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Integrating Technology Into Learning

Today's training departments are struggling with budget issues as well as proving their worth. Along with this, the continuing struggle is to keep learning efficient while making it as interesting, engaging, and motivating as possible. One of the best ways to do this is to integrate technology into learning programs where it is appropriate. Let's look at various technologies and how they might be used to maintain efficiency and increase engagement.

One of the most obvious technological training improvements is the use of CBT, or computer-based training. Many times our perception of CBT is that it is an activity that is performed alone at a desk via a learning management system. Although this is true, you can integrate CBT into classroom programs just as easily. For example, if you have a classroom course that is lengthy, consider putting informational pieces into an interactive format which participants are directed into at certain points during the course. This helps them learn from someone other than the instructor and mixes up the learning methods. In addition, CBT modules can be used as pre-work for the entire course to get buy-in from participants or as pre-work for each individual module.

Within the realm of CBT come technical simulations, tutorials, and quick reference guides. If courses teach computer or technical skills, consider creating technical simulations that are used either to teach the skill, to test it, or a combination of both. For example, many banks use this technology to teach tellers how to process transactions in the classroom, at their own pace, but with the assistance of an instructor.

Simulations can be used to test knowledge in the classroom, as well. The instructor can teach an entire skill and then have participants move to computers to go through a simulation on virtually any subject. Today's CBT technology allows for technical tasks, video streaming, and animation. Online Quick Reference Guides can also be used in the technology integration. If participants are performing tasks in the classroom and need assistance, instructors can refer them to online help. This way, participants will be ready to use such help when they are performing on the job.

Another technique for integrating technology could be the use of Internet or Intranet technology for learning. For example, if case studies are part of the curriculum, tailor the topics to include online research while in the classroom. If information is located on a company-only Intranet, direct participants to it in order to increase their knowledge but more importantly to show them where such knowledge is located. This type of integration is another way to put focus on each participant and not on the instructor or specific knowledge. After all, our goal as training professionals is to prepare people to go to work. We can't expect them to retain every piece of information so online resources are a perfect way to help them.

Collaboration via technology can also increase training satisfaction and efficiency. If your organization uses a Learning Management System with an online collaboration or blog module, consider integrating this into classroom programs. If the same course is being held in multiple locations, participants can collaborate on projects and case studies. Participants can also use collaboration when they return to the job. The only caveat with this type of technology is that an instructor should monitor the collaboration to ensure that information is correct. But collaboration isn't strictly confined to online applications. Collaboration can occur via tele- or videoconferencing just as easily. You can use these technologies while participants are in class sessions or even to follow up with them after they return to the job.

Finally, video technology is sometimes overlooked as a learning tool. For advanced courses or skills, such as sales, presentation, management, and leadership, video can be very effective. One corporate leadership program used video to record negotiation sessions between groups of three or four managers - and then played these videos back to the entire group for observation and critique. Seeing oneself in action is a definite enhancement to learning and self-awareness. It also provides an interaction that doesn't necessarily have to occur via a computer. Again, training leaders should use judgment on this type of technology integration to avoid frightening participants, so choose wisely.

As training adapts to a new economic climate, it will be necessary to integrate efficient and engaging learning methods that continue to prove value. Consider these technological integrations to move your training department forward.

Copyright 2009 Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.

Bryant Nielson - Learning & Development Expert - assists executives, business owners, and top performing sales executives in taking the leap from the ordinary to extraordinary. Bryant is a trainer, business & leadership coach, and strategic planner for many sales organizations. Bryant's 27 year business career has been based on his results-oriented style of empowering.