Training reinforcement is a learning strategy designed to prevent learners from forgetting what they have been taught in a classroom training course or an eLearning module. The all too human proclivity to forget is wreaking havoc on your return on investment in training. In the days following a training course your employees forget most of what they supposedly “learned.”1 The paradox is that this costly, virtually universal phenomenon is invisible to most organizations. In 2014 the Aberdeen Group, a market research firm, discovered that 56 per cent of the 260 organizations they studied did nothing at all to reinforce the knowledge picked up by their employees in formal training.
The Essential Role of Training Reinforcement Platforms
- structured learning and recall practices that are spaced out over time;
- highly scalable cloud computing capabilities with built-in artificial intelligence;
- advanced data analytics; and
- the rich user experience of native apps on mobile devices.
The process of training reinforcement locks newly-encountered information into long-term memory. And it deepens the mental pathways your brain needs to locate and retrieve that information.
A standard classroom course may occupy three consecutive hours in one sitting. However, training reinforcement platforms prescribe short, personalized segments of learning, each about two to five minutes long. They space out these segments at carefully selected intervals and on a schedule tailored for each employee. A training reinforcement program may deliver those three hours of content in five-minute increments each day over a month or more. And because the learning components are so short, they can fit into the many small, free moments that employees encounter unexpectedly during every workday.
Training reinforcement platforms make it possible for your employees to recall next year the information they learned yesterday. They make it feasible to provide highly personalized training to learners at a massive scale for an acceptable cost.
Key Characteristics of Training Reinforcement Platforms
Training reinforcement platforms have hundreds of features. But there are a few fundamental characteristics most platforms share.
1. Training Reinforcement Platforms are adaptive
- Adaptive features must be controlled by some kind of artificial intelligence that learns from each employee’s daily behaviour. Machine learning, one type of artificial intelligence, can judge their responses and current status in real time and choose the retention activities to present next, at a pace optimized for them.
Some platforms attempt to be adaptive by using algorithms, instead of artificial intelligence, to make these judgments. An algorithm is a set of mathematical rules you write to govern the operation of a system. But because these rules never change, the platform analyzes user behaviour and makes decisions the same way every time. Static algorithms place built-in limits on the depth of analysis and range of personalization the platform can perform. Machine learning, on the other hand, doesn’t follow predetermined rules. It selects the most effective options for any one learner by drawing conclusions from thousands of previous learner experiences, expressed in millions of data points. Machine learning gives you an original, personalized decision every time.
- Adaptive learning capabilities can operate at more than one level of any content structure. For example, at the micro level two users will rarely receive precisely the same sequence of questions, the same feedback, or the same recommended remedial learning resources to fill their knowledge gaps. These platforms also take into account additional sources of data, such as job roles, competency levels, and even individual progress in comparison to their peer group. At the macro level, the training reinforcement platform might prescribe an entire learning path for one learner while another may never even learn of its existence.
For a discussion of microlearning that goes beyond training reinforcement, visit our article on A Definition of Microlearning . . . and Why We Need It.
2. Mobile-responsive and mobile-first training reinforcement platforms
You can use one of two approaches to deliver content over mobile devices. The first is sometimes called a mobile-responsive or mobile-ready approach.
Mobile-ready providers have extended their desktop or laptop-based reinforcement platforms to make their content accessible on mobile devices. They often use responsive web technology or various intermediate software tools that can generate mobile software code. This approach makes business sense for companies that built their products — and their skillset — before recent smartphone models with advanced features changed the way we communicate. They had already sunk years and millions of dollars into their web-based product portfolios and organizational culture.
The trade-off is that the mobile experience that this model gives you turns out to be even worse than the desktop web. The content and interface of your web “app” flow differently on every mobile device and at every screen size. This means that you can never achieve pixel-perfect control over your employees’ user experience. Building world-class mobile software development capabilities is not a trivial undertaking: it takes years and may require an overhaul of a company’s culture.
- When a training reinforcement platform is mobile-centric, it can introduce on-the-spot learning and performance support in the flow of your daily business operations. This enables your learning material to improve your employee’s performance exactly when and where they need it. Learning in the flow of work can intensify your focus on customer service. Can multiply your ability to manufacture and ship products. Can boost quality and reduce errors. Simply speaking, learning in the flow of work can revolutionize your company.
- Mobile-first platforms use native mobile apps, which can exploit all the advanced features of mobile devices for learning purposes. And they are automatically forward-compatible with any new features the device manufacturers may release in the future.
- Mobile-first qualities can be seen in the new patterns by which we consume media. And in the previously unimagined business workflows that the mobile revolution makes possible.This is about much more than just making a mobile app. Mobile-first has changed our world.
3. Training reinforcement platforms provide innovative learning content formats.
It should be relatively simple to create training reinforcement content. Just slice up your eLearning courses into small pieces, shrink them to small screen sizes, and transmit them to your audiences over their mobile devices, right?
