Velg Training: Next week is National VET PD Week

About Velg Training

velg.jpgIf you are not a member of Velg Training or haven’t even heard of them before, its time to check them out: www.velgtraining.com

Even if you don’t have a paid membership, you can be a Follower for free and get regular updates on the industry that Emergency Services Training works within. The website itself has a good knowledge hub for resources to help ensure you have compliant training and assessment.

Note: there are several Emergency Services that keep an organisational Membership that you might be able to access.  Talk to your L&D team.

National VET PD Week

Next week, from 23-27th October, Velg Training and ACPET are hosting the inaugural National VET PD Week!

You can check out all the offerings by clicking here: 10 experts, 10 webinars over 5 days

For those of us with limited time and budget for getting our own development, there may be something that interests you. At $49 for the webinar, it is a small investment but cheaper than many other offerings around at the moment.

Some of the topics were sounding particularly interesting for Trainers and Assessors, not just developers! How about…

  • Effective Training Techniques – Understanding how to use C.O.R.E. – Closers, Openers, Revisiters, Energisers
  • How to change your teaching style to accommodate different learning levels (AQF levels)
  • Five challenges for Assessor

Velg Training issues certificates of attendance, so you will have evidence to help show how you are maintaining your currency in VET skills.

Note: Brio Consulting has no affiliation with Velg Training (although we choose to maintain our membership with them for our own PD purposes)

Overcoming Optimum Bias

Would you cross the road at this 80 KPH location?

median

What about if a 10 year old child was crossing the road with you?
What about if you knew that two pedestrians have been killed at this location?

Would you stand unsecured on the edge of a 12 storey building?

edge

What would you change in your thinking if someone told you that getting hit by a car travelling at 80kph as you crossed the median strip was equivalent to falling off a 12 storey building?

Sometimes our perceptions and risk assessments look on the bright side of things…

Let’s talk about Optimum Bias

Optimism bias (also known as unrealistic optimism) is a cognitive bias that causes a person to believe that they are at a lesser risk of experiencing a negative event compared to others.

I first heard this term at an Ambulance Service NSW training session on risk assessment, and have not heard anyone refer to the term since… but the concept is so true, and gives a label to an idea I know some trainers and assessors try to raise awareness of in any training and risk assessment they are involved in.

Research says that optimum bias transcends characteristics such as gender, race or age. Each of us have this bias, influenced by the following factors:

  1. Our desired end state (goals)
  2. Our style of thinking and decision making
  3. The beliefs we have about ourselves versus others
  4. Our overall mood

While this concept can help our thinking in positive ways, research shows that it is more likely to have negative effects – leading us to engage in activities that hold more risk, or us not taking the right precautionary measures for safety.

What might this look like in the Emergency Services?

Do you (or someone you know) display any of the following?

  • Responders who tend to focus on finding information that supports what they want to see happen, rather than what will actually happen to them
  • Team members who are overly confident about their skill set… until they find out they are going to be tested on it (then they get quite modest)
  • Officers who believes they will not be harmed in a car accident if they are driving the vehicle because they are in control
  • Officers who tend to think in stereotypes rather than the actual targets when making comparisons, e.g. bad drivers cause crashes (discounting all the average drivers who also are involved in crashers), or low socioeconomic demographics have higher levels of heart disease and heart attacks (discounting all those people of high socioeconomic backgrounds in other areas that also have heart disease)
  • Team members who bases risk assessments on their own specific experiences and feelings, while ignoring what may be experienced by others and the average person
  • Responders who thinks the risk is lower or “it won’t happen to me” until a familiar person, such as a friend or family member, is involved in an incident or has that problem

These are all examples of optimum bias.

What might be key consequences be of not considering our optimum biases when we work?

  • Less effective risk assessment of situations we are putting ourselves and team mates into
  • Not taking enough preventative measures to ensure the safety of ourselves and others
  • Getting ourselves into tricky situations or causing further damage when we overestimate our ability
  • Missing possible causes of situations (or health conditions) from having a selective view of things

What can we do to reduce optimum bias in our work?

