TTMWL: Episode 15 — “Adapting to the New Normal of Distributed Training” with eLearning ID’s Sabina Love

Training the Modern Workforce Live is a show discussing training and talent development solutions and best practices. Hosted by Allogy CEO Colin Forward, each episode features an informative conversation with a prominent guest in the training world.

Watch the full video interview above, listen on any of the platforms below, or continue reading to see the full transcript (edited for clarity).

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About Sabina Love, Learning Organization Consultant, eLearning ID

Sabina Love has 15+ years of experience in the analysis, design, and development of effective training and performance interventions for organizational learning and development. Her desire is to help others create content that is engaging and beneficial to the modern worker. With her Master’s degree in eLearning technology and design, she has come along the side of small businesses, large corporations, and higher educational organizations to create online programs that work.  

Episode Transcript

Adam Wagner:
Hello, everyone, and welcome back to Allogy’s podcast, Training the Modern Workforce Live, a show discussing training and talent development solutions and best practices. Each episode, we’ll talk about a different training topic, and make sure to keep an eye out for special guests and interviews from top training professionals.

With me, as always, I have Colin Forward, CEO of Allogy. For the last decade, Colin has provided major U.S. hospitals and federal agencies with distance learning solutions. He studied mobile technology at the University of Central Florida while earning a degree in computer science and his MBA.

And joining Colin this week is Sabina love, who has 15+ years of experience in the analysis, design, and development of effective training and performance interventions for organizational learning and development. Her desire is to help others create content that is engaging and beneficial to the modern worker. With her Master’s degree in eLearning technology and design, she has come along the side of small businesses, large corporations, and higher educational organizations to create online programs that work.

Today, we’re going to be talking about adapting to the new normal of distributed training. We have some great questions on deck already, but feel free to ask any questions that may come up in the chat, and we’ll get to as many as we can.

Alright, Colin, over to you.

Colin Forward: All right. Thanks, Adam. And thanks, Sabina, for joining us. So we’re having this conversation today because a number of months ago we reconnected after working together on projects years ago, largely around your expertise in distance learning and how you help people be more effective in supporting distributed workforces. So to start off, why don’t you tell us a little bit about eLearning ID and the book that you put out?

Buy the Course Design Made Simple Workbook now!

What is the eLearning ID Book & App Toolkit?

Sabina Love: I’ve been in the eLearning space since 1999 for a healthcare IT corporate company, and I just fell in love with eLearning. It was the beginning of moving in-person-type training online, and I decided to go get my graduate degree. At that point, I decided to start my own consultancy, eLearning ID, and as I worked with different clients, I tried different methods all around the ADDIE model, which is something in instructional design that we all know. But I found that I liked the agile approach, working on a project from the assessment to design to the development and coming up with the products all at the same time.

And so, as I was going through that with many of my clients, I decided to write this book because I noticed that a lot of people were putting training together on their own. And while I always suggest you have an instructional designer on board, I knew people were going to be doing it on their own, and so that’s why I created this book and this program.

Colin Forward: And so, we initially started the conversation around moving your book onto our product, Capillary. So what can people expect if they download your book or if they go and find the book on Capillary?

Download the eLearning ID app on the App Store or Google Play Store for more eLearning tips!

Sabina Love: So the app on Capillary and the book work hand in hand. And it’s something that I always tell people, too, that training goes beyond the classroom. Adult learners learn best when they have what they need, as far as learning materials, right at the task. And so, the Capillary application does just that.

So as they’re working through their instructional design process—and I take them through that in my book—I have them assess their audience and come up with a consistent learning look and feel. I have them come up with a way to sequence their materials, et cetera. But as they’re going through that in the workshop, or if they come to one of my classes, they can also go to the Capillary app and pull that up in real-time, or what we call just-in-time learning. So they can pull up those tools as they’re trying to create their training.

