Dr. Ina Weinbauer-Heidel and Dirk Meißner conclude their piece for TJ subscribers on practical tips and tools for effective learning transfer.
Tool 3 – To set the first transfer step
There is a classic phenomenon: During the training the learners have good ideas and thoughts (‘That sounds great! I should definitely put that into practice!’) and then move on to the next info nugget and the idea, the resolution, is already gone or postponed and thus unfortunately mostly forgotten (‘I’ll have another look later and think about it.’).
What is critical in face-to-face training is all the more important in online training. Without specifically defined next steps (Action Steps), no transfer! It is important to translate information into ‘What does that mean for me?’ and above all ‘What will I do next?’.
In this context, scientists swear by ‘implementation intentions’. These can double or triple the frequency of implementation. You need to transfer the message from the classroom to the digital formats: ‘Nobody leaves the seminar room/learning platform without concrete next steps!’
The more precisely these steps are defined, the better. In face-to-face training you can explain the meaning and benefits and spend time on it. In elearning, learners often have little patience and do not always read to the end to find out why it is important to define next steps.
Colleagues are also critical for the transfer success with their feedback on implementation attempts
Careful! Again, it is tempting to say, ‘I can’t get my learners to do that, so I’ll leave it out’. Don’t. You can make this easy too.
Implementation intentions are particularly effective in the ‘If… – then…’ or in the ‘After I …, I will …’ format. You don’t have to explain the concept, you can just use it in your elearning.
Try it in form of a gap filling exercises. Following a learning nugget, continue with a section where your learners have to fill in their next action step. For example ask your participants: What is your next action step to increase the rate of sales closure and when will you do it? Fill in the gaps: ‘After I … (have had my coffee in the morning), I will … (call a customer and ask about the status of our quote).’
In elearning you can also offer a choice, such as ‘Choose a maximum of three steps’. It would be ideal if the learners could share this selection with others on the cohort or their transfer partner. This increases social pressure (peer support) and is more likely to result in the tasks actually being done.
Transfer lever: Transfer planning. Encourage participants to plan the detailed implementation of what they have learned during the training. According to studies, this can triple the practical success.
Tool 4 – To get colleagues who are not on the same training support me
Colleagues are also critical for the transfer success with their feedback on implementation attempts: ‘Great idea!’ or ‘Where did you get this nonsense?’ What colleagues think of the new ideas is often crucial for sustained implementation. But how do you get your learners’ colleagues on board, especially if they have not (yet) done the same elearning?
‘Teach-backs’ with ready-made slides/documents and a task for the learners are a great tool for this. The task: tell your colleagues about your key insights. Send this pre-written email to possible interested parties.
“Dear colleagues, I am currently doing exciting training on (add topic) … I already have some concrete ideas how we (add value to the training, e.g. how we can shorten our meetings) … I would be interested in your opinion. If you can, please come to a (virtual) lunch/coffee on … at … I look forward to meeting with you all”.
For further support you can provide your learners with the most important insights from the training as a PDF/PPT.
Transfer lever: Support from peers. Encourage the learner’s colleagues to welcome and support the transfer.
Tool 5: To make successful application the finish line rather than the last click
From a transfer point of view, the training is far from over at the end of the training! But unfortunately, a different attitude has become established in many companies: With the certificate in hand, everything required is done.
Start now so that your elearning gets the status it deserves, not as a feeble click exercise, but as a crucial contribution to the success of your company
As in face-to-face training, it is unfortunately often the case in elearning that you can print out the coveted certificate yourself once you have clicked through everything and perhaps passed some quiz questions. But that is the wrong signal! It shows the clicks are important to us, so is theoretical knowledge, but not the application/implementation. How can this be changed?
Like this: A certificate no longer becomes automatically available after learners have clicked through the training, only once all transfer tasks have been completed. And even better: Offer the certificate as a template on which learners can enter their implementation success in order to have everything ‘complete’.
The manager or transfer partner then signs it. Both should agree to keep in contact for this purpose. It would also be possible to have another short teach-back after a month to see how sustained the training outcome is. The learners keep engaged, and the managers see the business benefit for the company more clearly.
Transfer lever: Transfer expectations in the company. The completed e-training is not the finish line, but the successful implementation. You demonstrate that it is noticed in the company and has consequences if the participants (do not) apply what they have learned.
We often do not have all the levers in our hands. We cannot provide 100% support from managers; or stand next to the learners and encourage them to do a transfer task.
But with the above tools, we are clearly headed in that direction. And as you have seen, it’s not difficult at all, not for the learners nor the elearning designers. They are small but effective and critical steps for more transfer effectiveness.
The excuse ‘I can’t…’ no longer applies. And the principle of hope á la ‘transfer happens automatically’ should also be a thing of the past. The transfer problem can be solved – with the 12 Levers of Transfer Effectiveness® and simple, joined up tools. No more and no less.
Start now so that your elearning gets the status it deserves, not as a feeble click exercise, but as a crucial contribution to the success of your company! What is your next step to make more transfer happen?
Read part one of this piece here
About the authors
Dr. Ina Weinbauer-Heidel is a scientist, author, keynote speaker, university lecturer, consultant, and founder of the Institute for Transfer Effectiveness. Dirk Meißner is a journalist and learning expert. He works as an elearning author at Bildungsinnovator.de.