Studies have shown that it is very difficult to eliminate optimistic bias; however, raising awareness of and reducing this bias could encourage people to adapt to more risk-aware behaviours. More specifically, we can try to:

  • Keep it close to home: encourage comparison and thinking of ourselves and those close to us. This heightens our emotions and our level of concern about risks
  • Increase experience and exposure: actually experiencing an event leads to a decrease in optimum bias. This is hard to do in many Emergency Service situations – so think about the importance of simulations, scenario based training and purposeful sharing of experiences to help build memory slides in individuals. At the very least having an awareness of the previously unknown will reduce the optimism of “it will never happen to me”
  • Make sure you consider the big picture: stand back and take a situation in – don’t focus too early on specific theories, or don’t eliminate other possibilities until you have more data and observations to give you a good picture of what else might be happening
  • Expect the unexpected: just because you haven’t seen it happen before doesn’t mean that it can’t or won’t happen. Look up “black swan” theory if you are interested in this idea.

Language, Literacy, Numeracy (LLN) in Australian Emergency Services

The Challenge

Historically the emergency services have conducted a high percentage of face to face, hands on practical training.  However with the move to nationally accredited training and the introduction of the Public Safety Training Package  in the late 1990’s (as well as changes in community expectations, legal pressures and changing technologies) there has become an increase in written training materials, pre-course work, self-directed learning and online training. While creating opportunities for flexible learning, this increasingly raises the issue of Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN).

If you accept that the members of our emergency services are a representation of the Australian community they serve, then it is possible that 13.7% of the members have literacy levels of 1 or lower (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013). This figure is consistent with other research into volunteer emergency services, which found that of those surveyed, 15% indicated that literacy was an issue for them. The sector is increasingly facing LLN challenges due to the diverse nature of our workforce.

The History

foundation

Despite there being Government policies and programs for decades, many expert groups have felt LLN skill development has not been given the value, funding or attention it deserves.  More specifically,  programs that have been developed are fragmented, contradictory and contain ad hoc strategies.

After 20 years of no new policy, 2012 saw the long-expected release of the National Foundation Skills Strategy (NFSS) which introduced a change in LLN terminology – no longer being referred to as LLN skills but as Foundation Skills – which was defined as a combination of English language, literacy, numeracy and employability skills. The introduction of this strategy and the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF), has seen qualifications for trainers and assessors updated to focus more on meeting the needs of adult literacy and numeracy needs. This was acheived through the inclusion of an additional compulsory competency (currently TAELLN411).

Actions Taken

This competency has been rolled out to many members of the Emergency Services (specifically those required to hold the Cert IV in Training and Education) however for many more mentors, or trainers who hold only the Enterprise Trainer and Assessor skill sets, this professional development may have passed them by.

More recently, most emergency service organisations have introduced documentation of the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF) levels into their training and assessment material to assist with identifying the necessary levels needed to undertake the training/assessment. Whilst some changes have been made within training materials to better reflect these levels a lot of training and assessment tasks still involve the completion of large amounts of reading, and tests such as multiple choice or written questions.

Generally all necessary documentation used by trainers, assessors and learners now includes a statement about how learners who require extra support can access this. Information is also included in learner/student handbooks if produced by the organisation. This in part links to requirements for maintaining RTO compliance.

With regards to online learning, organisations have started including the use of voice over, video support and a better percentage of animation/graphics to text to reduce literacy load of content – however online learning also presents an increased issue of digital literacy issues.

Many individual trainers and assessors within organisations have used various strategies informally to meet the learner requirements  – including the provision of practical, hands-on training, reader and writer support and spending additional time on written material where required.

Some organisations have introduced foundation skills testing as part of the recruitment process to identify learner issues that may require support – or to ensure learners hold the minimum required levels for their roles prior to being offered a position. This strategy has proved more challenging (logistically, financially and ethically) for the volunteer emergency services than services employing full time members.

Some organisations are beginning to introduce policy and guidelines to provide specific or practical suggestions to support trainers and assessors, or have identified “specialist” support personnel within the organisation that can be contacted for further guidance.

There is no doubt that emergency service organisations know that these issues exist – however without some clear cut, more recent data everyone is using best guesses to determine exactly how much of an issue our sector may have. With so many other competing demands, it’s also unsurprising that budget and time to develop support strategies and documentation for LLN/Foundation Skills is not a top priority.