Colin Forward: And I should probably know this, but just confirm for me that someone listening could find your app on the App Store and Play Store under eLearning ID.

Sabina Love: That’s correct. They can go to the Apple store and the Google store, and they can look up eLearning ID, and there they can register for the eLearning ID toolkit. And within the toolkit, they’ll find each one of the steps, easily numbered with the graphics, so they know exactly which step they’re on and access those tools at whatever point of the process that they’re in for instructional design or coming up with their course.

Colin Forward: Okay. So, over the last year and a half, we’ve seen a lot of people that have had to grow as instructional designers. They may not even have been instructional designers before the pandemic hit. Is this book about helping people skill up to develop the new habits and systems that they might need, or is it for people who are already instructional designers and want to take their training to the next level?

Sabina Love: It’s really for both. Every instructional designer should know everything that’s in this book already, but it’s a great review, and it’s also a really great communication mechanism for them to be able to talk to their clients when they’re doing projects and use the tools to help them explain how to bring value to their learning projects and whatnot. I really did have in mind a train-the-trainer-type situation where this book was more for people who’ve never made a learning objective before or they think text bullets are a good way to present information. I give them a lot of ideas on how to create more engaging content using things like stories and case studies and scenarios, experiments, and whatnot. I just give them a lot of ideas.

So I help them kind of hop into the instructional designer’s brain and pick at it a little so that they can figure out some good strategies for putting together a better course so that they don’t get the response that eLearning is boring. And I take it even beyond just people doing a tutorial or presentation and help them to understand that training happens outside of the classroom. I’m very passionate about learning interventions and bringing us from a place of just acquiring knowledge to changing behavior. And there’s a whole chapter in there that shows other ways, things that you can add in addition to training, that will help training stick.

Colin Forward: So, obviously, very topical. A lot of folks that we work with as well are trying to figure out how to get up to speed on this kind of thing. In some cases, it’s because they work with hospitals, and now they’re not allowed to be in the hospital. In other cases, it’s because they have a remote workforce that’s not coming into the office. Why do you think it took COVID to convince people that this was necessary and helpful?

How Did COVID Convince People that Distance Learning Is Both Necessary and Helpful?

Sabina Love: I think this change is hard. I think that we all kind of like to be in our comfort zone, and in-person training is something that feels comfortable. It’s something that we’re used to; we know how to develop for it. And while those eLearning tools have been there for a very, very long time—I’ve been making eLearning for decades now—it’s just not a comfortable place necessarily. And so, the kind of simple answer to that is the same as why we all became comfortable meeting virtually and whatnot—because we had to.

And so, in crisis mode, a lot of people took their in-person training and tried their best. I think everyone should give themselves a big pat on the back for a job well done. Everybody did the best they could with what they had to create a live, online experience that matched what they were doing in person.

And now, I think a lot of people are looking toward the future, and they’re thinking, “I can’t wait to get back to that in-person situation.” And I think there were even a lot of HR departments that were starting to put together that plan on how we’re going to bring people back and whatnot. And now, with Delta coming our way, we’re having to look at a different way of doing things. Some of the workforce is in the office; some of the workforce is at home. And we’re going to need to start grappling with the idea of some sort of hybrid-type situation.

Colin Forward: I haven’t been in this for quite as long, but I remember about 10 years ago being back at the METIL lab at the Institute for Simulation and Training, and even then we were trying to get people to understand the value of hybrid training models. So, clearly, this is just an opportunity for us as people who usually use words like pedagogy in everyday conversation.

Sabina Love: Yeah. Adult learning is what we’re mostly focused on here.

Colin Forward: Yeah. So, for us, we’ve been advocates for this kind of thing for a long time, but what is the opportunity for someone who’s maybe feeling like this is an imposition for them? How can we help them understand that hybrid learning can really advance what they do?

How Do You Demonstrate the Value of Hybrid Learning to Stakeholders?