Well, uh . . . no.
It is quite simple to create training reinforcement content, but not with your old eLearning courses. No matter how short eLearning courses are, they don’t work in training reinforcement. They cater to an older model of training: the passive consumption of learning material. eLearning and classroom courses usually present learning content to your audience first and ask questions after you have taught the material, usually on a quiz. But training reinforcement turns this model upside down.
The questions usually come first with training reinforcement, and the content second. Or, to be more precise, training reinforcement content often comes framed in the form of questions. This transforms the emphasis in learning from consuming passive content to engaging proactively in activities and practices that challenge you.
- dynamically generated quizzes delivered daily, but used for retention purposes, not for evaluation
- flashcards for self-testing and memorization
- smartphone push notifications for tips, updates, or other messages, and
- micro-course formats specialized for small screens. These “courses” are usually just a few minutes long and focus on a single learning goal. They can fit, therefore, into the free moments that open up for employees throughout their workday.
Learn about how a major automaker relied on training reinforcement to prepare 10,000 salespeople in their dealer network for a mission-critical new product launch.
Adaptive training reinforcement platforms usually give you a variety of question types to choose from. They help you write useful retention quizzes and other question-based activities to meet different learning needs. You can use even the simplest question types to build sophisticated learning experiences. For example, you can use scaffolding techniques to lead learners from basic concepts to mastery of complex knowledge on any subject. Depending on the platform, its question types might include:
- multiple choice questions with single or multiple correct answers;
- matching questions of various kinds;
- fill-in-the-blank questions with a list of options to choose from. Or, for a more challenging experience, they can require a learner to type in the correct answer. Some training reinforcement platforms can interpret free-form responses like this using natural language recognition;
- likert scales. These questions ask you to choose a number on a continuum, such as a scale from one to ten;
- free-form short answer questions with mechanisms for evaluating them; and
- questions that include rubrics to make the learner aware of the criteria that should be reflected in their answers.
4. Fast and Light content creation.
Standard eLearning courses can take weeks to produce. But training reinforcement content is a different kind of content and is much simpler to author. Write good questions with feedback notes for knowledge recall activities. Create flashcards for self-testing and memorization. Or use smartphone push notifications to communicate tips and updates. Training reinforcement platforms provide content creation tools that you can use to assemble this kind of program.
Training reinforcement has a rapid development cycle that can push out product improvements in a matter of days, not weeks. You release early versions of your content quickly. Then you improve it in subsequent development cycles based on insights from your data, user performance, and employee feedback. And because the improvement cycles never end, your content always remains fresh and up to date.
Creating transformative microlearning is both an art and a science. Get practical tips in our article, 7 Dos and Don’t of Microlearning.
5. Scalable SaaS pricing, constant updates, and freedom from I.T.
Most importantly, setting up training reinforcement platforms is easy.
- Everything runs in the cloud.
- They are not dependent on your LMS, but most of them can be integrated if you wish.
- They require little or no resources or approvals from your IT department. This makes them excellent solutions for nimble business units looking for an edge.
- Most new features appear automatically as they are upgraded in the cloud. You can get more extensive updates and improvements with a commonplace app update.
Here’s something you already know:
The world’s information, in theory, is at our fingertips. But the practical truth is that the cognitive load we demand our employees to carry is heavier than ever before. Today’s more complex jobs demand that employees learn and remember ever larger volumes of information, and that information is always changing.
Here’s something you should ask yourself:
Think about the last business case you wrote to get funding for one of your training programs. What was the ROI you promised your executives you would deliver? Now that you know about our irresistible proclivity to forget most of what we’re taught, usually in just a few days, how much of that promised ROI can you still back up?
Adaptive training reinforcement is a business imperative. Training reinforcement software platforms deliver continuous, personalized training reinforcement for your employees in just minutes per day. It’s easier to make great training reinforcement content than most other learning material. Most platforms have built-in tools to make creating content simple. Training reinforcement platforms are easy to procure and require no IT resources. Although they can integrate with many enterprise systems, they aren’t dependent on any of your existing software. And they can bring new life to an LMS or enhance whatever else you are using. And they make training reinforcement feasible at a massive scale for an acceptable cost.
- The pace at which we forget was initially tested by Hermann Ebbinghaus of the University of Berlin in 1885. It is often plotted on a curve called a "forgetting curve." Most academic studies follow Ebbinghaus in presenting 80 per cent as the relative amount of learning material we forget after a few days.
But many factors converge to affect the pace at which any one individual forgets. For example, a learner is more likely to retain knowledge when they can connect it to what they already know, a variable that most controlled studies eliminate in the interest of scientific methodology and feasibility. Whenever you hear numbers like 80 per cent bandied about, remember that they are, at best, generalized averages under certain experimental conditions that might only apply to very few among any single group of real-world learners.