Training, learning, organic content, and engagement

The development of sufficient and relevant training is a necessary component of the R2O transition cycle for a particular innovation or product. Without providing training opportunities before implementing a new product for demonstration, there is a significant risk of misinterpretation and misuse, ultimately leading to a failed demonstration or delayed benefits. But even if training is developed, the best way to deliver training is not always clear.

First, it is important to distinguish between training and learning. Training is content that is provided to employees to increase skills and further a business purpose or other objective in the workplace. Sometimes training is mandatory for all employees while other times it is optional. In contrast, learning is the increase in knowledge or skill that a human attains through an experience or more formal means. Training can result in learning but not all learning is the result of training. Certainly, learning is broader in scope. People learn in different ways, and they learn best when they are engaged. So we must consider diverse approaches while developing training, and realize that while videos and presentations may be easiest to produce and deliver, that one-way style of communication can miss the mark on producing engagement.

Most people can remember a time when there was a boring training video, usually with poor acting and clear-cut situations. The video may have been required as part of a workplace initiative to improve safety and performance, or decrease harassment and discrimination. While these initiatives are important, the uniform nature of the conveyed information decreases the relevance to the participant, and it is not applicable to intricate situations. What are you more likely to remember: a step-by-step list of methods to decrease slips, trips, and falls, or ten quick videos from security cameras that show people slipping, tripping, and falling in different conditions?

Within the past decade, the Internet has brought about new ways for people to consume information, and most people have not been immune to click bait (e.g., “you will be stunned what happens next”). Social media has enabled the delivery of short, organic content that many people share and enjoy. But how does it impact learning? And how should it alter the approach to training in a scientific discipline?

We must remember that training is not an advertisement. Though we may try, it is not possible to fit complex topics into short snippets. Potentially, such snippets could capture the attention of employees to make them more interested to participate in voluntary training, or make mandatory training more palatable. And in some situations, practitioners and/or users are likely to need to hear the same material multiple times for it to “stick”. Digital innovations will continue to provide new opportunities to reach others with important information, but not everything qualifies as a training effort.

One challenge that R2O must confront is the oral presentation that originates in stodgy academia. Even though lectures allow for questions at their conclusion, these presentations are directed from the presenter to the audience, particularly if the speaker is not skilled at delivery. Often the challenge that arises is that initial training assumes the form of a scientific presentation and follows an outline of the scientific method, delving into the complex, instead of staying on the surface and detailing how the innovation meets operational objectives, or, more simply put, its envisioned application.

To that end, training in R2O must address:

  • A description of the innovation (the “what”)
  • The operational problem that the innovation is purported to solve (the “why”)
  • How the innovation is to be applied to the operational setting (the “how”)
  • Potential pitfalls and workarounds (the “when” and “where”)

Training scales from foundational (the background) to application (the foreground), so it is necessary to strike the right balance for students to understand the context and fully appreciate the potential use. That balance sometimes depends on the position of the innovation within the R2O cycle (e.g., its maturity relative to its complexity). Some innovations may require hours of training, with much less needed for others. But don’t allot time until there is a formalized approach for converting training to learning. In developing that approach, consider the six “I’s”:

  • Introducing the innovation and the concept
  • Informing practitioners of the basis without covering the details
  • Iterating on important concepts
  • Interacting with the students to ensure engagement
  • Initiating a discussion between the students
  • Innovating instructional methods to increase engagement

The best approach should leverage technology and different teaching methods to cater to different learners, containing the right balance of individual learning and group exercises. But most importantly, it should be captivating enough to not allow the opportunity for someone to drift away. Keeping it relevant and real will go a long way in producing engaged learners.

Jordan Gerth

Jordan Gerth

is a research meteorologist with a decade of R2O experience, interacting with academia, the federal government, and the private sector on weather satellite and software projects.
Jordan Gerth

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