Sabina Love: I think they really need to start looking at the value of eLearning as a whole. And what I mean is, in the world of instructional design, we apply something called the Kirkpatrick model—levels one, two, three, and four. And in level four, your stakeholders or your sponsors are coming up with their key performance indicators around a value.

Say they really want to make sure that their customer service is top-notch. And so, they might have a key performance indicator around that. And let’s just say they want their customer service people to finish a service request within a certain period of time, at a certain level of accuracy. And you take that back down to level one, which is reaction. And level two, which is knowledge. And level three, which is behavior. And you start to employ some instructional design methods to show value at each one of those levels to that level four so that the manager can see, “Ah, if we’re hitting those marks, we’re hitting our numbers. Those training materials are actually bringing us value.”

So, for instance, you might do a training on customer service, and you’re not hitting your numbers still. So you go back to your level one, and you’re looking at the reaction, and you say, “How did you like the teacher? Was the room comfortable?” And in our case, in an online situation, “Did all the technology work?” And we need to start turning that to performance and say something like, “What was your level of confidence before you came into this classroom in putting in a service request? What was your level of confidence afterward?” And you can see a delta.

Colin Forward: Yeah. I mean, I’m familiar with the Kirkpatrick model. I don’t know that all of our viewers might be, our listeners might be. So just to review it quickly, and correct me if I’m wrong: level one might be, say, “Did you like it? Did you enjoy the training?” Level two might be, “Did you learn something? What was the outcome of the training?” Level three, “Did it have a business impact?” Like you said, “Does it change behavior?” And then, level four is more at the admin level, “What was the ROI? What’s the impact to the bottom line?”

Sabina Love: That’s a slightly different model with the ROI, but at level four with Kirkpatrick, you’re wondering if there was an impact on the organization. Did you reach those goals, the organizational goals?

Colin Forward: Sure. So I guess I say it that way because in previous conversations that you and I have had, you helped me tie these levels back to the stakeholders in training and where their priorities lie. So if we think about the learners, trainers, instructional designers, and then the executives—who a lot of the times are the decision-makers, the people making investments in these trainings—a lot of the times those roles match up with the different levels that we’re doing that Kirkpatrick evaluation as.

Sabina Love: Especially if they’re working together. So if you have your sponsors and your stakeholders communicating very well what their key performance indicators are to the instructional designer, who is coming up with the classroom experience or can prove that knowledge was acquired, and then also add that behavior—level three, making sure you have job aids and mentoring afterward so that training will stick—you’re showing value all the way up to level four. But if the learner walks away, and they don’t have the confidence to do their job because they didn’t get the proper training or they aren’t satisfied after they’ve left, you run the risk of losing talented employees, and there’s a huge cost tied to that. And that’s just one level that we’re looking at for our learners.

Colin Forward: Yeah, you had a quote that I really liked, and I don’t know if it was an original, but you said that this big investment that people make in in-service training, it’s a lot like buying a new car because as soon as the learner leaves the classroom they’ve started forgetting things and the value of the training is greatly reduced.

Why Are Training Interventions Important Both Before and After Formal Training?

Sabina Love: It’s so true. A lot of people think of training as that couple of hours that you’re sitting in the classroom and whatnot. But you spend all of this time and money putting this training together and get the trainers up to speed and whatnot, and then the second they walk out of the classroom they start forgetting. And there’s a psychological principle around this that tells us that the forgetting curve starts to go into place, and it’s exponential.

And what an instructional designer or a stakeholder of the training wants to do is to make sure that there are learning assets and things employed after the training is over. You need to be sending out newsletters or emails or just-in-time training snippets or job aids. You should be doing some type of mentoring or coaching. All of those things help bring the forgetting curve right back up so that you’re not losing that value on the training.

Colin Forward: And I’ll tee you up here: what about before the training?

Sabina Love: Yeah, absolutely, before the training. Make sure that when your people are coming to the class that they know how to access materials. They might even go look through all the materials before they come so they have rich questions when they show up and they’re not just trying to figure out what this handout is.