Moving Forwards

So for those of us who are face to face with the learners who require extra support, what options do you have if you feel that organisationally the whole LLN/Foundation Skills thing is a bit wishy washy? Or that what is provided isn’t enough to meet the needs you have?

  • Contact someone – on a case by case basis, talk to your L&D Officer, your state level L&D Section or your identified LLN specialist in the organisation. Get some specific advice and help.
  • Look outside the organisation – within our sector another organisation may have some information that can help you out, such as guidelines or strategies that they suggest work for the type of training we all do.
  • Look outside the sector – there is a HEAP of specialist websites and organisations designed to support learners with needs and give suggestions for trainers and assessors who are working with them.
  • Encourage the individual learner to seek support and development – they can contact the Reading/Writing Hotline, or take a basic course at TAFE designed to develop adult literacy and numeracy skills.  This could be a chance to improve not just their participation in your training, but a chance to improve their future learning and opportunities in life.
  • Do some Professional Development for your own benefit – even if your organisation isn’t offering anything in this area at the moment, it doesn’t need to stop you!

Check out these suggestions:

 

This blog post comes thanks to the research and writing contributions
of Natalie Cassone

Training Tweak: Demonstrations

A word I love finding in training sessions is “demonstrate” or “show”. This is quite a traditional training strategy which works from the understanding that you can learn by doing, and that skills can be developed by imitation.

A great thing about demonstration is that visual learners will get the idea much better when they can see it with their own eyes, rather than try to understand a verbal explanation.

There is however a particular method of demonstrating a skill that is (in my opinion) superior to many others. It will support visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learners, while also reducing the need to retrain the brain after a skill has been imitated and learnt incorrectly (It takes about 40 instances of conscious effort to retrain the brain to do something the right way automatically, so let’s just get it right the first time!)

While many trainers may know know this demonstration method, I am spreading the message to anyone who can benefit from this tweak.

So let’s start by learning a little rhyme. Whenever you see the word “demonstrate” in a training session plan, you should be saying this in your head:

I show you once,

I show you slow,

We do it together,

Off you go!

These are the four steps to ensure a great demonstration. Let’s break it down a bit more.

1. I show you once

Emphasis on show. Close your mouth. This step is not an explanation – it is a full speed demonstration, providing an excellent example of what the skill should look like when done by a competent person.

2. I show you slow

Now you can talk while you show. This is your step by step explanation of what you just showed – sharing those tips and checks that a competent person knows, so learners will know when they have done it the right way. Learners can ask questions and clarify their understanding.

3. We do it together

Now its time for you to be quiet again. You are a puppet – the learners will tell you what to do, and you will do the skill. This helps them to clarify their understanding and show you that they have remembered all the key things. You can pick up mistakes before things are cemented into brains the wrong way. You can prompt with questions or ask for further direction if you need to. Using this format, everyone’s attention is still on the same person and same conversation. (Alternatively, if you can manage to keep everyone together, then each learner can do it at the same time while talking through the steps).

Note: This step is crucial, but it is often the one trainers forget or skip. If you want to make sure learners are confident and have a clear, correct idea of what to do take the time to do this step right.

4. Off you go!

As a trainer you can now be confident that the learners have the right idea as to what needs to be done. They can go and practice independently… but don’t get complacent – your job is not quite done! You now need to observe and check every learner – to make sure that they are doing it the right way, and to give tips and tricks to make the skill easier based on what they are doing. Encourage learners to verbalise the steps to help reinforce it in their brains.

Another hint: For large, long, or complex skills, don’t forget to chunk it into smaller pieces for demonstration, before putting it all together.

Now let’s break this down to see how this supports different learners:

  1. I show you once: Visual
  2. I show you slow: Visual, auditory
  3. We do it together: Visual, auditory, sometimes kinaesthetic
  4. Off you go: Kinaesthetic, auditory

Does this way take more time… yes it can do. But consider it a saving of time you won’t need to spend providing a ton of feedback, corrections and further explanations.

TWEAKED

Social Media Learning

I have started cyber-stalking someone across several social media platforms. She doesn’t know it yet… but I am fascinated by the way she is interacting in different communities of practice and the way she is contributing to social media learning in these different forums.

