How to Use Data to Support Face-to-face Training?

Organisational learning and development is becoming increasingly data-driven. This is fuelled by the need to demonstrate impact, be more effective and direct resources more efficiently. With the advent of new learning technologies and platforms – many of which come with built-in analytics capabilities – we are increasingly better equipped to measure all kinds of learning in a meaningful way. However, for the most part, the collection and especially the use of this data has been limited to only digital learning experiences. But there’s no reason to draw that kind of limitation. In fact, traditional face-to-face training could benefit greatly from having access to data and analytics. So, let’s explore how we could support face-to-face training with data!

Current challenges with face-to-face training

Face-to-face training has its fair share of challenges ahead. On one hand, it’s rather expensive, once you factor in all of the lost productivity and indirect costs. However, cost becomes less of an issue as long as you can demonstrate impact and value. And that’s perhaps a business challenge. The real learning challenges, on the other hand, are related to the delivery.

Overall, face-to-face learning is not particularly personalised. Trainers are often not aware of the existing knowledge of the participants, let alone their personal context: jobs, tasks, challenges, problems, difficulties, team dynamics etc. Hence, the training – especially in subject matter intensive topics – often results in a more or less one-size-fits-all type of approach: trainer goes through the slide deck, perhaps with a few participatory activities and some feedback at the end. Even if you’re an experienced trainer, it’s difficult to improvise and go off-course in the heat of the moment to pursue the emerging (personal) needs of the learners.

So, wouldn’t it be beneficial and make sense to put that information into good use and start to support face-to-face training with data? Yes it would. Here are two easy ways you can get a lot more out of your “classroom” sessions.

1. Determining existing knowledge and skill level with pre-work

One of the simplest things you can do to get more value out of your face-to-face training is to start using pre-work. Have your learners go through digital learning materials before coming to the session. Build in some seamless assessment and collect information in the form of user submissions and feedback. With good design and proper use of learning analytics, this already gives you a lot of valuable information.

As a trainer, you can then check e.g. what your learners already know and what they are having difficulties with. It probably doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of time in the classroom on things they already know. Rather, you’re better off using the time on addressing problem areas, challenges and personal experiences that have come out during the pre-work. Or if you want to explore making things even more impactful, try an approach like flipped learning. In flipped learning, you use digital to deliver the knowledge while focusing the classroom time solely on discussions, practice and hands-on activities.

2. Using learning records history to understand the people you’re training

Another idea we could do better at is understanding the people we deal with. At their best, these records may provide a whole history of learning. As these digital platforms compile more and more data about our learning experiences, it would be beneficial to let the trainers access that as well. By understanding prior experiences, the trainer can create scaffolding – build on what the employees already know from before. This might be totally unrelated to the current topic too.

Furthermore, having access to a “HR” history of the employees might be beneficial too, especially in large organisations where the trainer doesn’t necessarily now the people personally. For instance, what are the attendees jobs? Where do they work? Where have they worked before? In what kind of roles? All the information like this brings additional data points to personalise the learning experience on. In some cases, you might even find that there’s a subject matter expert in the group. Or someone who has dealt in practice with the issues of the ongoing training. These could be assets you can leverage on, of which you wouldn’t perhaps even know about without the data.

Final thoughts

All in all, there’s a whole lot that data and analytics can offer to “traditional” training. The need for personalisation is real, and smart use of learning data helps to cater to that need. Of course, you can use data to support face-to-face training in many more ways, these are just two examples. For instance, post-session feedback is much more handy to do digitally. This feedback can then be used to improve future sessions on the same topic (or with the same participants).

If you feel you could do more with data and smart learning design, don’t hesitate to reach out. We can help you design blended learning experiences that deliver impact and value.

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