Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Keep Learners Fit by Controlling Calorie Intake

by Jonathan Shoaf

The term calorie is most commonly associated with foods. It is used to measure the energy producing value of foods. Most of us know that unused calories turn into stored energy known as fat. Calories are also used to fuel the human body to do new and exciting things. We need calories to function!

Today I'm talking about knowledge calories. These are the calories associated with learning. The are used to measure the ability of knowledge to increase performance on the job. Just like food calories, they can be stored for future use or fuel a learner to do new and exciting things. Also like food calories, if a learner gets too many, it can be counter productive. Too few and the learner has trouble performing. Learners need these calories to perform!

Think of training according to the type of knowledge calories the learner needs: high calorie or low calorie. And then of course, there is the dreaded empty calories!

High Calorie

A high number of knowledge calories are needed when a lot of specific knowledge is needed to perform correctly on the job. Learners who specialize in a particular task need high calorie training.  These are learners who require a lot of specific training. For example, a call center operator or service technician fits this description. These learners often have specific procedures to follow and need to know how to use specialized equipment or systems.

High calorie learning will contain specific information which is vital to performance. These acquired skills will need to be practice and may require coaching. The learner simply won't be able to complete their job correctly unless they get this high calorie learning.

Low Calorie

Low knowledge calorie learning is better when lots of information is needed but little is required to do day to day tasks. Learners who are training on something outside their primary role need low calorie training. Managers, for example, may need high level overview training in low calorie doses instead of the high calorie training required for specialized workers. Another example of low calorie training is new employee training. New employees will often have job aids and other resources available if they need to get more in depth knowledge about a work protocol or job benefit.

Low calorie learning will contain an overview of information. Feedback to learners will be important but practice will be less important. Mastery is not expected to be 100%.

Empty Calorie

Empty knowledge calories occur when lots of information is given but little or none of it applies to the learner. This might be a situation where the learning module is mismatched with the target learners. Another example might be the situation where an elaborate video production is made with an interesting and entertaining scenario; but, there is little that the learner actually takes away.

Empty calories not only are useless to the learner, but they can actually harm the learner as they are distracted by trying to store the useless information for business needs that never materialize. Avoid empty knowledge calories!

When we provide learners with the right amount of knowledge calories they will be enabled to do new and exciting things. If learners get the wrong number of calories they will perform poorly or feel bloated with unused knowledge. Do you know of examples of learning that tries to provide high calories when all that is required is low calories? What about the opposite?

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