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As one organization used in-service training plans to increase student retention

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Do you have the motivation at the end of training to apply everything you just learned in practice? What about the next day? How about next week? What about next month?

Most of us lose this initial excitement and urge to change behavior after the first week (maybe even earlier). We also lose the ability to store the knowledge gained for days or weeks if we do not make a conscious effort to revise the material, a concept known as forgetting curve.

I believe that learning is a means to an end. The ultimate goals in training are higher performance and better results. But how do you get learning to adapt to new skills at work? How do we build connections for our students with material that stays outside the classroom?

Since 2019, our organization has focused on answering these questions. Although we use several activities to help retain students, there is one success story we want to share because of its simplicity. Training reinforcement plans are a free (out-of-work) solution that teams can implement immediately with the next training intervention.

Training Reinforcement Plans (LRPs) include two main components: training guides and weekly reinforcement reports.

Coaching aids are one-page documents that are sent to the student’s supervisor after graduation. The document contains the title of the event, key research and suggestions for further development on the topic of learning. Key training may include marked objectives, a brief description of the course topic, or a model or structure that has been introduced. Suggestions for further growth typically include opportunities for reflection, concrete action, and learning-related issues. Both the supervisor and the student receive an email training guide within days of graduation to encourage discussion at their next one-on-one meeting.

Weekly training-reinforced messages are sent via email or through the team messaging platform. Messages typically include a quick review section with a reminder of learning, updates, and a call to action. We include the answer to the recall question in next week’s post. Help includes tips, articles, podcasts, videos and / or questions for reflection. A call to action is a task that a student can accomplish over the next week. Messages to reinforce learning are delivered in text or video over four to eight weeks, depending on the complexity of the learning topic.

To measure the success of the intervention we developed a Kirkpatrick’s model Level 3 Assessment Tool Three months after training, participants receive a five-question survey that includes the following statements of agreement / disagreement:

  1. When I left the course, I wanted to change my behavior at work / in my personal life.
  2. After taking this course, my supervisor and I discussed what I had learned and how I could apply this to my work.
  3. In the last three months after taking this course, I have applied the skills gained directly in my work or personal life.
  4. In the last three months after taking this course, the skills I gained have helped improve my work or personal life.
  5. I used the weekly content of this course for further study.

In the first year, we compared LRP workshops with non-LRP workshops and saw a 16% higher applicability rating (question number three) for those with LRP. After reviewing this data, we launched LRP for most of our training seminars and programming. A small number of non-LRP seminars are monthly health or educational sessions held internally. Experts on the topic (SMEs) who are not part of the learning and development team.

After a deeper look at the data, we learned that there are higher ratings of improvement at work when a student reviews weekly posts with reinforced learning. We learned that student supervisor participation correlates with higher rates of viewing weekly posts with reinforced learning and observation of improvement at work. We also learned that if students want to change their behavior at the end of the intervention, there is a higher chance of viewing weekly content and improving performance.

As we continue to develop our efforts to reinforce learning, there are several solutions we continue to focus on. We recognize that we used one indicator to measure success, which focused on self-esteem. To find more robust ways to measure success, we use email automation tools to measure message interaction. These solutions offer a way to assess whether students are opening messages and whether they are pressing tools common in messages. This is a less subjective way to assess whether material is being used.

We recognize that LRPs can overwhelm students, especially if they participate in multiple learning activities each month. We focused the content of our message to be concise: either a two-minute video message or a short e-mail that highlights the most important information. Through some of our training activities, we limit LRP to just a call to action to increase the likelihood of returning to work.

We recognize the essential role of a leader in student growth and development. We have developed a toolkit and workshop for executives to provide advice and tools related to the development of their employees and teams. We have launched a virtual road show with leaders and teams to link their goals and priorities to the specific learning activities we offer in our organization.

Finally, we recognize that LRP is just one solution. Content learning is a challenging task and requires a multifaceted approach. In addition to incorporating LRPs into our learning experience, our team focuses on leveraging excellence in course design by offering multilevel learning for deeper immersion in topics, conducting follow-up briefings, creating individualized learning plans and locating opportunities for non-formal social learning.

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