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Archive for the ‘Training Tips’ Category

Start the Music!

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Playing music during training?  If you’re never experienced this, it might seem like an odd idea.  I’ve had this experience during some of the training sessions at the Bob Pike annual conference I attended last year.  The instructors played music as people were filtering in to the classroom.  The rationale, as this article discusses, is “to alleviate their tension and create a relaxed learning atmosphere.”  I’m happy to report that it worked!

Other ideas for music in training are to use it for transitioning from one activity to another (in short bits) and to use song parodies to revisit training content.  (If you can sing the exact words to any TV opening credits from your childhood, or sing the words to a French song from the 1970’s when you don’t know any other French, you know how powerful music is as a memory aid!)

Where to find the music?  Look for royalty-free music web sites.  If you try incorporating music into your training, let us know how it worked!


Effective Teaching Behaviors

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

What are some effective teaching behaviors that we can incorporate into our classes for learners of all types?  A post from the “Tomorrow’s Professor” mailing list, sponsored by the Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning, discussed eight behaviors to consider.   The behaviors that particularly intrigued me were:

“Teach for Understanding Rather Than Exposure”:  determine the “big ideas” behind the class

“Explicit Instruction”:  Tell students what they are going to learn, the rationale for learning the material, and how new material relates to what they already learned.

Scaffolded Instruction”:  The three stages of scaffolded instruction are:  1) Students watch the teacher perform a task; 2) teacher and student do the task together; 3) student does it alone.

“Errorless Learning”: Present the material using smaller steps so that students can achieve success without errors.

You can read the full article here.


Is Your Training Room Introvert Friendly?

Monday, January 13th, 2014

A recent article on the Bob Pike Training Group website by Jordan Meyers discusses strategies that trainers can use to foster an environment that feels comfortable to participants.

Here are a few things that trainers can do to help ease the experience.

  • People don’t like being unprepared. If you’re planning on having a class discussion or doing small group work, consider giving an assignment that looks at the topic prior to class. Now, people will be better prepared to contribute to the discussion which will hopefully alleviate some discomfort.
  • Another approach suggested by Meyers is to progressively grow the size of the group. Start by having people work in pairs where they can get their feet wet on a (new) topic. Then grow the groups to 4 or 6 and so on…or some variation on that theme.
  • Use an ice breaker to flesh out potential online technical problems before you start the “real” group work. For example, if an exercise requires participants to unmute their phone, then have all participants unmute themselves and identify which state they were born in. This gives everyone the opportunity to test their system.

Read the article here:

Questions Anyone?

Monday, January 6th, 2014

Those two words (or any variation) make me dread the seconds that follow. Sometimes someone asks a question and I’m relieved that I’m not going to be left at the front of the room feeling like I offered a hand shake and nobody shook it back; a little awkward. So, we’re there at the front of the room or online doing some synchronous training and we ask: are there any questions? Current training trends suggest that you wait 9 seconds before moving on to give students time to catch up and formulate a question. But that isn’t even the issue I’m talking about here today.

Today, I am suggesting that we don’t even want to ask “are there any questions?”. Maybe the students will tell us, within 9 seconds, that they don’t have questions. OK. Asked and answered. However, if truth be told, I want more than a yes or a no answer. I want a conversation. I want a little back and forth with the students. So, instead of asking a question that may cut off any future discussion, try one of these 5 open-ended questions posed by Rebecca Alber of and an instructor at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education.

  1. What do you think? This question is designed to get input from the class and is not a yes or no question. Yea!
  2. Why do you think that? This question is designed to make sure the student knows how or why they came to their answer.
  3. How do you know this? This question might elicit examples from experience.
  4. Can you tell me more? Need I say more about this question?
  5. What questions do you still have? This question is designed to loop back around to the beginning or stir up new questions about what was just discussed (hopefully, there was a discussion).

Can You See Me Now? OR The 800 Pound Gorilla

Monday, December 30th, 2013

Don’t you see it? It’s right there. Have you ever asked (or been asked) that question? Even when something is right in front of us, we may not see it. I call it the bird watching syndrome. I love birds and have been an avid backyard bird watcher for years. I thought I knew my birds (cardinals, blue jays, robins, the usual suspects) until I went on my first bird watching expedition. When my fellow birders said, see the cedar waxwings in the tree over there? Uhhh…no, I don’t see them.

My favorite example of this is from research done by two psychologists. I’ve used their video as an ice breaker and it is lots of fun. You can see the YouTube video (1 min 21 seconds) here or view it below. In addition to a few laughs, one of the things the video demonstrates is that even though something is right in front of us, we may not see it.

How can we use this information in training? Whether the training is in-person or via the Internet keep in mind that we (people) don’t see the world the same as each other. Consider using visual and verbal cues to draw people’s attention to a particular place on a web page, and then wait a moment…linger long enough to make sure that people are with you. The pace may feel a little slow to the trainer (and to those students who are familiar with what you are demonstrating), but it should help keep everyone together.

Are You a Hyperbolic Discounter?

Monday, November 18th, 2013

Julie Dirksen, an Instructional Designer, recently wrote a blog post for the e-Learning Leadership blog called: An e-Learning Challenge – Why Should You Care Right Now? She explains hyperbolic discounting this way: “Behavioral economists study the concept of hyperbolic discounting, which is our tendency to prefer rewards that come sooner over rewards that happen later, even when the later reward is somewhat larger.”

