Roadblocks often prevent real-life learning from being captured.

One of the biggest challenges, and opportunities, with formal learning initiatives is capturing what happens afterwards.  I like to call it “real-life learning” – taking what was learned, trying it out, seeing what results you get, and using that experience to try again.

A comment in ASTD’s T+D magazine from Michael Allen sums it up well:  “We don’t care about what people know.  We care about what they can do . . . with what they know.  Our challenge . . . is to get people to make the leap from knowing to doing . . . “

Real-life learning is where the rubber meets the road, and we see what people are doing in real situations with what they’ve learned.

Like many roads though, there are usually a few construction barriers along the way.  We’ve all been there, where we participate in a learning event and find that:

  •   Very little of what we learn is actually remembered (let alone applied).
  •   We don’t keep connections with and learn from those who are going through the process with us.
  •   The learning materials collect dust on our bookshelves or hard drives.  (In fact, I just cleared out 3 years  worth of files that I haven’t touched since taking various learning events.)

In other words, real-life learning isn’t captured or shared, but that’s where the impact is made!  And it can seem like finding these “nuggets of knowledge” is a search mission only for the bravest of training professionals (who also happen to have a lot of time on their hands to dig them up).

Below are some ways I’ve found to more easily capture real-life learning moments.  These are simple, low-cost (or no cost) ways to showcase how someone successfully used your content, plus pass along the experience and results to others.

  • Record informal stories via phone call.  Uncover real-life learning by interviewing those who participated in your learning event.  Find a few people who really stood out to you, and schedule a follow-up with them in the next 30-60 days.  Then use a conference calling service with recording features or a DVR device to capture their story interview-style.   As you may know from some previous posts, I’m a huge fan of story as a way to help people create emotional connections and remember what they learned.
  • Survey learners from time to time on what they’ve done with the learning.  Keep those registration lists from your courses and send an email to your participants.  Ask them share a story of how they successfully applied what they learned and the outcomes.  To make this even easier, create a short form with 2-3 questions to get the specific information you need.  This is best done at a spaced interval, once or twice after they’ve taken your event.

    Overcome barriers, capture successes and let the rubber meet the road.

  • Ask your line of business managers for stories from their team.  This serves two purposes – it can get the “real-life learning” you’re looking for, and help you tie training to business objectives.  As a learning professional, reaching out to the lines of business you support will increase your visibility and demonstrate a partnership between training and the business.
  • Create a “stories portal” on your intranet or internal learning site.  If you have a splash page or portal for your LMS, enhance it with “real-life learning.”  A stories page capturing successes and learning moments (in audio, video, written formats) is a powerful way to showcase training and development, and disseminate informal learning across the organization.  

Don’t let the barriers stop you. Capturing successes and communicating them is an important component of your strategy, and a great way to put in motion everything you know.

Explore for more information about custom blended training solutions and professional development services offered by Impact Instruction Group. Amy Franko is a Apex Award of Excellence winner for training design.

© 2013 Impact Instruction Group

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