The traditional format of continuing education through courses is so widespread and ingrained that it seems unnecessary to question it. It would be expected that, in case of not working, the simple “natural selection” for centuries would have corrected or extinguished them. I will not be the one to say that the courses do not work, but the more things are about the processes by which the human brain learns better, the more I realize that the way they have always considered involves a series of “traps”, that can significantly reduce the effectiveness with which the student learns, since they lead learning to fall into oblivion.
I will describe 7 aspects that I have identified when contrasting these popular assumptions with the conclusions of scientific studies on effectiveness of learning:
Belief #1: The courses train people so that when they finish they can successfully solve situations that can be presented at any time.
When the course ends, the concepts learned run the risk of not being consulted in the student’s memory. They may forget completely if they do not use them frequently or review them periodically. Just as in advertising a single impact of an advertisement is not enough to modify the behavior of a consumer, neither is a single training impact.
When designing a training process, the course format is interesting so that the person receives extensive information. For this, the initial phase of the training should be considered, since then the learning must be continued. It can be done through periodic reviews of the contents, until they are consolidated in the memory. The person must be able to apply them with agility from their subconscious cognitive activity.
A few months ago I did a course on accounting for entrepreneurs (8h divided into 2 mornings). On Thursday the teacher decided very aptly to start the class by asking the 25 participants to list the topics we learned on Tuesday of the same week. My great astonishment was that, however much the teacher explained it to us in a pleasant and understandable way, and that we all enrolled in the course voluntarily with a real motivation to know better the accounting concepts, at that time we were not even able to remember from that we talked about 48h before.
Fortunately, the professor broke the uncomfortable general silence by remembering what he explained, and of course, then we remember him and we recovered the memory from this hook. But at the end of the course the teacher moved away from our lives, and without having in hand the fabulous photocopies of notes that he gave us, we can not possibly expect any of us to interpret a balance of the way we did in the interesting exercises facts in class.
Belief #2: A master class of a very expert teacher is the highest quality training that can be received
That a professor more or less does not influence the speed with which we will forget the concepts he teaches us. More important than the depth of the teacher’s knowledge, that is capable of transmitting in a motivating way, that generates in his students as to generate desire to reflect and deepen the subject on their own. The great experts are very useful to teach other experts less, or to direct applied research work, but to train people, skills and mastery of training methodologies are the critical factor for the students of a course to really learn or do not. The master class format has proved ineffective in multiple studies. People are only able to keep brief minutes at full capacity to listen to a talk passively.
Both children and adults feel better when something is taught by a peer of the same level (peer-to-peer learning) than when someone who is farther away explains it. This companion will transmit it with a flatter vocabulary, with closer examples and with a confidence that allows us to improve the understanding of what we are doing before reaching the audience. More and more companies opt for learning communities and forums so that their social networks or their customer service call teams share their knowledge and contribute to the collective intelligence of the company.
Belief #3: Little can be learned if one is not able to hear the trainer standing still
Today we know that to achieve a faster, easier and more durable learning, not only must we use the head, but the gesticulation with movements of the whole body will have a remarkable synergic effect. An experiential training that allows us to move our arms or walk through the classroom, will improve comprehension and performance, and not only because it will prevent the kind of sleep, but because everything that improves our interaction with the outside world increases the ability to understand and remember that learning. The more important a message is, the more the teacher gestures when emphasizing it to transmit it, and the more it captures the attention of the classroom. The concepts will be stored in the memory of the students linked to these gestures and therefore with a greater number of neural connections that facilitate their subsequent reminder regarding if they had only expressed words.
Science is not yet able to describe in detail how moving the body stimulates mental work, but we know that exercise releases neurotransmitters in the brain that proliferate brain cells and increase connections between neurons. We have all proven that it is good for us to get up in each coffee-break to recover the ability to attend the conference presentations. It is also known that people who play sports have more capacity for concentration and even greater ability to learn new languages. There are studies that have proven that the e-learning of languages listening to audio while practicing sports increases the capacity of people to memorize and retention time and is achieved by understanding and applying better the new vocabulary. In conclusion, let’s be clear that sitting for hours without moving is not the best way to learn.
