In the learning versus training debate, the definition of terms often boils down as follows: Learning emphasizes interaction and personal experience, which helps participants achieve long-term behavioral changes. Training is viewed as a more passive activity, where participants listen to lectures to achieve knowledge transfer from instructor to pupil.
Regardless of the merits of either practice, it can be difficult to operate an employee development program in pure learning or training mode. For example, at oilfield products and services company Halliburton, employee development professionals have to build employee skills and knowledge levels in a large, field-based organization that requires operational mastery of complex, technical information under a tight timeframe. This puts severe constraints on Halliburton instructors’ ability to interact with participants or to provide opportunities to apply technical concepts to real-world situations on an individual basis.
Instructors have found that a hybrid approach works best to achieve behavioral changes and knowledge transfer. A hybrid approach combines elements from both learning and training strategies to deliver interactive features in a classroom session. The number of participants and the need to keep lessons on schedule without getting sidetracked with free-ranging discussions is one barrier to interaction in a traditional lecture-style environment. New technology tools can help.
For example, Halliburton uses interactive software to enable instructors to poll audiences during PowerPoint presentations in real time. Participants respond using a keypad or mobile device, and the results are displayed on the slide without requiring the instructor to leave the presentation screen.
Introducing this level of interactivity serves several purposes. By engaging the audience, instructors provide a way for students to actively participate in the session. Student answers also can provide important real-time indicators of how well the presented information is being retained. An interactive approach is especially effective with younger participants, who are accustomed to interactive media and may find a pure lecture scenario challenging.
Further, Halliburton instructors find that embedding questions in their presentations is a great attention-getter. It works as an icebreaker to open new sessions, and as training proceeds, the opportunity to respond to questions helps keep participants focused and interested.
The Halliburton training team also has observed that a system to elicit audience responses without calling on individuals or requesting a show of hands can encourage participation from audience members who might otherwise be too intimidated to speak before a crowd. Another advantage is that audience members answer questions about knowledge retention honestly since they know their answers will be displayed in aggregate. This helps instructors get an accurate reading on the session’s effectiveness in real time so they can make adjustments, such as spending extra time going over a particularly challenging concept.
In an environment where employee skills can mean the difference between business success or failure, audience engagement during development sessions is vitally important. A training-learning hybrid approach has been effective at Halliburton because it enables participants to interact with instructors in real time, turning a training event into a two-way discussion without disrupting the flow of the session. It helps instructors keep participants focused and involved, and it allows employee development personnel to receive real-time feedback on training efficacy, combining the best of both worlds.
Antonio Tezen is senior technical instructor at Halliburton, an oilfield products and services company. He can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.