I think when I get the chance to eventually speak with her in person, I want to ask her questions like:

  • What’s your motivation for spending your time and effort sharing all this information and links on these social media groups?
  • What benefits are you getting from doing this?
  • How do you get your learning and developments needs met?
  • How do you find all this great information to share?
  • What is your understanding of social media learning?

About social media learning

Do some research on Albert Bandura and you will learn about Social Learning Theory – that people learn through observing others’ behavior, attitudes, and the outcomes of those behaviors. Social media learning is a more generic take on this, where people in a common online environment observe one another – comparing themselves against each other, and use each other as a neutral source of information, which may help their own learning.

Social media learning and the Emergency Services

If you are on social media and part of an organisation, you may already be aware of different social media groups you can join. For example, there are:

  • Closed groups on Facebook for members only – generic questions and discussions about working in the organisation, e.g. NSW RFS members, St John Ambulance NSW State Operations Group, VICSES Volunteers, MFB Friends
  • Groups on Facebook aimed specifically at subsections of the organisation – including trainers and assessors, e.g. NSW RFS young members group, NSW SES Training Coordinators,  CFA Community Safety Coordinators
  • Groups (usually closed) on Facebook for specific locations – such as a branch, brigade or unit to discuss local issues, e.g. NSW RFS Illawarra District, CFA District 8 Members Group, NSW SES Ryde Unit, ASNSW Induction Course 225
  • Network groups on Linkedin – based on common interests or organisations, e.g. AIDR, AFAC, Professionals in Emergency Management, National RTO Network
  • Twitter hashtags (#) that you can search to see certain threads, or perhaps particular thought leaders or key individuals who post interesting information and generate conversation that has others from the sector joining in and sharing, e.g. Shane Fitzsimmons, Craig Lapsley, Stuart Ellis, Katarina Carroll, EmergencyVol, Emergency.Life 

Benefits of Social Media Learning in the Emergency Services Sector

For those who can’t remember time before social media and online communities, this is just a normal part of connecting and learning. For those of us who are digital immigrants, this can open up a whole new world of opportunities.

We are a comparatively small sector, often divided by geographical locations and the daily reality of shift work and competing priorities. Social media learning offers a way to connect with other thinkers and learners, be exposed to new ideas, find out about new technology and to hear various points of view on different issues. It doesn’t matter where you are or when you can log on, you can still be a part of the conversation. As a bonus, you can often get a more holistic view on things and a wider variety of tried and tested ideas if your group includes participants from different areas and organisations/states.

Each person can customise their networks, groups and connections to align with their individual roles, interests and development areas. It’s a great example of differentiated and student-led learning.

You can ask questions and post problems – taking advantage of the social collective to help thrash out some ideas (at any time of the day or week) and you will often be offered starting points and links for further research.

You can be as passive or actively involved as your inclination and free time allows.

These groups can be a great way to maintain your professional/vocational currency and to develop your knowledge and skill sets. It may also present opportunities for face to face PD events that you wouldn’t otherwise have heard about.

Hopefully there are also enough experienced members or those with expertise who have also joined the world of online communities to share knowledge and experience with those new to the sector.

Shout Out

To those already involved in the online communities, and who so proactively share articles, pictures and ideas that they have found with the rest of us – thank you! Thanks for making the learning of the rest of us easier (and hopefully it doesn’t make us lazier and too reliant on you!)

Take the Leap: Rediscover Learning

learningleap

September 1st – 8th is National Adult Learner’s Week!

Learning is a lifelong activity that shouldn’t end with schooling or basic training. There are so many different opportunities for us to continue learning throughout our lives! Adult Learner’s Week is about showing the breadth of opportunities available for adults who want to learn – and they say that there are about eight million Australians learning for work or pleasure each year.

Rediscovering learning for some of us is about getting prepared for a new job or career change, while for others its about gaining life skills, giving back to their community, building confidence, or (one of our favourites) simply to pursue a passion or interest.

There are so many benefits to being a lifelong learner!

