Wednesday, April 27, 2011

eLearning for Leadership Training – Making it Effective

By Dean Hawkinson

Are you in a position where you develop instructional materials for a leadership/management audience? Typically, this “soft skill” type of training is delivered by instructor led training (ILT).

But what about eLearning?

Can we use eLearning to teach some of these soft skills that are required by leadership in a corporate environment? I would argue that we can, provided the eLearning has some elements to make it a successful interaction.

Let’s say you are creating a course that teaches managers how to have a successful performance management coaching discussion with employees. In a typical ILT course, this might be taught using video demonstrations or role play exercises among participants with a debrief discussion facilitated by the instructor around what was done well and what could have been improved on.

Let’s take the same scenario and think about how an eLearning course could teach the same thing. Here are some suggestions:

  • Video - A lot of eLearning development software today allows for easy video integration that can be viewed on any computer. However, make your video clips short (to keep the learner’s attention), showing correct and incorrect interactions. Follow your video clips with knowledge check questions asking for the learner’s feedback on what they have just viewed, and providing appropriate feedback to the learner’s response. Also, keep in mind that videos do take up a lot of memory and can be very large in size which can present issues with storage on a server or your Learning Management System (LMS).

  • Interactive Simulations - Simulations can be used to replace the traditional role play exercises used in ILT. Think about the coaching example presented above. You can present the employee’s side of the conversation either in text or voice recording, and then provide the learner with multiple choice options for response as the manager. The course would then provide feedback based on the learner’s response. This can be effective, however, the drawback is that the multiple choice answers limit the learner to choosing something rather than coming up with the answer on their own and receiving feedback as they would with a role play exercise in a classroom. To get around this issue, you can even use a branching scenario where the next step of the conversation can be dependent on the previous response, providing some correct and incorrect responses with feedback.

  • Scenario-based Knowledge Checks - Similar to the simulations, the Knowledge Check assessment questions should be scenario-based, requiring the learner to think about their response. Since your objectives most likely target the application or higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, design your questions to align with those levels as well. They should have “real world” application, rather than just remembering facts.

  • Social Media - Using social media tools for collaboration among participants taking the eLearning course would be an effective way to replace the discussion and debrief that is part of classroom training. Ideally, a subject matter expert could interact regularly with the participants here and answer any follow-up questions. Keep the learning going!

  • Partnering with an on- the-job (OJT) Mentor - For leadership/management training, there is nothing like “real world” experience. Any eLearning course (or ILT for that matter) should be partnered with a mentorship/OJT/nesting period on the actual job.

I would argue that an eLearning course, by itself, would not be an effective way to train leaders/managers in your business. A good leadership training program will include a blended learning approach that includes portions of Instructor Led Training (ILT), eLearning modules and “real life” OJT/mentorship on the job with more experienced managers.

What experience have you had with using eLearning for training a management/leadership role in your organization? Feel free to share your experiences.

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