When you’re training two thousand people around the globe, eLearning is an effective and cost-effective way to do it, according to Michele Tupper, Instructional Strategist for The Connection. “The Connection‘s primary business is a call center,” Tupper said. “We’ve got people who are sitting at a desk all day, with downtime between calls. It’s very challenging to pull half the team away for a half-day of training, but they can do a five-minute training nugget between calls.”

Tupper said the challenge is to re-think what has traditionally happened in the classroom. “What we’re using a lot in the call center is scenario-based training. How do you replicate talking to a customer on the phone? In a classroom, that’s via role-play. With eLearning, you do something, something happens as a result of you doing that, and there’s a result of that result. That helps people understand the effects of decision A versus decision B.”

Focus on Goals

Rather than being an annual check-off, Tupper said, her goal is “to demonstrate that if we pull ten people off the floor for two days, we have to prove we got something for that. That requires a clear understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish.”

Tupper said, “One of the things eLearning does really well is to demonstrate learning. If you can do that, then the assumption is that you have the required knowledge. A lot of times, however, the knowledge checks aren’t valuable. They’re testing you on throwaway information. ‘What year was the company established?’ Who cares?”

A challenge for the instructional designer, Tupper said, is that “the tools are always changing. You have to stay on top of it. I see more people coming out of adult education and organizational management. A lot of us are very self-taught, especially around tools, techniques, approaches. Everyday I’m online looking at examples of eLearning. You have to stay abreast. I do heavily draw on my consulting background–I reach out to former colleagues. You have to be tool-agnostic based on client needs.”

While everyone needs to stay on top of new technology, Tupper said, “It seems more specialized now. We have a graphic artist–all she does is design. We have a developer. One member of my team is very drawn to technology. My work theory is to have people do the things they love doing, and everyone has a great day.”

Hybrid People

To be effective at developing training–eLearning, blended learning or classroom training–requires “a really firm combination of left-brain and right-brain skills. Part of this is deeply creative. It’s about new ways to present information. But you also have to be very linear. You have timelines, you interact with a variety of people, you need to get good information. A trainer needs to be a hybrid person,” Tupper said.

Ironically, she said, the trainer has to be able to deal well with ambiguity while producing an unambiguous product. “In training you have a topic, and you strike out all the ambiguity, and that’s the training. It’s usually one right answer, but the process of getting to that answer is very gray. It’s very opinion-based. You have to be able to grapple with not having the right answer, but what you produce has to be directionally clear. Black-and-white thinkers don’t do well in this business.”

Photo Credit: Dan Iverson

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