  1. Opportunities for new roles – staying up to date and being flexible – you are more able to adapt to change
  2. Personal satisfaction and increased self-esteem from completing something challenging
  3. Taking advantage of the freedom to learn as an adult – in the way, time and place that suits you
  4. Keeping your mind sharp and thinking flexible as you get older
  5. Opportunities to meet new people and make new connections

Our world is changing around us in such a frantic pace that if we do not continue to grow and develop; we will soon be left behind. In the 21st century, we all need to be lifelong learners. We need to continually keep our skills sharp and up to date so that we have an edge in all we do. Of course, we all have a natural desire to learn for adapting to change, enriching and fulfilling our lives.

Source: lifelong learning – why do we need it?

How long has it been since you did something for your own learning and development? What are your goals at the moment?

  • Check out available courses through your organisation, or think about all the other places that are offering great training
  • Visit a library (in person or online) and see what is on offer
  • Join an online community of practice
  • Find a mentor to help you develop some skills

Want to find out more?

To find out more about Adult Learners’ Week visit www.adultlearnersweek.org or check out the feeds on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram #ALW2017.

Generational Loss in Training

 

Most, if not all, emergency services in Australia work on a ‘Train the Trainer’ model for developing the people who will be leading training and assessment events for members. This model has proven highly effective in many ways.

  • Cost control: subsequent groups of trainers and assessors can be trained and mentored ‘in house’ by more experienced members of the training team.
  • Content contextualisation:  the material can be shared and discussed in a way that takes into consideration the agency and the location where the training and assessment is occuring.
  • Availability: this model works for the geographically dispersed nature of an agency across the state as regional or local Learning and Development people can often organise and run trainer development sessions, and then send the trainers back to their areas to carry on.

There is however a known (although maybe not well documented) issue with our approach: There is generational loss in the quality of our trainers and assessors.

Generation loss: Anything that reduces the quality of the representation when copying, and would cause further reduction in quality on making a copy of the copy, can be considered a form of generation loss.

Source: Wikipedia

generations

Let’s track the development of trainers and assessors over several generations to see how this occurs.

Generation One: The Source

The initial group of trainers and assessors are usually gain their knowledge from ‘the source’, whether this be an external expert or at a State level workshop. Sometimes they are the Subject Matter Experts who develop the course! This generation of trainers and assessors have a full explanation of the whats and whys. They understand the reasons behind the rules, and appreciate why different activities and equipment are included in training and assessment material. The consistency of trainers and assessors who go back and deliver material across the state is comparatively high to subsequent generations.

Generation Two: The Disciples

The next generation of trainers and assessors often observe and are mentored by this first generation who learnt from the source. They may not fully appreciate all the whys, but they have a pretty good picture of what the content should look like. In delivery, the consistency of their training can still be quite high – although if questioned the reasoning for why things are done may not be so clear.

Generation Three and beyond: The Followers

The following generations of trainers and assessors seem to lose a little bit of knowledge and skill in each subsequent generation. Without refreshing knowledge and skills from ‘the source’ we start to see things like:

  • Rules, statements and methods not found in the materials and not present in the initial generation of training. (We know those idiosyncrasies that units/branches/stations seem to develop.) To see a good experiment that shows how this happens in action, check out this video. Its actually on social conformity, but its very funny and gets the same idea across!
  • Skipped or skimmed over activities and topics that are considered to be less important or ‘something we just have to do, but we don’t really use it’.
  • Trainers and assessors who know that something should be done, but can’t explain the reason behind the rules or the techniques.
  • Loss of finesse, and not knowing the tips/tricks when completing skills and tasks that make it high quality.

Reducing Generational Loss in Training

You may think that having state level developed standardised session plans and assessment documentation would eliminate this issue, but you are wrong.

I have yet to see any documentation that includes enough detailed information that can explain to trainers and assessors exactly why everything is in there, or how they should be doing something. This is because we assume a level of technical expertise and understanding from our trainers and assessors and we rely on the ‘train the trainer’ model to get this information across to them before we let them loose on the membership unsupervised. (See above for reasons why this isn’t foolproof).

It may be obvious, but worth stressing the importance of exposing trainers and assessors to ‘the source’. If state level workshops are an excellent way to do this but if they are not an option, having a video library or further supporting documentation that explains things for trainers and assessors is a very good idea.

