How to Improve Learner Retention in Online Technical Skills Training | D2L
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How to Improve Learner Retention in Online Technical Skills Training

  • 3 Min Read

It’s important that organizations provide the right support to employees as they develop their technical skills.

As the need for digitization and automation grows, corporations are making large investments to implement new technology that helps improve internal processes. Naturally, this creates a need to provide training programs for these systems, and to support employees in their adoption and retention of the technical skills and knowledge in their day-by-day jobs.

According to Training Magazine, online delivery for technical skills training has been growing at a rate of 3-4% per year, reaching three in four programs in 2016. This also indicates that there is a need to evaluate the effectiveness of this delivery mechanism, as well as for insight into how to improve learner retention and help companies maximize their return on investment.

Adopt Online Communities

Bandura’s Social Learning theory teaches us that observation of learning is an efficient way to not only improve an individual’s attention (ability to successfully learn a new behavior) to, but also retention (ability to recall a newly learned behavior) of said learning. The tendency with online programs is to provide self-study materials that allow a learner to digest the material at their own speed. Although this is a great way to support the learner with their attention span, this approach provides little support in the retention of the learning. Online communities where peers can interact before, during and after the program will give learners the ability to more easily absorb and recall learning content.

Build with Sustainment in Mind

Sustainment of learning is often a highly-overlooked component of an efficient learning plan. To speed up the training development process, organizations often focus on the development of the one-time learning module, without much thought into how a learner can continue to re-engage with that content. Sustainment can be provided in the form of reminders to practice their technical skills, or curated content that further supports the skills developed or as a role-play part of an interaction with a supervisor or manager. Incorporating sustainment of learning into the development process will ensure that the learner is constantly re-engaged after the training is complete, thus improving their ability to retain and recall the material.

Practice, Practice, Practice

According to the American Psychology Association, content retrieval is an underappreciated learning strategy. Learners are often under the impression that if they read about, saw or understood a concept once, they’ll be able to retrieve that knowledge again in the future. However, simple memorization and a one-and-done strategy doesn’t support long-term application of that knowledge. As such, technical skills training programs should include opportunities for learners to practice the new skills at regular intervals after the completion of the formal training. Based on my experience, the following model seems to work well: 24h, 72h, 7 days, 14 days, 30 days, 45 days and 90 days from the completion date.

Your turn now! How can you improve retention of your next technical skills program?

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