I know my university ship has sailed, but it was not too long ago that I was sitting in a lecture hall absorbing information that I wasn’t always particularly interested in. I had the pleasure of learning from some great professors and, unfortunately, the displeasure of learning from some dreadful ones. And it really all came down to the method of teaching. The material will always be the same no matter who teaches it, but the way in which it is taught makes a huge difference. So, after four years of learning from professors, both good and bad, I was convinced I knew what it takes to keep students awake, interested, engaged and learning. I mean really, it’s not that hard. Don’t read the PowerPoint slides. Don’t talk in a monotone voice. Move around the room as you talk. Ask questions. Prepare some activities. Easy, right?

Well, it sounds like that would do the trick and if it’s really that easy, then why doesn’t everyone do it? So, it’s at this point that I began learning a few things from the CSTD “Telling Ain’t Training” workshop last month.

To give you some context, the workshop was based on Harold Stolovitch and Erica Keeps’s “Telling Ain’t Training” book, written basically for anyone in the training industry in need of some tips and tricks on how to train successfully. I picked up the book a few days before the workshop and read through the 175 pages in a jiffy. The authors really focused their efforts on making the text easy to read. With its light tone and fun activities, I managed to stuff my brain with so many useful tidbits of information that my eyes, though tired, were itching to read more.

The workshop wasn’t any less entertaining. In fact, it was more of a treat. From the start, Harold got us engaged and immediately after an activity, he would highlight what it was meant to achieve, the importance of it and why, as trainers, it is so important to focus on the learner.

So, if you’re eager to find out about what I learned from this workshop, here it goes: most of us do know what it takes to keep students awake, interested, engaged and learning; knowing is not the problem. The problem is that, more often than not, trainers just don’t put these aspects into play. Why? Maybe because there’s not enough time to prepare. Or perhaps now is not the time to be doing something new. Whatever the case may be, if your training does not engage your learners and encourage interaction, I guarantee they will get bored, doze off and not learn a thing.
Now, below I’ve listed ten of the effective training tips I took away from this workshop. Many of these points seem obvious, but that doesn’t always mean they’re put into action. So, have you implemented all ten in your online training?

1. Structure, Structure, Structure: Provide a structure or model to understand and solve a problem before providing learners with the problem to solve.
2. Fifty – Fifty: Engage your learners 50% of the time. If your learners are involved in the training, they won’t have time to think about other things. So, they will give you their undivided attention and retain more of what you say.
3. Introductions: When you introduce the topic of your course or program start with “at the end of the session you will be able to…” and not “I’m going to talk to you today about…”
4. Be Nice: Use testing as a mechanism to make people feel good because it will encourage learners to learn more.
5. “Telling Ain’t Training”: Telling someone isn’t training. It’s a one-way street. The focus is on transmitting the content, so it doesn’t engage or empower the learner. You must focus on the learner and encourage a conversation to see them transform.
6. Grouping Information: Learners remember things when grouped into meaningful chunks. Don’t overwhelm them with a lot of unorganized information. If you do, they will go into information overload mode.
7. 3 Major Learning Obstacles: The three obstacles are complexity, abstraction and novelty. The more complex, abstract and newer something is, the more difficult it is to learn. So, try to break things down, provide examples and show relationships to things learned in the past.
8. Demonstrate Value: Especially with adults, show how you will demonstrate value and how the training will help them with their work.
9. The Primary-Recency Theory: People remember the most according to this theory, meaning they retain the most at the beginning and end of a learning situation. So, remember not to put the most important material in the middle!
10. Anything Goes: The medium used to deliver your training is irrelevant. How effective your training will be is determined by the way you design and structure the material. Transforming a learner will rest solely on your instructional design skills, not on whether you train in the classroom, on the phone or online. Just remember, it’s not about transmitting information, it’s about transforming your learners.

So, I hope these “takeaways” will help to strengthen your online content and ultimately increase your learner interactivity and performance. If you’re interested in getting some additional tips on how to offer a better learning experience, I would highly recommend reading this book. It’s a great read and you will extract a boatload of very useful information.
And with these tips under your belt, you are now one step closer to moving your training online!