Moderation of trainers and assessors is also needed. We need to eliminate silos of practice and be mixing people from different locations and from different generations of trainers and assessors is a key way to expose inconsistencies of understanding and practice, not to mention a requirement for maintaining our standards as Registered Training Organisations.

All trainers and assessors are individuals – we will never eliminate inconsistencies, but we can definitely do more to ensure the quality of our training is not watered down over the generations.

Quality Vs Quantity

qual-vs-quan-street-signI saw a post the other day that focused on how training in the emergency services never stops – even on weekends people are out there training. I was also recently speaking to a member of a fire brigade who was less than enthusiastic about attending the next training day at the station… because they have training booked every week, yet they felt they didn’t really gain anything from it.

So let’s raise the issue of what is more important: quality or quantity?

The Training

OK, so I have to steal a line here from a fitness training article… the brain is a muscle after all! 😉

You will be more successful if you focus on performing very few quality focused repetitions, rather than dozens of reps, where you may fatigue and perform poor reps.

Source: Maximum Training Solutions 

Can this same accepted truth be applied to learning and training?

  • Is it better to have less frequent training sessions with more effort put into the organisation and learning activities, rather than running lots of shorter, poorly planned, boring, or repetitive sessions?
  • Would running training less frequently impact the retention or development of knowledge and skills in the required time frame?

The Participation

There is also a lot of research as to how participants interact and engage with learning. Is it better to have frequent, quick but shallow engagement? Or is more gained from considered thought, longer and deeper engagement?

The way people interact on social media is a good analogy here. What is of more value: The person who hits the like button on every post written in the group, or the person who contributes a thoughtful answer to an idea that has struck a note with them?

Is this like the person who attends each training session but hangs around talking or just watching on the edge of the activity, compared to the person who makes it every few weeks but is actively involved, asking questions and looking for feedback on their performance?

  • Would members (especially volunteers) be more motivated if they knew they just had to complete once a fortnight or once a month training rather than weekly training, and if they knew it would be of higher quality?
  • If training was designed to require deeper engagement from everyone involved would it improve the participation and motivation levels?

The Repetition

Some of the most experienced operators in our emergency services will also be quick to highlight the importance of muscle memory and drilled skills. I totally agree with this too!

When you look at the research for when quantity is more important than quality, it often relates to people trying to master practical skills or knowledge facts. This is where practice makes perfect.

The shorter path to maximized quality is in maximized quantity, and executing on the feedback after each finished product.

Source: Medium

So how do we incorporate this idea, while holding true to the other thinking on quality over quantity? By keeping it short and sweet. The nature of these facts, skills and drills that require repetition to build muscle memory means that it should only take a few minutes at most. The key thing is it must be kept high pace and brief!

  • Could short skills and drills be included at the start or end of training sessions? (Think the first 5-10 minutes max).
  • Can videos and other support materials be developed that support individuals revising and practicing these elsewhere?
  • Could multiple skills stations and mini competitions be used as a training session periodically to support members in practicing these skills and tasks?

I’m sure this could be a polarising issue, so what are your thoughts?

Training Tweak: Replace “Explain”

Resuscitating your training session to make it more engaging and interactive holds similar precepts to resuscitation through CPR: Something is better than nothing!

Not many of us can find the time to rework a whole session, but all of us can learn some new habits and take literally 3 seconds to tweak a session to make it better.

Having seen standardised session plans used by many different Emergency Services, it is easy to see that L&D have broken it down and made it as easy to follow as possible. Many include verbs to guide the trainer in how to deliver the session. So today, let the challenge be to replace just one word in your training session plan: Explain.

This verb is used to indicate to the trainer that they need to share a body of theory with learners. Explain how… explain why/why not… Explain the process…

There is nothing wrong with this verb, except for those of us that are trying to find ways to make learning a more active experience, it involves learners listening and absorbing.

Instead, swap this verb out with Ask.  Why do you think…? How do you think…? Why wouldn’t you…? How could we…? What would happen if…?

This tweak will ensure you cover the same content. The difference is you will draw out what the learners already know and force them to think about the content first, before you clarify and expand on any ideas as needed to make sure you covered all the required points.

TWEAKED

What Can Trainers Learn From Social Media and Online Marketing?