Right now, we’re using things like WebEx, Zoom, MS Teams, and other types of platforms to do live, online training. Send out a tutorial on how to use that so that’s not a hurdle going into a breakout room or whatnot. They should know how to do that, same with the trainer. There are definitely some proficiencies that need to be at a level that you need to get to with your trainers so that they’re also not stumbling through the technology.

Colin Forward: Well, let me ask you about that because I think everything that you just said makes the value proposition for hybrid training models really clear for an executive and an instructional designer. But what does this mean for trainers? Are they going to have to up their game in order to deliver the same or better quality of training than when they were used to the classroom model?

How Should Instructional Designers and SMEs Collaborate to Deliver Better Hybrid Training?

Sabina Love: I think that the skillset for trainers has always been moving. And a lot of times, we have subject matter experts who are coming in as the trainers, and it really does help to have an instructional designer come right beside a subject matter expert and help them along with things like using the tool and coming up with good materials so that their unconscious competence doesn’t fall into play where they’re talking to their class and it feels like a fire hose because everything’s coming at them way too fast.

And so, I think, as a company, you should have people coming beside your subject matter experts who are usually doing the training to help them level up on those skills. And again, I don’t want to bring it back to my book, but I do have checklists in there too for the subject matter experts so they can identify, “Am I’m teaching with some unconscious competence?” And unconscious competence meaning they’re so good at it, they’re such an expert, that it becomes automatic. They don’t even know necessarily that they’re missing steps because those things are so automatic to them.

Colin Forward: Right, and that kind of person is probably better suited as like a part of the instructional design process, maybe not the person doing the direct training.

Sabina Love: Well, it depends. You have high-potential people who can do both. They can be subject matter experts, and they can be trainers. And it depends on the topic too. There are some topics that are so high-tech that you really need some subject matter experts in there to do the training.

There’s a difference between doing information and instruction as well. You want to get to a point of application, where you have authentic learning going on, where you’re not just putting out a bunch of facts but you’re actually having somebody get into a system. Say, for instance, that customer service example that I gave, they’re not going to do really great when they get back to their desk to run a service request through a system if they haven’t actually touched the system.

And that’s where a SME, or subject matter expert, helps because they know exactly how to use that system, and they sometimes just need a little help in learning some of those training skills. Or have the training materials vetted through an instructional designer so they can go through it step by step without having to think, “Well, how do I teach this?”

And so those are some good methods for making sure that your trainers, your SME trainers, are doing a good job and showing value. I always come back to the value piece, as well, and in that situation, that would be a level two where you’re trying to show that the knowledge was acquired. And you can design your training in a couple of different ways to show that happened. You can do a pre-test and a post-test and show a delta and knowledge is acquired, or you can go into the system that they’re in and show, “Yeah, they’re definitely not hitting the mark here. But then, after they went to the training with this trainer, yes, they are now performing that task at the level that we put in as our key performance indicator.”

Colin Forward: So from everything you’ve said, it’s obvious that under this new model, when we’re supporting distance or, in particular, a hybrid training, instructors and instructional designers have a lot of new responsibilities. But that makes me wonder, do learners have any new responsibilities as well? Are there any new expectations for someone on the receiving end of this?

Does Hybrid Training Create Any New Responsibilities for the Learner?

Sabina Love: There sure are, and I think this last year and a half has just been a testimony to that, for sure, where people are doing things that they didn’t want to do and maybe still don’t want to do, but they’re just having to dig in and figure out how to get it done. I mean, you can’t just put training on hold for 18 months. I think, in the beginning, it was a little confusing because you didn’t know how long this was going to be. Do we need to start moving everything online? Some things were more immediate where we needed to jump in and get everything put online and whatnot.