Belief #4: The training games serve to entertain courses with more serious training sessions
More and more trainers are looking for strategies to make their training more active and effective. Much greater is the number of trainers who resort to making a game. The goal is not the effectiveness, but to break for a while the dynamics of long and dense presentations. Games are widely used as motivation tools and to brighten the day. If we use them for this purpose, we will not be focusing on obtaining the highest possible performance in terms of learning. If we do not demand effectiveness from the training game, we can fall into several errors that are significantly reduced:
- as its dynamics are stressful
- that do not generate a reflection process
- that is not contextualized why some answers are correct and others are not.
Gamification uses games so that people are motivated to do things that can be tedious. Well-designed dynamics can make a game easier to apply the most effective study techniques, and provide an excellent methodological training base to technical people without pedagogical knowledge who need to train in excellence to commercial teams or customer service teams for example.
When I worked in the pharmaceutical industry, most of the time we were the product managers who formed commercial networks. We did not have knowledge of the most basic concepts and we just went out and explained what we knew. We trusted that at home they would return to watch the presentation on their own, which almost nobody did. They were usually 3 intense days of “veneer”, and curiously there were very few doubts during the talks.
Did they understand everything without raising any doubt? Possibly, most of them were in the room only physically, while their brains were elsewhere. Everything so strategic that we explained to them did not apply later in their visits to the doctors. Generally, they acted on their own initiative delivering some promotional material before leaving the office.
The gamification of the training can be an ally to align the marketing departments with the sales ones. Thus, it is possible to achieve that the transmitted concepts are not only listened to but reflected by the commercial ones. In this way, greater attention is maintained during the talks and the marketing team receives feedback on what has been understood and what has not been understood. If the game is considered once the meeting is over, it will serve to consolidate well all the concepts transmitted. Users will gradually digest and incorporate their professional practice.
Belief #5: The best way to learn something is in an intensive course of several days
In practical training an intensive course can make sense to train people. To generate a reminder of data or theoretical aspects, the longer the intensive course lasts, the less effective the learning will be. It has been shown that the same teaching hours are more productive the more distanced they are from each other, as they will remember more concepts and for longer.
The microlearning format starts from the most strategic contents and exposed in microses of maximum 15 minutes. This format is triumphing in the professional fields. showing great effectiveness and also fits better to the rhythm of life. We remember better the message of a TED talk listening to it during a subway trip, than when we are given a long talk.
Belief #6: Getting an excellent grade on an exam really certifies that the subject is mastered and will be effectively applied
When an extensive meta-analysis evaluated the ability to generate a long-term reminder of the 10 main study techniques, it was evident that the most frequently used to pass a test such as re-reading notes, underlining them or summarizing them, are short-term and their effectiveness ends once they have passed. the objective of the exam. At that time when the tension can be lowered, an external evaluation takes place. A process of forgetting what has been learned begins to make room for the next thing that will be evaluated.
The exams can not be considered the goal of the training. Generally, they only guarantee that the person has read the agenda and therefore is able to overcome the final questions. If the contents are not encouraged to be revised more often in the following months, they will hardly be applied.
Belief #7: In a course who learns is the student
Edgar Dale’s experiential learning pyramid shows us that the most active learning is teaching others. This is the one that Dale considers capable of generating a 90% long-term reminder. To convey good learning, the speaker should prepare the topic in depth. You should analyze the most important thing and look for good ways to communicate it so that people understand it. For this reason, no one will have learned as much from the experience of that class as the teacher.
To take advantage of the reminder strategy, the head of training can divide the agenda into several sections. Also, it can make it to the people who learn to present their part to the rest of their classmates. It can be a good starting point to create an enriching learning community.
It has been quantified that creating each hour of a training course requires the tutor between 42 and 143 hours of dedication. Is it not worthwhile that we look for a way for that effort of the trainers to achieve the maximum possible results? For this it would be enough to incorporate into the course some elements that reinforce the reminder of the concepts taught:
- Do not consider the final exam of the course as the goal of the training. At the end of the course, encourage the periodic review of the concepts, for example, by sending short training pills. In this way, they will review what they have learned in short and relevant fragments.
- Posing quiz games as efficient self-assessment tools that can substitute the exams, especially if they have the possibility of making periodic repetitions of the concepts until they are consolidated in memory, as Trainapp does.
- Encourage students’ research on aspects of the syllabus, and then share them with classmates.
- Ensure that the course is as experiential as possible, avoiding master classes. Seeks people to participate and move from the chair on several occasions to maintain their attention.
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