I guess it’s not too hard to believe that you can now get a degree in Social Media and Online Marketing. Personally, I am heading down the self directed learning route for this one, but the more I learn the more I find  in common between marketing online and training learners. I have now read lot of acronyms, tried to understand various complex processes and considered multiple views on the best way to engage an audience. (See – sounds like the training sector already!)

So let me share just a couple of ideas from the social media and the online sector, and my takeaways for trainers and online learning managers.

Social-Media-Marketing

Image Source

1. Market Research

Online world: They say don’t bother spending money or investing lots of effort until you have a clear picture of the audience you want, and what they want from you! Do the quick quizzes, polls, user interviews, user surveys, focus groups, field observations and trials. You can always pose a question online and get people to DM* you, or open it up to a AMA* scenario to see what people are thinking about. Once you have the picture clear of what people actually need and what you have to offer, then you can clearly target and advertise to your audience.
*DM = Direct Message, AMA = Ask Me Anything,

Training world: I think market research is just another industry’s term for training needs analysis, learner needs survey and training evaluation… although they seem to have a lot more cool ways to collect the data. Maybe there is something we should be learning from that.

Actions:

Like I need to remind you, but don’t forget the importance of real training needs analysis (the actual people component, not the % of people completed part). Working out how people are really connecting and accessing training (as opposed to the official way they could be doing it) is also valuable. Yes there is stuff on a page on the intranet, but the real conversation is happening on that closed Facebook group! Save energy and align things to make a system that really works in your real world, or at least make it easy to link the two worlds together.

2. SEO – Search Engine Optimisation

Online world: There is high competition in the online world to be the highest rank webpage for user searchers. Being topped rank means easier to find, and therefore more internet traffic and audience to your site. There are some really clever online tools that will even analyse what keywords people are using to try and find something. SEO is getting smarter now – its not just about keywords, its also about usability and user experience on the site. This includes responsive design for the ever increasing percentage of mobile users. I like this visual to explain it easily.

Training world: If learners can’t access training or find the content easily, they will give up trying. How often have you heard someone say that the system is too hard to access? Or they can’t find the learner guide online? People may click to visit your site, but the bounce rate will be high if its too hard to move further in than the front page. In the physical world it still holds true. Think about the layout and structure of printed materials – is it easy to read and find things? Visuals matter now more than ever. Practical or visual versions of information are preferable and more often referred to and remembered.

Actions:

We need to be reviewing the layout and structure of our online learning modules and especially the login point and layout of our Learning Management Systems and intranets to make sure it is easy to read, easy to navigate and gets to the point. Oh, and extra points if it works effectively on mobile devices. We need to add a Graphic Designer Badge to our trainer toolbox, or find someone who can do it for us. Look at training materials with fresh eyes and give it a face lift.

3. Power of Community

Online world: Social media is a place to make connections, maintain relationships, influence purchasing and remain in people’s mind. Ideally it isn’t just about your own content, its about sharing other information that supports your ideas and audience. It’s a way to add value and get more people following you – so when you put out your own content there is a bigger audience to see it… not to mention that having people attracts more people!

Training world: Training has an increasing online presence and there is an explosion of online Communities of Practice. Social Media is now more commonly the way that learners are contacting trainers and others to ask questions, check information and stay up to date. Outside of social media, we often seem to spend time writing newsletters, writing training updates and organising professional development workshops. We also try to develop community within training groups – use of collaborative and cooperative learning activities help strengthen this.

Actions:

The power of the click to follow someone on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram is amazing. You instantly have a way to connect and keep people posted about things. Connect with other peoples connections – ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ spread the word extremely quickly! Using a Call to Action is also a great way online to start interactions from social media and link it to other things you have going on. Giveaways work well: one click to download a quick guide on support learners with special needs, or a one page cheat sheet on how to put together a piece of new equipment? Yes please! Whether you are online or not, finding ways for learners and trainers to collaborate and work cooperatively should definitely be a part of your ongoing methods.

I will be continuing my exploration into this world, keeping a glossary handy. I am sure I will find many other similarities which will hopefully help the marketing stuff stick as it connects with the training stuff that already fills my brain, and hopefully pick up a few new ideas that will help my training as well as my marketing!