There are multiple technologies that can be used in a training environment. The class for which I originally created this blog covered several of the ones used in adult education, but training is a little more specialized.
Mobile Device Resources
Smart phones and PDAs are common now but not quite universal. Some companies such as IBM and Walmart use small handheld devices to provide resources and coordination for their employees.
IBM originally intended for the smart phone apps to work as training aids so people could do training whenever they had a spare moment, but the employees had a different idea. They use the apps to look up contact information for SMEs and use just-in-time (JIT) resources (Ahmad & Orton, 2010).
At the local Walmart, the Customer Service Managers (CSMs) have handheld devices that ping them when a cashier needs approval for a transaction, help with a customer, or a break. This speeds up the checkout lines because the CSM can approve common transaction issues with just a button press. In addition, a new cashier who gets stuck can get help.
The use of smart phone apps as resources will expand as smart phones become more ubiquitous. Companies designing apps for JIT resources will need to remember to keep the app simple. The app doesn’t need to do everything a desktop program can do. It just needs what the employee will have to access in the field. That information should be organized with the most common or most critical information accessible quickly. Many people do not have the patience to wait more than half a minute for information to load nor will they use a program that requires navigating through multiple layers to get to what they need. Usability and clarity trump lovely pictures and aesthetics (Ahmad & Orton, 2010).
There are a slew of apps that can be used for business purposes. This article details a bunch of the more common ones.
Social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Yammer can be very useful for a workplace training environment. Many people are already familiar with one or more social media platforms, so the learning curve to be able to use the program is limited.
Recently, I used social media – Facebook in particular – to coordinate an action learning opportunity. Action learning is a performance improvement initiative. A facilitator leads a workgroup through analyzing a workflow problem to find and correct whatever isn’t working. Things like Six Sigma and Kaizen fit this category (Noe, 2013).
In my situation, the editorial department of PDMI Publishing, LLC, a small press I work for, was having a major bottleneck problem. Manuscripts would reach the editing stage and stall out or get passed through too soon and have to circle back around for another try. This threw a wrench into the whole publication cycle.
As part of my last class on the Engineering Effective Performance (EEP) model, PDMI agreed to be my guinea pigs for the class project: doing an actual performance improvement project with a real group of people. I set up a private group on Facebook and we communicated everything we needed for the project through that group. We handled discussions, shared files, and tracked revisions of documents much more easily than we could have managed through a flurry of emails. Now the new processes are in place, and the editorial department is ready to get moving again. The publisher is repeating the project with another department using a walkthrough document I wrote to help them stay organized.
Social media in its many forms can help employees coordinate projects or stay connected to share ideas.
Teleconferencing using programs like Skype and Webex allow people to have a face-to-face conference over the phone or voice over internet protocol (VOIP). This can be useful not just for a meeting, but also for training purposes (Noe, 2013).
Recently, I interviewed for a facilitator position with a large retailer. As part of the interview, they sent me a facilitator guide for a 20-minute lesson and activity to show off my teaching skills. We had the interview over Webex with me here in Austin and the interviewers calling in from other points in the northern plains like Minnesota and St. Louis. I was able to conduct the training demonstration over the Webex connection. There were some technical issues because I live so far on the outer edge of the Austin metroplex that connection is shaky, but we were able to complete the task. Had I been closer into town where connections are more stable, issues like intermittent signal degradation would not have been an issue.
Teleconferencing allows a trainer in one location to work with people in several other places. Webex allowed us to display a PowerPoint deck and work our way through the lesson with that file available on the screen. Other file types could also be shared to support the lesson. Companies using a teleconference model can save on travel expenses and centralize their trainers into specific locations to support larger regions. This reduces the expense of having multiple trainers scattered throughout a widely dispersed company.
Intelligent Tutoring Systems
Intelligent tutoring systems (ITS) can be used to improve knowledge, practice skills, and explore content (Noe, 2013). These are web-enabled programs that lead students through a training plan after determining the student’s level and planning a set of activities to advance the student through the curriculum (Zolti, Voinea, Dima, Miu, & Profirescu, 2000).
Programs such as the web-based Lumosity and the more kid-friendly Istation train various cognitive and academic skills after a test determines the student’s starting level. These programs can adapt to the student, so if someone fails the tasks, the program backs up to a previous level and allows the student to move up again (Zolti, Voinea, Dima, Miu, & Profirescu, 2000).
Using the right learning environment software, a company armed with a web browser, a word processor, and image editing software can develop an ITS that is company-specific (Zolti, Voinea, Dima, Miu, & Profirescu, 2000). Students can work on the skills they need in a setting that adapts to their abilities and assigns tasks that are neither too complex nor too simple (Noe, 2013).
As technology becomes more pervasive in our daily lives, the practical uses as a training tool will develop to facilitate learning.
Ahmad, N., & Orton, P. (2010). Smartphones make IBM smarter, but not as expected. Training and Development, 64(1), 46–50.
Noe, R. A. (2013). Employee training and development (6th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.
Zolti, C., Voinea, L., Dima, G., Miu, I., & Profirescu, M. (2000). Designing a web-based distance learning environment based on an intelligent tutoring system. Retrieved from http://eric.edu.gov