Memory Retention: Instructional Design Tips #3: The Rollout Schedule
In previous posts I’ve talked about the curriculum plan that Hickory develops for each client and how we decide what content to cover in the Hickory lessons. Timing is also important to the curriculum plan. Here, the basic principle is that we do not want to make Hickory “something extra” that learners have to do. Instead, we want for the Hickory lessons (each requiring 5-8 minutes to complete) and reviews (about 2 minutes per day) to be seen as a quick, easy and rewarding aspect of what the learners already need to do to succeed at their jobs.
Aligning to Training Milestones
The most important way to achieve this goal is to integrate Hickory with the learners’ existing milestones or make a milestone for them. For example, Hickory lessons work well as pre-work before an in-person or web-based training session. Learning retention systems are also an obvious way to study for a qualifying exam at the end of a home study period, for a certification exam at the end of a training program or for certification role-plays. Again, the retention system helps ensure that the learner correctly remembers the information she or he needs. The last thing a nervous representative wants to do is misstate facts during certification.
In some cases, the process of putting together the curriculum plan points out an obvious place to test employee knowledge, before they move into more advanced work. In other words, a milestone before promotion. That kind of test can be set up in Hickory using a sample of the questions, or very similar questions, that the employees have been studying in Hickory. The test is retired immediately after use and does not become part of the retention system. Note that we are not advocating using the test as a measure of learning. Hickory is already doing with more validity over time. Instead, the test milestone focuses employees on their learning – including their use of Hickory – and marks a transition point in their job development.
Use Hickory for all its worth.
The results of the Hickory memory retention system are greater command of facts and processes (early lessons) and more examples in mind (the application lessons). There is more than one starting point, however. Most Hickory lessons are one-third to one-half instruction cards, describing the facts, processes or principles that the learner needs to know and apply. These kinds of lessons can be used as pre-work for other training sessions. In that case, the lessons prime the learner for the training session. People come to the sessions thinking about the topic, with some basic knowledge and, probably, some questions in mind. This sets the stage for more efficient and engaged learning. When used as pre-work, Hickory lessons can also cue trainers to strengths and weaknesses of the group. This allows the trainer to tailor the training session appropriately. Then, the learners continue to complete reviews on the pre-work questions, as well as any additional lessons assigned, after the training.
Special lessons can also be designed as pre-work for one-on-one coaching sessions. One Hickory client, for example, wanted to focus on the tone of responses to customer emails. A lesson with a series of cases presented as only free-response questions (short, typed-in answers) is being developed for that purpose. The coach can then use the Hickory dashboard to look at the exact responses each employee gave, identify positive or problematic patterns and coach accordingly.
Of course, the lessons can also be completed after a training session as key-point reviews. During onboarding training this is its usual use, making sure that learners consolidate and have front of mind what they learned the previous day before adding more information to it. For other training sessions, though, the best plan is often to use Hickory as mostly pre-work, followed by post-session lessons that focus on application alone. The use of Hickory as pre-work can also be conceived as a training bridge, linking one set of classroom sessions or training materials to the next. The Hickory lessons in between focus first on basic knowledge mastery, then application and then elaboration of the previously learned material. The elaborations set the learners up for the next phase of training.
The guidelines above are important for the coherence of the overall training program and for learner engagement. Obviously a memory retention system can work if it is used. The next two post on Instructional Design Tips will talk about other ways to promote user engagement.