What happens before and after learning, pt. 2

As an L&D professional, you’re probably familiar with the concept of evaluating your learning courses and modules to ensure that you’re providing a value to the organization.  However, since research shows that the most important aspects of learning transfer happen before and after the training, and not during the training, as one would reasonably expect, that means it’s time to shift gears and focus on refining your pre and post-course methodologies.

To recap, research by The Conference Board states that only 37% of traditional training methods result in learning transfer at all. This means that 63% of learners walk away from training without implementing or retaining what they’ve just learned. Robert Brinkerhoff’s Courageous Training Model seeks to improve on this percentage.  The core idea is that 40% of learning transfer happens during pre-training events, 20% happens during the training itself, and the remaining 40% happens after the training has been completed. If you design a learning solution that utilizes his 40/20/40 method, his research shows that the 37% transfer rate will increase based on the pre and post-learning segments.

Since most learning transfer happens outside of the actual course itself - how, then, can L&D professionals ensure that they’re meeting the suggestions of the 40/20/40 program to ensure that their courses will be successful beyond their usual approach of creating memorable content that include learning techniques such as interactive video and gamification?

The first 40

When creating courses with the intent to increase learning transfer, the first step is one of the most important - and it involves a lot of preparation. In addition to all of the usual initial steps an L&D pro would take to design a course (defining the purpose, gathering the content, designing the aesthetic, etc.) Brinkerhoff recommends that the first 40% of the learning transfer process involves a deep dive into planning and bringing the managers of learners and the broader organization into the mix to get their buy in to support the learning plan.

This isn’t about designing a better of different solution.  Rather it’s about preparing learners and the organization for the learning.  We need to spend time communicating and sometimes convincing learners that the training is important, that they actually have a knowledge or skills gap and that the training will help them.  Similarly Managers need to be brought into the process.  We need to convince and prepare them that they are accountable for their employee to apply their new knowledge and skills on the job.   

The last 40

We’re going to go out on a limb and say the back 40% that Brinkerhoff refers to - i.e., everything that happens once the course itself has been completed - is most likely given the least attention throughout the planning process. After all, for many L&D pros and managers once the course is created and the learners have completed it… that’s it. With some blended learning approaches there may be wrap-ups or evaluations scheduled, but in the majority of cases once it’s done, it’s done. And that’s where Brinkerhoff says things go awry.

In an effort to raise that 37% learning transfer rate, Brinkerhoff recommends that in addition to post-course evaluations, there should be manager follow-ups, homework assignments, participation in meetings with colleagues for feedback and discussion, and information sharing. This may seem like a lot, and for learners it may seem like flat-out overkill (after all, we know that nobody likes homework!), but following-up on the course itself and continuing to keep the material fresh in their minds over an extended period of time will help learners continue to think about the content and gain the skills to implement it throughout their daily interactions and responsibilities.

The elearning market is continuing to change rapidly. Read more about this, and other techniques for navigating the ever-changing landscape, in our guide.

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