Evidence-Based Training Methods and Smile Sheets (An Interview with Dr. Will Thalheimer)

It’s always a good idea to use training methods that are (1) based in evidence and proven to be effective and (2) focused on improving performance on the job.

Dr. Will Thalheimer is one of the leading research experts on evidence-based and performance-focused training methods, and he’s been kind enough to grant us an interview that we’ll present as a series of four related articles.

In this article, our interview with Dr. Thalheimer will focus on smile sheets.

You may already know the term smile sheet, but if you don’t, you’re probably familiar with the concept. You know those surveys trainers hand out to learners who have just completed some form of training? And the learner then uses the survey to evaluate the training event, materials, and instructor? That’s a smile sheet, also known as a training evaluation sheet, reaction sheet, or a Kirkpatrick level 2 evaluation.

These learner evaluations are sometimes called smile sheets, however, because there’s a belief that the learners may not use them to put down truthful, objective, helpful information, but instead just write nice comments about the training and the instructor that are meant to make the trainer smile about supposedly having done a good job.

So you see the problem. If a smile sheet is nothing but a bunch of well-intended but fake or meaningless “smiles,” we’re not drawing helpful information from learners about the training material that we can use to evaluate the training and revise it if necessary so our training has a desired influence on worker job performance. And that’s why Dr. Thalheimer has done research on smile sheets, first to determine that as commonly written they’re often meaningless and second to give us tips on how to write better smile sheets that will help improve performance.

If all this is ringing a bell for you, you may be familiar with Dr. Thalheimer’s great book Performance-Focused Smile Sheets: A Radical Rethinking of a Dangerous Art Form or with the earlier article we wrote exploring his book on how to write better smile sheets.

So let’s check out the interview. Remember this is one part of a longer interview with Dr. Thalheimer, and we’ll have additional articles in which he discusses:

  • Spaced practice
  • The effectiveness of elearning
  • Evidence-based training methods & learning myths

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9 Great Uses for Mobile Training at Work

Mobile Training Image

Organizations are becoming increasingly interested in mobile training these days (also called mobile learning and M-learning).

Which is great, because you can use mobile training in a lot of positive ways. But on the other hand, you don’t want to just rush into it, believing that this new technology is the silver bullet that will make training magical in the same way that people made the same claims about radio, TV, movies, filmstrips, video tapes, DVDs, the Internet, and more.

So in this article, we’re going to list out for you some productive ways to use mobile training at work. Please add any additional ones from your experience as well.

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Tips for Beating the Training Forgetting Curve

Combatting the Training Forgetting Curve Image

In a recent article, we introduced you to the well-documented forgetting curve in training and explained that something called spaced practice can help reduce or even eliminate the forgetting curve.

In this article, we’re going to give you a few more tips for how to design training that combats the forgetting curve and creates memorable training that employees will not only understand during the training, but that they’ll also remember after the training and put to use on the job.

Sounds like good stuff to know, no?

Let’s get started, then.

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What is eLearning? How Can I Use It?

eLearning allows you to access training material online rather than in a traditional classroom setting. This makes eLearning more convenient because you can complete the courses when you desire, on your schedule.

While eLearning courses can have videos embedded in them, eLearning  is much more interactive than simply watching a video. eLearning presents material in a multimedia format, so you are more likely to remember it. Some of the tactics used to present material include practice questions, feedback to answers, and scored tests.

eLearning allows your employees to learn more about topics relating to their careers. Completing eLearning courses ensures that your employees are well informed so they can be more efficient, productive, and safer at work.

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Online Occupational Health and Safety Training Courses

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Convergence Training’s online occupational health and safety training courses teach new employees important knowledge and skills while providing experienced employees a way to refresh their understanding of knowledge and skills they’re familiar with (see our article on the importance of “spaced practice” for more about the value of this).

There are some clear advantages of online training. One is that the employee can learn at his or her own pace. Another is that the employee can access the online training anywhere at work anywhere by using a mobile device.

Convergence Training provides a large number of online safety courses on many different topics. This article describes some of the courses involving driver safety, first aid, equipment safety, and general safety. However, to see the full list and course descriptions, check Convergence Training’s online occupational health and safety training courses.

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How to Use Spaced Practice to Support Memory in Job Training

spaced practice image

The human brain is amazing. And so are the human abilities to learn new information and skills, remember them, and later retrieve and use them when it’s needed.

But if you’re involved in training and/or learning and development, you also know it’s not all that easy. And one of the big problems is that people tend to forget much of what they learned in training.

We’ve addressed some of the reasons why this happens earlier in our articles Why Don’t People Remember Their Training? and How People Learn (or Don’t). In this article, we’re going to continue looking at issues related at this general theme of forgetting and how to better support memory after training.

In particular, we’re going to focus our attention more specifically on the learning curve, the forgetting curve, and spaced practice. We think this will make you see more value in refresher training, for one thing. But we’ll include tips for using spaced practice at points of the learning and development cycle beyond just refresher training, too.

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What is Visual Learning? Identifying and Understanding the Benefits of Visual Learning

Humans are visual creatures.

Going back a bit in time, vision was important to us on the African savanna to recognize predators and find food.

And although today most of us spend less time dodging leopards than our ancestors might have, it’s easy enough to see the importance of vision in our lives. How long do you go without watching a movie at the cinema, viewing a film on Netflix, or playing a video game? Or even consider music–don’t you often experience music in a music video, or while watching a stage full of dancers?

