Forward-thinking training providers have already begun utilising the newest and greatest technologies and are integrating them into their training programmes. These emerging tools offer myriad benefits, from cutting costs; boosting learning outside the physical classroom; and lessening the carbon footprint.
Bring your own device (BYOD) or allowing employees to use their personal devices – smartphones, tablets or laptops – for work, has taken hold. BYOD can be extremely helpful to trainers if implemented and monitored properly. Instead of having to supply all the equipment needed by the trainees, they use their own existing devices, saving a fortune in additional hardware costs, and freeing the money to be spent elsewhere.
BYOD also allows trainees to remotely access information, meaning they can complete modules at home or on the move. Trainers can supply e-textbooks, videos, educational apps, online research, and suchlike, for application away from the classroom.
It also allows trainees to work with technology they are familiar with. Applehardware owners are used to work on/with Apple devices, and the same can be said for Android fans. Windows devotees too, wouldn’t want to have to learn any other way. Getting used to another platform or device can be both time-consuming and annoying. BYOD removes this irritation, as employees are familiar with, and competent on, their own devices.
LORAINE VORSTER, COMPTIA
For decades, employees have pushed the issue of a more flexible work arrangement, says Loraine Vorster, VP Business Development Africa/ANZ at CompTIA. “They now have the devices and network capabilities to turn this vision into reality. Laptops provided the first step towards a more mobile workforce. With smartphones and tablets there is an even greater opportunity to extend productivity and flexibility. CompTIA is taking full advantage of these capabilities. We see high value in accommodating mobile devices in the workplace if its means our employees are more productive and accessible.”
She says in her organisation, IT staff take the lead in determining which mobile devices will be provided and supported. “Employees have great flexibility in what they can choose to use, but IT holds the responsibility for managing and securing mobile access to applications, data and networks.”
Allowing employees to select their devices creates a comfort level, which leads to increased productivity while they are away from the office, adds Vorster. “Maintaining oversight over such devices means that you can still have control within the IT department; we can standardise and consolidate IT support. It’s also more cost effective to provide devices in this manner than to provide employees with a stipend to pay for their own mobile devices.”
Another hot trend which is stealing the training and development headlines is gamification. With gamification educational games can be developed that work handin- hand with a training programme, but introduce an element of fun for trainees.
This principle is applied in the virtual delivery of learning material to trainees as a “results-and-rewards” mechanism to maintain trainee interest and attention. This is incorporated in most successful virtual classroom interventions, adds Johan Horak a subject-matter expert at CompTIA.
Gamification is proving to impact the way companies educate their staff, and is being increasingly integrated into training curricula and development programmes. It offers an improved training experience through adding elements of realism, encouraging healthy competition, and allowing trainees to get faster feedback on their progress. In addition, it has been shown to enhance problem solving and collaboration skills, and improve knowledge retention.
Gamification programs combine elements of video games, social networking, data analytics and behavioural psychology to encourage trainees’ engagement; and training is a natural partner for programs of this nature. Too often, trainees complain that training is dull, overly mechanical and not stimulating at all, resulting in trainees disengaging from the process and not absorbing the information.
By ensuring that trainees have to master a single level before moving to the next, which more often than not takes repeating actions and tasks several times, and getting instant feedback as to which actions are successful and which are not, is exactly how skills are developed and learned in the real world. In addition, gamification provides a safe environment for employees to practice in, removing potential disasters that could happen if employees were to practise on actual customers.
Web-conferencing, which allows tutors to hold live presentations, meetings and training over the Web, is becoming increasingly popular with trainers. Not only does it lower costs, it allows trainees to ask questions and interact with their trainers. Common examples of Web-conferencing tools include Webex, Adobe Connect, Goto Meeting and Live Meeting.
From the business standpoint, one of the greatest benefits is that more employees can take part in the training, including staff who work away from the office and cannot physically attend the training. Costs also plummet, as costs associated with employees physically attending training,such as travel expenses, are taken out of the equation.
In fact, the expense is one of the major reasons that many businesses do not implement training programmes - the costs are simply too high. Some training is always better than none, and Web conferencing allows companies to offer training to their staff, at a very low cost, in the comfort of their own homes.
The technology changes that are impacting overall business operations definitely have an impact on communications as well. We’re continually evaluating all of our business processes to find ways in which new technologies can help us meet our objectives and improve on our performance.
Vorster says her organisation makes regular use of Web conferencing and video conferencing tools for internal meetings; for meeting with business partners and prospects; and in delivering educational resources.
LORAINE VORSTER, COMPTIA
“These changes in technology also give us the ability to search for talent regardless of location. At the same, when your employees are located in many cities across several continents, it can be a challenge to keep them connected.”
“One of the big advantages of Web conferencing is that these sessions can be recorded and archived, making them readily available to anyone at any time. It’s also beneficial for training purposes, as it can be much more interactive than a class where material is presented by a single speaker at the front of the room.”
Social media platforms have long been recognised as a valuable marketing tool. Most organisations are aware that Facebook, Twitter and suchlike are valid channels through which their businesses can deliver information, as well as engage their customers, with previously undreamed-of reach and creativity.
However, the power of social media as a training tool is too often overlooked. Social media can help employees learn,innovate, share knowledge and engage peers, business partners and customers. Information transfer on social media is an excellent way to filter content and learn from peers and other trusted sources.
Before a training session, trainers can introduce themselves and the course agenda to the trainees in a video on social media, as well as issue any instructions or give a pre-class assignment to the trainees. Trainers can also interact with their trainees to gauge their expectations of the training, and adjust the course material accordingly. LinkedIn is a valuable tool for introducing trainees to each other, by creating a class group before the training begins, and generate interest and excitement in the upcoming class.
During training, social media can be used to share class notes and similar, by posting on the wall, and encouraging trainees to ask questions, and share their thoughts as the class progresses. Post training, social media can be used to ask trainees any follow-up questions, or share their thoughts on the training and topic.
Training and development programmes can make use of all sorts of social networks to link trainees before and after a training event to share knowledge and ideas about the course, and what they gleaned from the training. Trainers and trainees can share links to articles, Webinars and other relevant information before, during and after the training.
Ultimately it’s about knowledge sharing, incorporating social media as a learning tool within the flow of daily activity, which can be a powerful weapon in the training arsenal.
Podcasting is another means of supporting online training initiatives and objectives. It can be used as a study aid, or as a performance-support tool that can be integrated into training programmes and e-learning courses.
Essentially, podcasts are a form of online media delivery that lets users download files onto their personal devices. In this way, trainees can access trainings sessions at any time that is convenient to them on an MP3 player, mobile phone, laptop or tablet.
Horak describes podcasting as a more rigid collaboration space where interested trainees can obtain further learning and access to content not yet included or as addition to their collaborative learning environment. “Podcasting is a valuable addition to the learning process and very much in line with the legacy of the good old frequently asked questions ( FAQ) environment we are used to.
Podcasts can be downloaded, or, with an RSS feed, they can be sent automatically to employees on a schedule. The duration for a podcast can be whatever the creator decides it should be, depending on its purpose and audience.