions that transfer knowledge across individuals (what Hagel, Seely Brown and Davison refer to as a ‘flow’ of knowledge). As learners discuss problems collectively, they are learning from shared practice as well as from the previous experiences or mistakes of their peers.

This is why facilitating opportunities for collaboration and social learning is crucial for maximising the success of learning transfer.

Today’s learning technologies allow you to harness collaborative, informal learning and make it centralised in one virtual space to be accessed from anywhere at any time. Creating networks of employees and allowing them to join communities of practice pertaining to similar areas of work, themes or disciplines is a good start. Ideally, these should allow free discussion and a safe environment to share ideas, multimedia, solutions and suggestions. The best solutions allow employees to create their own networks to focus on nuances or in-depth analysis and give them the opportunity to invite colleagues to join the discussion.

When learning is relevant, available at the point of need and is easily accessible, it becomes a natural occurrence. The more people share knowledge, ask questions and engage with each other, the more we are able to bridge the gap between learning and application, and strengthen the efficacy of transfer.

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Rewarding learning and application of knowledge

Many of today’s learning systems incorporate badges and rewards to acknowledge the completion of learning activities. However, they don’t always take into account the application of knowledge in the workplace.

Thinqi’s badges feature lets you manually award badges for activities that occur outside of the learning system and on the job. These can form part of compound badges, which incorporate rewards for learning activities completed and real-world application.

For example, a compound badge for a new hire in the sales team might look like this:

  • Badge 1 - Complete the sales induction training course. This badge is automatically awarded upon successful completion of the module in the learning system.
  • Badge 2 - Make 5 sales calls, successfully demonstrating the processes taught in the induction module. This badge is manually awarded, as the activity happens through observation outside of the learning system.
  • Badge 3 - The parent badge is awarded upon successful completion of badges 1 and 2. Once this badge is earned, the introductory sales training is complete.

In the book ‘Transferring Learning to the Workplace, Mary L. Broad defines learning transfer as “...the effective and continuing application by learners—to their performance of jobs or other individual, organisational, or community responsibilities—of knowledge and skills gained in learning activities.”

Regular, continuous opportunities to apply new skills are critical for counteracting the effect of Ebbinghaus’ ‘forgetting curve’ and ensuring successful transfer of learning.

In summary…

The right choice of learning technology is your enabler for more effective learning transfer. By facilitating learning in the flow of work, aligning objectives, rewarding knowledge and application, and promoting collaboration, you can help to successfully build a high-performing workforce that doesn’t just have the knowledge, but can also apply it too.

With the insights afforded by in-depth reporting and working closely with line managers, you can gauge the impact learning has on application and continue to refine for success.

Learning transfer? The power is in your learning system.

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