L&D Lessons from Volleyball

As a recent observer at a volleyball practice, it occurred to me that there are definite lessons to be learned from athletic training that also translate to the work we do in Learning and Development. In volleyball practice, skills to be learned are taught, but also practiced again and again during the training.

One of the major struggles in the training and education world today is this notion of “application.” We attend training classes, watch videos, listen to a colleague tell us how to perform a specific job. However, where the rubber meets the road is in the learner’s ability to apply. Can and are employees really applying what they’ve learned to their role and position?

As you’re likely aware, even academic institutions struggle in this area. Recent graduates of universities, with diploma in hand, dive into the work world, only to find that the real world is quite different from “sitting and getting” in a higher ed class. Some employers report that some recent graduates are “not able to do” even with a college degree. The old adage of “knowing is not doing” becomes very real, very quickly.

In the same vein, corporate organizations have also struggled with application. Although employees may learn knowledge while in class, when they return to work, application is never a guarantee. Add the additional challenge of the forgetting curve, and you can see how problematic this can become.

Neuroscience reminds us that spaced repetition over time and consistent practice “doing” something with what one is learning helps sharpen focus, attention, learning, and application. For example, learners need to do talk about what they’re learning, write about it, apply it, receive corrective feedback, and then try it again.

Does this technique sound familiar?

This is exactly what we observe in athletic practices, and is similar to what I observed at volleyball practice. For volleyball, each skill was broken down into sub-parts, modeled first by an expert for all to see. Then the group practiced each sub-part of the skill together as a group, and then practiced on their own while receiving individual correction and feedback from coaches. After receiving correction, the players applied each skill and technique again and again. This practice continued over spaced intervals throughout the volleyball season. So notice how learning a skill is not a “one-time, learn it in a day” training event – similar to how we used to schedule corporate training classes or webinar instruction for employees.

The latest learning and development phrase of “flip and drip” comes a bit closer to improving how we provide corporate training. The idea of using flipped classrooms encourages learners to complete pre-work tasks that are more passive such as viewing a video or reading material before coming to class, and then reserve in-class time for more interactive activities, application, and discussion. The “drip” piece implies that after leaving the training, quizzes and reminders of content are pushed out to learners through apps to mobile devices or other venues as repetitive reminders for application.

So the next time you see the “volleyball” of training coming your way over the net, avoid the temptation to use training in the traditional way of “telling” or “talking” at learners for a one-time event. Because if your goal is ultimately, learner application, it’s going to require a different approach to “win” on the ball court of workplace learning.

What say you?


Leveraging Video for Learning

projector-361784_1280In today’s digital age, where technology is advancing exponentially, new opportunities for communicating across time and space are changing like never before. The use of video as a medium for communicating and connecting is exploding. In the midst of this rapid growth, video can be a great asset for learning and teaching. Let’s examine some of the benefits to leveraging video for learning which includes the ability to re-play and review content, establish instructor presence, and visually demonstrate how to do something.

First, video affords learners the opportunity to re-play and review content, as needed. For example, videos of recorded lectures, instructors’ introductions, or an employee assignment from a corporate trainer can all be paused, played and re-played for present and future generations to come. Video permanently records the learning. Many interactive videos also include built-in automatic pauses with intermittent quizzes as a way of administering knowledge checks and corrective feedback to accompany learning. Including repetition over spaced intervals of learning is also important, and can be administered through video. As educational neuroscientist Janet Zadina attests, repetition results in the repeated firing of brain networks and is a critical component for most learning.

Second, video helps to establish a sense of instructor presence. One of video’s greatest assets is its ability to convey affect, personality, and human presence virtually. In online learning, the absence of a “guide on the side” can impact progress and deeper levels of knowledge construction and application. However, a facilitator whose presence guides the learning, challenges learners, and encourages attendees can facilitate deeper thinking and learning. Anytime an online course or workshop is offered to employees, it’s important to establish this sense of instructor presence. There are other ways to provide presence without video; i.e., threaded discussion boards, course announcements, audio or written feedback on learning assignments, etc. However, both recorded and live video can be ways to establish presence. Recorded video can be used for instructor introductions, to record an instructor’s response to previously submitted learner questions, to facilitate online pre-work before attending training, or to provide opportunities to hear experts or best practices online.

Live video, then, also has its place. Occasional use of live video in a synchronous web conferencing platform by both instructor and attendees, for example, can be used to convey personalities, leverage connection among learners, and provide visual connection cues in a virtual space. Feeling instructor support in training or learning workshops, whether you are in professional development, higher education, or corporate training helps to aid the learning process.

Third, video provides performance support by demonstrating how to complete or do something at the moment of need. When my husband wanted to complete home fix-up tasks like caulking the sink, bathtub faucet and counters, he found helpful videos on YouTube to learn the tips and tricks from experts who caulk professionally. When children need to learn how to create a hairstyle from Star Wars’ characters for Halloween costumes, they search for a “how to” video. Video provides both the visual and audio cues to understand and apply the “how” “where” and “what” for an immediate task at hand. Traditional print instructions are helpful to some, of course, but cognitive resources can be taxed more with print. But the powerful blend of hearing, seeing, and doing result in greater probability of transfer to long-term memory for cognitive storage and retrieval.

Overall, there are multiple benefits to leveraging video for learning. Just a few of those include the ability to re-play videos and reinforce spaced repetition of content, to foster instructor presence across time and space, and to leverage both visual and audio cues to efficiently teach how to do something at the time of need.

How have you used video to learn? What say you?