But I think, as a performance improvement consultant as well, you need to look at some of the complaints, too, that people have. They say, “I just can’t see the training on my little screen.” It might be time for a company to say, “We might need to invest in technology at home that would help them to get over those problems.” Buy a giant monitor so that they can actually see the little tiny print on the software that’s being demoed or whatnot.

And I think sponsors or stakeholders are going to need to take a look at the long-term and weigh those things because during crisis mode it was understandable. But as we go by past a year and are looking at part of the workforce as in-person and part of the workforce at home, we need to start looking at what’s going on at home as well and see if we can create a hybrid model that works so that we don’t have in-person and live, online-type situations.

Colin Forward: Yeah, it’s interesting that we’re talking about how learners have some new responsibilities, but you even mentioned some things that the other stakeholders in this process can do to help them take those steps and maybe adopt these new processes, adopt new pieces of technology. And so, what we’re really talking about at that point is change management. We’re talking about shifting culture, shifting expectations, changing the processes around the way that people do things. So what have you seen that works and doesn’t work when it comes to rolling out some of these new programs?

Sabina Love: That’s a good question. Yeah, actually, can you say that last part again?

Colin Forward: So, you mentioned getting a bigger screen or the different things that the people investing in these training programs or the people delivering the actual training could do to help learners take the steps towards embracing the new way of doing things. So, it’s like a campaign. It’s like a marketing campaign to your employees.

Is There an Effective Way to Roll Out New Hybrid Training Programs?

Sabina Love: It is like a marketing campaign where you do need to start changing some of the attitudes and desires so that change can occur. I think, also, we need to start identifying problems. I think when we were at the beginning of COVID, we didn’t have a lot of time to identify what those exact problems were. So now we need to go and pivot and take a look at what the landscape has and say, “Are these problems going to continue, and are they worth solving—especially since we don’t know what the future holds?”

And at that point, yes, absolutely, you start to come up with a mission to change the culture and start doing some campaigning around things so that you can let people know, “We have an email blast or virtual posters or in-person posters or newsletters.” But just to start to get the message out there. “This is what we’re doing.”

And so, as an employee, this is just going to be a part of the landscape now. And, of course, you want to put a nice positive spin on that because it is positive. We’re always moving forward, but change is definitely hard.

Colin Forward: Yeah, I think there’s a common mistake that people make that they think when they make a change that people are going to appreciate the change and why that change was made. But one part of the campaign, it seems like, is helping people understand the value, helping people understand the benefit to them as learners and as employees, as members of the organization. And then, there are also incentives—giving them a bit of a carrot to adopt this. Have you seen anything that works especially well on those fronts?

Sabina Love: Not one thing in particular. You said incentives, and I think that’s one thing where I think managers and the sponsors of training programs need to come together and find some good solutions for how we can incentivize this new work or workplace. There was a survey that just went out not too long ago that showed that people would take a pay cut if they could work from home. And I think that’s something worth looking at so that we can determine, “Is that an incentive?” And then, what does it take to work from home? And ultimately, I’m always thinking about training and how we help people learn from home and whatnot.

Colin Forward: Yeah, that’s been kind of an ongoing narrative in news and headlines recently about how people don’t want to go back to work. And I think a lot of that is around their productivity and what companies feel like they can get out of employees. But from a training perspective, is that something we should be worried about?

Sabina Love: So, look, training or education has always been morphing. There was the one-room schoolhouse—and then, you change and you adjust. And eLearning hops onto the field, and you start to embrace all of those different pieces. We might’ve been accelerated in getting to this point, but I think that this was a point that we were always going to get to. Already, colleges have fully online degrees, and I just think that it was inevitable. We just had to move a little faster, and unfortunately, we did a lot of it in crisis mode. And so, I don’t think people saw the best of the best of what could have been for training.

