How do L&D professionals reframe training programs from something employees have to do to something they get to do? Organizations are discovering that by offering a menu of on-demand options where employees are in command of their own transformational learning journey, they have the power to create lifelong learners who benefit both on the job and in their lives.
Our Future of Work Roundtable series recently continued with a conversation with Dr. Debra Glaser, EdD, NBC-HWC, CHWC and Instructional Designer at Google.
What follows is an excerpt from Glaser’s conversation with Mursion Inbound Events Producer and Simulation Specialist Jamie Thomason on The Challenges and Triumphs of Creating Transformational Learning Journeys.
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Jamie: We talked about how you’ve gone into the trenches, so to speak, and you found out what people have a taste for. How do you design the menu? How do you choose what you’re going to put on there? I know for us, something we’ve really moved into and are expanding on is actually having a bank of scenarios so that you can come to us and we can hear everything that you’re seeing that you want to work on and we can say, “Here are some things that we can start to use as a stepping stone. Here’s something we can offer that’s ready-made, and now we can go in and tweak it.”
Deb: We’ve been doing mostly custom scenarios, and then we started to think through, “Oh, can we use a bank?” We have a bank of scenarios that we’ve actually adapted some of our custom scenarios. It’s interesting. I think about this as a math multiple-choice test. If you want to get closest to the best answer, I try to cover the answers. Try to solve the problem first, and then look at the choices. Know your problem, and know at least the answer if you can before you start, because what happens is, if you look…
It’s like opening up the fridge when you didn’t think about what you want to eat, and then you’re staring at everything in there. Another thing I do want to say is it’s not like a sexy answer, but I chose those scenarios based on rank ordering topics that came up in feedback surveys. I’ll put a question in our post survey that says, “What else would you like to practice in Mursion?” Or whenever I have an interview with a learner, I’ll say, “Could you think of other things you’d want to practice in here?”
I started to see patterns. I kept a list of those. “Hey, we want sellers to practice this or managers to practice this.” It also matched up with what I was hearing from learners. It’s a no-brainer.
Jamie: Thank you so much for helping us look at that learner journey and considering the importance of choice within what they’re doing. The modality even within what was shared with Mursion, that they can choose those scenarios. They can choose the level of intensity of what they’re going in and practicing. If they want to get their feet wet and start on something that seems a little easier for them, they can and then feel comfortable to go in and go a little harder and go a little further.
I think something you and I talked about too was something that we really enjoy about the version aspect just because we have that live human that’s driving that avatar that is having that conversation afterwards. You can really unpack it and share and remind them that it is practice. It’s not about getting it right the first time because that’s the way we learn is by hitting those bumps or by failing.
That’s why that iterative practice is so important because learners have the opportunity to go back and do it again. Are you finding when you give them that choice, that they will jump back in and they will once they try a scenario, they’ll go back and try others?
Deb: I think part of building out the learner journey is also getting the right messaging to the learners. When we get that messaging right, they will take another session. We did a pilot a few years ago, and when we looked at the data, it showed people who did two or three sessions had bigger gains in confidence, said that it was more worth their time, and also gave higher realism scores.
The other thing is, when you think about motivation theory, there’s a famous theory called self-determination theory, which is if you want to be intrinsically motivated to change any behaviors. Let’s say the behavior is practicing in any way, then what the most ideal situation is to see if you can give them a sense of autonomy.
We do that with choice, give them a feeling of competence so either you’re getting better at your job or you’re good at certain things and you feel competent in your ability to learn the things that you don’t know yet. Then the last one is relatedness. Relating to the content, but also what we found, is some programs are building communities around the emergence so we have these launch parties or we have groups take it and they can talk about it. Those things increase this behavior of taking repeated sessions. They seem to help those elements.
Jamie: It sounds like we’re saying, just make sure you’re learning from your learners what they want and need to practice and then taking that and offering them those choices on how to do it, how to get in there. Then that’s what’s going to entice them, bring them in and motivate them to move forward.
Deb: If you can get to the root of knowing, learning what they don’t know and they need to know, and that you can do through shadowing, through interviewing, through talking to managers, through talking to the business and treat developing learning programs like any other product development where you want to get to know your audience really well, then it does help with building engagement and making sure that you’re getting to this point where you can offer something transformational.
Jamie: Thank you for that reminder that not only do we need to find out where they’re feeling a gap, but where there is one that we’re not aware of ourselves as leaders, figuring out how do I need to help you grow? What am I seeing that you’re not recognizing that you need to expand on? Are you finding people who recognize something and then they’re learning more or they’re stretching themselves and going beyond in an area where they didn’t realize that they had a deficit?
Deb: Yes, and we see it both ways. We’ll see learners who almost have a blind spot where they’re grading themselves lower on something and they’re actually doing better. And then we also have the reverse where someone thinks they’re asking a lot of open-ended questions or someone thinks they’re curious or they’re not giving advice, but they really are.
I think transformational learning helps people identify blind spots. If you start to become aware of those things, when you start to learn a little bit in small chunks, what you don’t know, and then it helps. But if you do that too much, you’re going to feel like you’re not competent at your job, or you’re going to feel bad about yourself. Transformation doesn’t have to be huge. It could be baby steps.
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