What’s the Buzz in Customer Training – September 23

By: Erik Snider, VP Marketing at Strigo

Training programs can only be effective if you know how to captivate and engage your audience. Today, when all training must be done online, in a virtual classroom, this can seem like an especially daunting task. Whether you’ve been training remotely for some time, or this is a relatively new aspect of your training operation, it’s critical to create a personalized, interactive, and immersive learning experience.

Let’s look at what the experts have to say about how software companies can create this kind of engaging and impactful learning environment.

Paul J. Zak, Founder of Immersion Neuroscience, has conducted his own research studies on how to improve learners’ ability to recall information. He says that in order for training to be effective, learners must be attentive and feel a sense of emotional resonance with the information that they are learning.

How can you achieve this through training? He offers several tips, such as:

  1. Keep learning sessions short – each session should include the presentation of new content, hands-on practice by participants, and at the end, a recap by trainees of what they learned.
  2. Schedule breaks – “challenge the brain, then give it time to relax and recover. Then challenge again.”
  3. Encourage peer-to-peer knowledge sharing – when you apply the information that you’ve learned, it sticks in the brain better.

We like how Zak has really dived deep into the scientific aspects of learning and then developed a practical methodology for applying his findings. While his training methodology does not focus specifically on customer education, the same principles can apply here as well. One of the major benefits of virtual instructor-led training (VILT) is that companies can offer more training choices so the trainee can set the pace of learning, choose the times that are most convenient for them, and break up training into smaller chunks rather than having to sit through a day-long session. This jives completely with the research that Zak has done, showing that learners can be much more focused and engaged when you optimize their brain power through shorter sessions. The notion of hands-on learning which Zak writes about is also a critical part of any successful training program, whether it be instructor-led or on demand.

Catherine Nicholson at the Virtual Training Team, says that one of the major challenges of remote training is that learners tend to be distracted, overwhelmed, and worked-up. This is the “always-on-the-phone, always-on-the-go” generation. In order to create a successful training program, Nicholson offers a handful of tips on how to engage this type of learner. Here’s what she suggests:

  1. Encourage learner participation interaction during the session
  2. Offer case studies and problem-solving exercises
  3. Provide opportunities for peer-to-peer collaboration

Nicholson touches on many important points, especially when it comes to creating a dynamic and participatory atmosphere in the virtual classroom. Building upon her point, we believe that it’s critical to incorporate hands-on learning, wherever possible. It’s important for trainees, especially those learning software, to gain practical experience in order to internalize and retain knowledge. With the right technology in place, it’s possible to create a virtual lab environment that complements the virtual classroom and allows trainees to really put into practice what they’ve learned.

Alexis Mehring at Training Industry Magazine, also addresses best practices for engaging today’s typically distracted learners. She says the key is to “mix, modify, and modernize,” and here’s what she means:

  • Mix different learning methods, like VILT, video, and microlearning.
  • Break out of the regular structure of teaching followed by homework. Use the different learning methods to create interactive assignments and hands-on learning experiences.
  • Solicit feedback from trainees and continually tweak your training program to remain up to date and aligned with learners’ needs.

Mehring’s approach really resonates with us because she puts the trainee front and center, focusing on their needs and their success, and then works backwards to figure out how to create an effective and engaging education program. What’s important to point out, is that businesses do not need to patch together different learning platforms in order to deliver a varied and dynamic training program. With the right technology, you can create a “mixed” learning environment all within a single platform that is engaging and impactful for learners and easy to use.

Discover how you can implement your own engaging customer training program here.