How would you answer these 3 questions:
1. Would you rather have $10 today, or $11 tomorrow?
2. Would you rather have $10 today, or $11 in a year?
3. Would you rather have $10 today, or $1000 in a year?

According to Dirksen, responses are generally the same. Half the people are split on question #1, everybody wants the money from question #2 today, and everyone is willing to wait for the money in question #3.

What are the implications for training?
Julie’s personal example hits the nail on the head. She attended a training event about Health Savings Accounts (HSA). HSAs let you set aside pre-tax dollars from your paycheck to use for allowable medical expenses. She said it was the most boring training she had ever attended (possible hyperbole). She described the training as one where they told her everything she needed to know so that she could use her HSA at some point in the future…if she had the need. How fulfilling is that? Not very.

Now, think about what the 3 questions told us about human behavior (remember the $1000) and use that to design a scenario-based training where you build in some urgency, a reason to care. Julie’s suggestion for beefing up the HSA training was to give people the HSA guidelines, give them scenarios and ask them to figure out if they can use their HSA money. I’ve got to figure out if these medical expenses are qualified and use the money before the end of the year (sense of urgency)! This gives the learner a reason to pay attention and a reason to use the information. Sounds like a win-win situation. Now, I’ll take that $1000 today please.

You can read the entire post here: 

Bank of Examples

Friday, November 15th, 2013

When you’re teaching a class, do you use example searches that you know work well to demonstrate a concept or topic, or do you incorporate participant suggestions as you go?

I like to start with one or two examples that I know can demonstrate the concept, then use a student search topic. It’s important to me to have a clear example first, but demonstrating with student topics can make the class feel more relevant and authentic. Even so, students might be hesitant to share their questions or might not have a current assignment, so it’s important to have a few searches to demonstrate.

Sometimes coming up with good examples can be the most challenging part of designing a class. Because I don’t want to spend time devising new examples each time, I’ve started keeping an example bank. My example bank is really just a spreadsheet with four columns. The columns are labeled: objective, audience, example, and notes. In the objective column I list the objective I’m trying to achieve. In the audience column, I list the audiences with whom I’d use the example. I try to come up with relevant examples for different audiences, such as nurses, pharmacists, or medical students. Even if the objective is the same, I’ll use a new row for each audience so I can sort the table by audience. In the example column, I list the specific example I’ll use. Finally, in the notes column, I write anything that I want to point out about this example.

Now, when I’m piecing together a class, I have a bank of examples that I can sort by objective or audience and quickly pull into my class outline. I make sure to try the sample search before each class, just to be sure it still works to demonstrate the concept.

Do you have an example bank? What else would you add to the table I’ve described?

Don’t Make Learners Think!

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

It sounds counter-intuitive, “Don’t Make Learners Think!”, but that is what Karla Gutierrez of Shift!’s eLearning blog wrote. It isn’t what you might be thinking though. Karla’s statement “don’t make learners think” refers to navigating through an online course. Learners shouldn’t have to spend their time figuring out how to get from one section to the next.

Here are the 7 principles of the Don’t Make Them Think approach to design and a short comment about each principle.

1) Use Visual Cues: Think breadcrumbs. Create a trail so people can easily get where they want to go.

2) Make It Too Obvious: Use standard conventions for icons and buttons.

3) Minimize Your Design: Use white space to give learners room to find what they are looking for. In other words, don’t crowd the page.

4) Reduce Cognitive Load: Cut out unnecessary words. Edit, edit, edit.

5) Be Consistent: Need I say more?

6) Follow Real World Conventions: Use the vocabulary/jargon of the group you are training. When in Rome…

7) Usable Navigation: When a user gets to the end of a section, they shouldn’t have to guess where to go next and how to get there.

To read the entire post by Gutierrez, go to: 

What would you like to see on the NTC blog?

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Here’s your chance to tell us what type of content you’d like to see here on the NTC blog! Please take a minute to answer this two question survey to help us keep the NTC blog filled with content that’s most useful to you. Thank you for your time.

People, Stories, and Surprises – Training Tips

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Recently, the Shift eLearning Blog had a post entitled “Understanding People is the Most Important Thing in eLearning Design.”

I think that many of their tips can be applied to both online and face-to-face environments. Below are a few of my take-aways, but the full post is linked above if you’d like to click over to it.

Their first principle is: people like people. They suggest that in designing e-learning, you should incorporate images or videos of people to make the lesson more engaging. I think whenever possible, we should go further and try to provide opportunities for people to interact with each other. When I think about the last class or conference I attended, one of my favorites aspects is talking with others about new techniques or ways to solve problems. You might add discussion or polls to your classes to take advantage of this principle.

Secondly, people like stories. This is probably not a surprise if you reflect on presenters you’ve seen – it always seems more memorable if they’ve used a story to illustrate an important idea. Can you create a realistic scenario or recall a story to make the message stick in your classes? Maybe you have a story about a time research changed a diagnosis or treatment decision? Consider adding stories like these to your classes to make the content of the class easier to understand or recall.

Shift also states that people like both organization and surprises. At first, this might seem a bit contradictory. The overall course should have a clear and logical flow, but an occasional surprise can be fun and really help information to stick. Like a plot twist in a great novel, a surprise can re-engage the learner and show a novel way to look at the information, especially if it’s something they may have encountered previously. Thinking about something you often teach, how can you incorporate something unexpected?