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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