“Automating” your Classroom Training
For many years, the word on the street has been that classroom training – that traditional ‘live instructor face-to-face with her students’ experience – has been dying a slow death. However, based on recent studies, that is not actually the case. While certainly evolving and in need of updating, classroom training is very much here to stay.
That said, many areas of traditional classroom training are ripe for “automation.” Automation can be a tricky term – will our instructor now be a disembodied face on a screen or perhaps even a robot? Not likely. For now, I’ll stick to today’s reality and avoid Elroy’s Little Dipper School (if this reference isn’t hitting home – check out this article about a popular futuristic show from my childhood).
The evolution aspect will no doubt entail greater blended learning components and independent activities. But there is also a strong need to enhance the in-class experience. Not unlike the improvements needed to a user’s experience when utilizing a software application (I’ll explore that in a future post), the student’s experience in most classrooms is woefully outdated.
Learning management systems (LMS) have been around for many years and have improved the instructor-led class process. All of these ‘full-featured’ systems handle the management of course setup, course catalog searches, and self/manager-driven class registrations. Most do a good job managing class waitlists and even automate moving these wait-listers into the class when an opening exists. However, for most systems and classroom environments, that is where the automation stops.
Of course, automating for automation’s sake doesn’t necessarily improve a process or experience. The value associated with improvement must be tangible and provide a net gain. Let’s take a look at some of the “low hanging fruit” of classroom automation.
Here’s an example scenario: you arrive at the appointed hour to attend your company’s new hire orientation and are presented with a sign-in sheet. You were enrolled in the class by your manager, so where is the list that includes your name and you merely check-off your attendance? Better yet, you were just issued a shiny new employee badge – where’s the badge swipe thingy that automatically records your attendance and logs your arrivals/departures directly to your learning system?
Speaking of enrollment – did you or your manager manually search your learning system’s course catalog and register for the course? Didn’t your system know you to be a new hire and auto-enroll you in the orientation class based on your hire date? This capability is available in a number of LMS offerings on the market, but not all. Auto-enrollment and/or rules-driven course assignment features definitely help a system administrator to enable a number of “set it & forget it” options that drives greater productivity and ultimately cost-savings.
In my experience, the “automation” of system administration functionality has improved significantly over the last several years. However, the one role that consistently lags behind is that of the instructor. These folks, for the most part, have to dive many layers deep into their LMS to get at any real-time information regarding their role. What classes am I teaching this week? Is there a calendar view personalized to my assigned classes? For a specific class, can I easily see the enrolled students’ profiles, number of empty seats, or course waitlist?
So, not unlike the standard system administration interface, an instructor should have access to their own “dashboard” interface. This capability is available from a number of vendors, but generally not delivered all that well. While not true in all cases, it is mostly the more mature LMS products (e.g. Saba, SumTotal, Cornerstone) that have a robust instructor’s interface. A number of more recent LMS vendor solutions on the market have tended to focus more on web-based/virtual training and (thankfully) much-improved user interfaces overall.
Where else does classroom training lend itself for greater “automation”? As mentioned above, the classroom experience is being greatly enhanced today by pre & post blended learning activities – whether reading materials, taking web-based assessments or courses in advance or in follow-up to reinforce the in-class training. Likewise, working with mentors/coaches/subject matter experts following the class supplements and puts into practice the class instruction.
The actual in-class experience is slowly improving. With the addition of new ‘gamification’ activities, mixed media materials, and digital tools (tablets, smartboards, game consoles, etc.), the corporate instructor-student interaction has become much more dynamic. Gamification (the use of game techniques & technology), believed to improve engagement and motivation, is an important next-step for classroom training. Incorporating these new digital tools to facilitate both the gaming components and multimedia offerings (i.e. audio, video, pictures) into the classroom environment appeals to all generations and further enhances the in-class experience.
One final piece of “automation” to improve the overall results from classroom training entails incorporating a collaborative experience. Considered an avenue to achieving deeper learning (for both children and adults), the “collaborative classroom” will likely become the norm. Once again, this isn’t necessarily automation in the technological sense (though it could be) – the goal would be to build a sense of community, camaraderie, & sharing in the classroom.
Similar to the blended learning activities I previously described, this collaboration component may also be augmented through virtual pre-class meet & greet activities and/or post-class discussion threads/forums. The benefits of collaborative learning are extensive. Hand-in-hand with collaborative learning is the notion of “personalized learning.” This topic will be explored in a future post.
In conclusion, the automation of corporate classroom training is already well underway – for instance, the explosion of virtual class technology (is this the disembodied face on a screen?) is another method that I didn’t spend much time discussing and frankly a topic for an entire future post to be devoted. However, as I did discuss above, there are many key “automation” additions that could & should be utilized to improve the value of classroom training.
In fact, I would urge you to not shy away or delay from incorporating many of these approaches to your own classroom offerings – the cost of classroom training can be significant and shouldn’t every avenue to achieve the best overall results be explored?
Steve Stubbs is the Director of Sales at rapidLD and 15+ year veteran of the Learning & Talent Management industry. rapidLD (www.rapidLD.com) is a learning & talent management consulting firm that provides our clients extensive experience in professional consulting & benefits from the ‘lessons learned’ of companies that have gone before you. rapidLD leverages sixteen years of service dedicated to Learning and Talent Management technologies.
P.S. If you are looking to automate the “badge swipe thingy” process I described above, please drop me a note (email@example.com). rapidLD’s rapidRoster micro-app may be the solution for you.