We did a lot of, “Just put what we have out online,” and we didn’t have time to make it into really good eLearning. I think now’s the time. People have adopted collaboration software—WebEx, Zoom is a household name now, MS Teams, and whatnot. Now’s the time. We can get over that adoption curve for those tools and start to show people how to use those tools for content. And the piece that’s missing is helping them understand how to create great content for those platforms.

Colin Forward: Yeah. And so, I don’t want to give everything away. I know that people can go find your book. They can go find the app on the app stores. But can you give us some examples of what steps people can take to really impress their learners, really get them to buy into these new models?

How Do You Get Your Learners to Buy Into Hybrid Learning Programs?

Sabina Love: Sure. I think, first of all, it’s adopting a strategy so that you can show your managers or whoever the stakeholder is who’s sponsoring the project that you have a clear path to the product. And then, I think, making sure that they understand that it’s not just a 45-minute tutorial that you’re creating but that you’re affecting the entire learning organization by adding different interventions. And again, in the book, I have a page of different interventions that you might consider adding to your learning program.

And then, just getting into the heart of the content: not putting people in front of bulleted text, coming up with valid case studies and experiments, and using color cues so that they understand where you are. Checklists. Adults love checklists. So creating checklists for people so that they understand. And my all-time favorite and something I add to every single training project that I do is job aids. Making sure that people have those assets that they need right there at the task that they’re performing.

Colin Forward: And so, to really oversimplify everything you just said, what we’re saying is that people can’t just take the PowerPoints and the PDFs or record a lecture like the way things used to be done and hang them on a website or an app and expect that to go over well.

Sabina Love: It won’t go over well. No, it’s a good way to check off a box. “We did training.” But when you go through those four levels and you’re trying to prove value, you’re not going to get too many other training projects signed off because you didn’t show that you were able to carry that through all four of those value levels.

And I’m not saying that’s not a good starting point. Having a good process in place and having good materials in place from the in-person classroom certainly can translate, but you have to go about it a different way. People are not going to sit in front of their screen for hours at a time for a lecture.

You might do something more like a flipped classroom, where they might watch a video and then come to a collaborative space together so they have more rich and engaging conversation and questions. So it might look a little different, but it will be equally as effective.

Let’s go back to that customer service example. We had them watch a demo on how to do it, and then they came to class, and we actually worked through how to enter something into the software. They asked very rich questions. We did an assessment. Sure enough, they were able to do it in the five minutes that we said versus the 10 minutes when they came into the classroom, at 100 percent accuracy. We’re reporting that back to our stakeholder. “Look, there is a delta. That’s a value, and it matches your key performance indicator.”

And then, when they leave the classroom, as we said, like the car that loses its value as soon as you drive off, they start to forget—especially if they aren’t going straight back to their desk to run that customer service request. Maybe it’s one week, maybe it’s two weeks, three weeks before they actually enter something like that. And they need to do it more than one time. It’s practice, practice, practice, practice. And so you start adding interventions where they can do simulation. So they’re running it in between that time. They’re watching a little snippet. They’re getting coaching so that you continuously bring that forgetting curve up so that you’re not losing value from that training.

Colin Forward: I feel like anyone watching or listening just got a free, condensed graduate-level crash course on instructional design for hybrid learning. So thanks for sharing that with the audience. And I hope that anyone listening that’s interested—particularly someone who is finding themselves in a training function that may not have been there until recently—takes the time to go find the eLearning ID apps on the App Store or the Google Play Store or can go find your book online. Really appreciate you taking the time to talk with us today and share your wisdom with our audience. It’s been a great conversation.

Sabina Love: It was my pleasure. Yeah, thank you.

Colin Forward: All right, back over to you, Adam.

Adam Wagner: Yeah, thanks, everyone. This was Training the Modern Workforce Live, presented by Allogy. If you’d like to explore previous episodes, subscribe to our YouTube channel or like us on LinkedIn and Facebook. And if you’d like to connect with one of our learning specialists to see how Allogy could help improve your training, head to allogy.com and schedule a demo.

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