What’s Your Learning Style?
Hop in the way back machine with my for a minute and try to remember back when you were in grade school. See if you remember this: when I was in school, we sat at our desks in class, the teacher told us stuff, there was a book, probably some papers (who remembers the smell of fresh copier ink?), and homework to digest the information or prepare for the next day. Does that sound familiar?
Today’s learners, especially adult learners, aren’t just learning in the classroom like we used to. We aren’t just waiting for a class to come up so an expert can stand in front of us and explain the answer to the question of life, the universe, and everything. If we want to know something, we usually reach into our pockets, grab our hand-held supercomputers and ask our questions to the all-knowing internet. We want to know, and we want to know it now.
What does that mean for the people involved in learning? Does it mean the end of the classroom? Does it mean that people will just be self-taught? No. It does mean that we have to step up our instructional game. It means that we have more ways to help people with their daily work than ever before. Let’s talk about a few of the different instructional methods that we’re using today.
This is the old standby. We book a room, gather the audience (who pay a nice fee), bring in the experts, set up the projector, print the books, and we’re off to the races. This is still a great way to engage learning. I know that there are those who think that the classroom has outlived it’s usefulness. Here’s the thing. A classroom done well is engaging and memorable. A classroom can be a social experience. A classroom experience can provide engaging conversation and meaningful relationships.
A classroom done poorly is more like that scene in Ferris Beuller’s Day Off. You know the one, “anyone, anyone…” Unfortunately, that’s what comes to mind when we think classroom sometimes and that’s the biggest problem with classroom learning. Beyond that, a classroom session requires that you get out of the office for a block of time. I’ve seen classes that run from 2 hours to 4 days and that’s all time away from what you normally do. That means lost productivity, etc. It can also be expensive. These hotel conference rooms aren’t cheap, especially if there are snacks involved and we all love snacks.
I don’t want to give this particular method short treatment, but let’s be honest with each other. A lot of webinars are very simply the classroom transferred to an online format. The class gathers in a virtual classroom and the instructor gives us their expert information. I like webinars. They can be really fun and engaging, but that take a lot of work for the instructors and the producer. The best webinars are interactive and keep the class involved with the content, rather than just receiving it.
I already mentioned it, but it must be repeated; webinars are HARD to do well. You have to work to keep the audience engaged. It takes effort to keep them from multi-tasking. It takes planning to make sure that they aren’t checking email or (worse) walking away while you’re talking. It’s also really hard to provide snacks.
E-learning is a great tool to put content into an interactive format. E-learning often uses authoring tools that mix audio, video, animation, popup boxes, downloadable materials, and other devices to create a multi-media experience. Often, it’s the same basic content that we have in the classroom, but it’s presented in a different way. E-learning can follow a static flow or can be self-guided.
This is a great way for presenting content to groups of people that can’t be assembled in one place. It may be too expensive or costly in productivity to assemble the team in a classroom to receive this training. This is also a great way to automate on-boarding training. You know the classes that I’m talking about: the company’s history, the CEO’s puppy, the future, and the HR stuff.
This is one instructional method that can get pretty expensive; fast. The software is costly and learning to use it takes time, or you have to hire someone with specialized training so that your training doesn’t look like you put it together ten minutes ago, even though you spent about 50 hours building it.
You’re asking yourself now, what’s that? Micro-video? It’s just a way of speaking of short videos that tell a specific story, make a short point, or teach a small topic. I know that you’ve seen them before and so do you. You’ve seen them on your social media. They’re the short videos that show a recipe or craft idea. Often, they have those bouncy little tunes in the background that keep you engaged with the process.
Now that you know what we’re talking about, you’re thinking that you’re not trying to teach recipes. You’re trying to help people on your team understand complex insurance concepts. Video can be used for that, too. All you need is a camera, an expert, and a good question or two. This is a popular and effective tool for creating engaging learning.
With all the video that’s out there, there are several pitfalls that you can fall into.
- Your video doesn’t need to be professionally created, but it does need to be high quality. You don’t have to buy expensive equipment, but you do need to get good at using the equipment that you have. Your cell phone camera will produce good video, you just have to get good with it. Your audience will get tired of poor quality video and will stop using it.
- Not all video is helpful. You need a timely topic, a surprising story, a compelling character, or any combination of the three to have a helpful video. If your business need is in municipal liability, you shouldn’t create videos about personal auto policies. If you need information about an emerging technology, the subject of the interview must be a credible expert.
- More isn’t necessarily better. You don’t need a lot of video, or a long video. You only need enough to tell your story, explain your topic, or introduce your character. You can have a compelling story or answer to a question in just a minute or two. Shorter videos can often make an impact better than a 20 minute video.
- Videos have an expiration date. Video content is not evergreen; you will have to cycle out older videos when you cycle in newer videos. That means that once you start down this path, you will be committed to constant review and update of content. You can’t just put a video out in your learning environment and hope that people like it forever. Today’s autonomous vehicle conversation looks very different than it did two years ago.
If you’re looking into using video in your learning, we want to give you a new tool. If you have a Learning Management System (LMS), you can access the video library, curated from Insurance Journal.
You can find this new tool at: https://www.ijacademy.com/building-blocks.
We are excited to provide this service. Let us know what you think.