Learning is an interactive process. It’s not just about feeding someone new information – that person has to understand and internalize the knowledge. No matter what setting learning takes place in, instructors know that they must engage their audience, make the experience dynamic and memorable, and give participants as much hands-on training as possible.
This applies to school classrooms, university settings, employee training within companies, and of course, to customer education. The challenge is – when instructors cannot physically interact with participants, how can they ensure that the training session will be engaging?
Well, if you’re a company looking to familiarize new users with your product, the best way to do this is by enabling users to interact directly with the product, giving them a chance to test run it while also receiving guidance from product experts.
Today, of course, with the right technology in place, it is easy to set up a virtual lab environment that enables your customers to participate in hands-on training.
But let’s take a step back and really delve into why hands-on training is such a critical part of learning and why it ultimately yields the best results.
Have you Heard About the Learning Pyramid?
Studies have shown how different types of learning impact knowledge retention and recall rates. If you take a look at this graphic of the Learning Pyramid, you’ll see that when trainees take an active role in learning, whether through discussion (50%), practice (75%), or teaching others (90%), this leads to deeper learning and long-term retention. In fact, it’s not even a question – passive learning techniques like lectures or even demonstrations, will yield at the very most a 30% knowledge retention rate.
Think about the initial steps that your company takes, even at the beginning of the customer journey, when nurturing leads and trying to woo new customers. At most, you’ve presented your products and solutions to the potential client, and even shown them a demo of your product. Will this leave a lasting impact? Will they remember all of the bells and whistles? It would be more prudent, even during these early stages, to pull them into a lab environment and let them get a true feel for how your product works.
The Best Learning Happens through Experience and Engagement
Another theory which supports “learning by doing,” is the theory of experiential learning, which states that the “impetus for the development of new concepts is provided by new experiences.” Or, in other words, the best and most effective learning takes place when individuals are given the chance to experience and process a new situation and then apply what they’ve learnt.
According to this theory, which was developed by psychologist David Kolb, there are four stages of the learning cycle:
- Concrete experience – the learner encounters a new experience or situation;
- Reflective observation – the learner then reflects on that experience;
- Abstract conceptualization – the learner processes the new information that was encountered during the experience;
- Active experimentation – the learner applies what they learned in new situations.
The key here is that in order to establish effective learning, people must complete each stage of the full learning cycle, and close the loop with "active experimentation." This aligns with the Learning Pyramid, which clearly showed that knowledge retention can only occur when the learner takes an active role.
When it comes to customer training, then, it’s clear what companies must do – give your trainees the opportunity to engage with the content, participate in exercises, ask questions, and conduct hands-on lab work.
How to Deliver Effective Hands-On Training in Today’s Virtual World
If most of your contact with clients is online these days, don’t worry – you can, with the right tools and technology, run an interactive, hands-on training workshop in a virtual environment.
Think about how you could offer a training opportunity during a video chat or webinar with potential clients. You can turn your prospects into active participants, and give them a chance to test out your product in a virtual lab. This way, the knowledge that you transfer to them will be better retained and leave a deeper impression.
For clients that are already using your product, offering ongoing training helps them stay up to date on all of the latest product features and use cases and become masterful with your software. Even the most seemingly complex types of training can be offered in a virtual lab environment.
It’s important to give trainees the opportunity to “practice doing” by offering both classroom learning and practical, interactive labs. This turns trainees into active participants and encourages them to really engage in their own learning journey. If you recall the Learning Pyramid, when learners practice the skills they’ve been taught, they have a 75% rate of knowledge retention.
When it comes to customer education, hands-on learning should be an integral part of your training program. That’s because when trainees take an active role in learning about a new product, and get a chance to test it out in a lab setting, they are 2-3 times more likely to retain that knowledge and gain more proficiency with your tool.
The deeper and more effective the learning process, the more successful your customers will be, leading them to grow their businesses and become strong advocates for your brand as well.