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The struggles of applying exciting learning concepts to Product Training

There is a lot of hype in the learning industry around concepts like ‘Gamification’ and ‘Micro Learning’ and we all know they are great ways to approach training for soft skills, but can they be applied to product training being produced for a customer base, rather than for people within an organisation?

So, you’ve been to the events, listened to the webinars and are really excited about the new concepts and approaches in the learning industry, but there is a similar theme with the examples you are being shown, soft skills training! You are back at your desk and wondering just how these concepts can be applied to your customer facing product courses, is it even possible?

This is the situation I have found myself in time and time again, feeling frustrated that the new badge system in my LMS won’t be applicable, or that micro learning would be impossible to manage and our ever-busy customers won’t be engaged by it.

In most cases for product training people need to understand something so they can use the product/do their job, which means they just want to get to the facts with minimum fuss. But we as learning professionals want to really engage our learners, get them excited about what they are doing and leave them feeling like they got that bit extra from the courses.

So how do we find a balance between the two? I think it is possible to incorporate all the new concepts and approaches, as long they are handled in the right way, enhancing the experience for your learners.

Gamification is a fantastic way to engage learners, it can appeal to people’s competitive side and add a longed-for sense of fun to what could be dry and arduous training programmes.

The competitive and fun side to gamification isn’t always the best approach though, for example, if you are creating courses for accounting software the learners probably want to skip the ‘fun’ and get down to the facts, but gamification can still be used, it might be worthwhile tracking their progress with points or levels so that learners can show progress to their boss or the investor in the training.

Certification is another way to incorporate gamification and motivate learners, once your learners have gained several badges, reached the ‘gold’ level or passed certain tests they can be certified. LinkedIn is a great tool for this, awarding certification logos that the learner displays on their LinkedIn page to show they are certified in a specific software, or that they are proficient in using a hacksaw is beneficial for both the learner and the company they work for.

Micro Learning is the concept of delivering bite sized training to learners at a time that is useful for them to process the information, making it relevant and impactive. I love the concept and think we can all learn some important lessons from Micro Learning.

The tricky part for product training comes with the delivery, often we don’t have any visibility of where the customers are in the use of the product, and have no way to track when information will be relevant for them. So, we make do with providing all the bite size learning we can, and hope that the learner will engage with it when required.

We can be a bit cleverer than that though, using all resources available to push relevant information to the learner, if the company supplying the training offers instructor led sessions then a possibility is linking in with the booking system, pushing eLearning or videos that would be useful for them to study before and/or after the ILT.

Another option is to link in with a support desk and follow up a support call with some appropriate learning content, or push out a monthly tip from the support team.

Product training is a huge slice of the learning industry, so join me in my revolt, next time you are being shown an amazing new learning tool or concept with no relevant demos or examples for product courses, feel free to shout, “THERE IS SO MUCH MORE TO LEARNING THAN SOFT SKILLS!”.

Vicki Rutter

Instructional Designer