Why are so many of the dominant forms of entertainment visually oriented? Because, to return to our beginning, humans are visual creatures.

And so it makes a lot of sense to take advantage of that for workforce learning and development.

We’ll discuss this a bit in this blog post.

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Training Workers to Use Software Systems with Screen Recording Software Programs

training-workers-to-use-software-systems-w-screen-recording-software-programsComputer software systems are all around us, and we use them a lot.

We use them a lot in our personal lives. For example, Facebook lets us catch up with friends and family. Google lets us find information we need. We watch movies online and we listen to music online. We even go online to do our banking, pay our bills, or shop.

The same is true at work. You’re reading this on a web browser now, obviously. And I wrote it using a blogging platform called WordPress. And if you’re anything like me, today you’ll be using a lot more software, too: Microsoft Office, Excel, and Word, plus maybe PowerPoint depending on how the day goes. I’ll probably be using some image editing software and custom software for logging my time at work, too. Maybe you’ll be doing stuff like that as well.

But it’s not just you and me. It’s all of the people that I work with, and probably all the people you work with, too. And because software is so common at work, it’s important to be able to teach new workers how to use software. Plus you’ve got to train existing employees how to use new software when it’s introduced at work.

And all that software training can burn up a lot of time–yours and theirs–if you do it inefficiently.

But fortunately, there’s a group of products that have the ability to record your computer screen and make little “how-to” videos for software training.  These tools can be very helpful, they can save you a lot of time and money on software training, and they can be used to teach employees software applications more quickly and effectively. So what’s not to like about that?

In this article, we’ll tell you more about these screen recording software applications. Please note that Convergence Training makes none of these products, has no business relationship with any of their makers, and doesn’t endorse any one product. We’re just saying that as a group, they’re a handy product type that can make your life easier at work.

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Writing True/False, Matching, Drag and Drop, and Short-Answer Questions for Workforce Training Tests

Recently we’ve written a series of articles about writing effective test questions for workforce training assessment.

We hope you’ve found the series interesting and helpful. And yep, you guessed it–we mentioned it because this article is another addition to the series.

In this article, we’ll give you a few general tips for writing specific types of questions. We already covered multiple-choice questions, an online workforce assessment workhorse, in a different article, so we won’t address that here. In this article, we’ll consider true/false questions, matching and/or drag and drop questions, and short-answer and/or fill-in-the-blank questions.

If you missed any of the earlier article in the series, we’ve already covered:

Keep your eye on the blog for a future post on creating assessments that evaluate how well employees perform specific job tasks and/or demonstrate job skills. That’s still on the agenda.

And let us know if we’ve missed something you’d like us to write about.
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Comic Books and eLearning: Lessons from Scott McCloud’s “Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art”

Comic Books and eLearning Design Image

In an earlier blog post, we took a quick introductory look at some connections between comic books and eLearning.

And in that article, we promised to follow up with a second article that focuses on the classic book Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud. And we also promised that the second article would focus on some lessons from comic book design that we can apply to the design of eLearning other forms of learning.

This, my friend, is that second article.

Before we get going, let’s take a stop at the “credit where credit is due” department.  Scott McCloud’s book Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art is a classic and is GREAT. If you’ve read it, you can vouch for me. Or maybe you’ve just heard of it and know it’s very well regarded.

If you haven’t heard of the book or read it yet, I highly recommend it. If you read it, you’ll learn a lot on a wide variety of topics. And even better, it’s written in the form of a comic book, so you’ll have a lot of fun while you’re reading, too.

But even though I suggest you check the book out and promise you’ll like it, you won’t have to read the book to begin drawing some lessons from it. Because that’s the whole point of this article. And of the comments section at the bottom, too–please share all your own ideas.

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Comic Books and eLearning: Examples and Resources

comic books and elearning example graphic

Comic books, the movies that they spawned, and graphic novels are a massive part of the American cultural scene these days.

For example, adults now freely admit to reading comic books. It’s no longer a dirty secret people hide. Do you read them? I do, and have since I was a kid.

We’ve seen serious books written about comics and the history of comics, including The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare and How it Changed America and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Heck, you can even take university classes on comic books–check out the courses offered by the Department of Comic Studies at University of Oregon as an example.

Graphic novels have come from nowhere to be very well respected. And deservedly so–a few of my favorites are Maus, Fun Home, and Persepolis. What are yours?

At the cinema, it’s sometimes difficult to see a movie that’s not based on a comic book character. That’s not necessarily a great thing (witness:  Suicide Squad), but it does underline the fact that there’s a lot of interest in the characters and stories from comic books (how did you like Wonder Woman this past summer and have you seen the new Thor: Ragnarok movie yet?). The same with TV–how many shows on Netflix come from comic books?

And all this popularity isn’t without good reason. Sure, some of it is because with today’s CGI, it’s easier to make a more convincing superhero movie. But that’s not the whole story. Comic books and graphic novels are great ways to tell a story, and in particular, they are great ways to communicate visually.

Given all that, we’re going to give some thought to connections between comic books and eLearning courses in this article. That’s partly because a big part of an eLearning course relies on visual communication, and because visual communication is an especially effective way to learn.

This is the first of two articles about comic books and eLearning. In this article, we’ll give a general introduction to the idea and some connections. And in the next article, we’ll take a “deep-dive” view at the classic book Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud, and we’ll see what lessons from that book we can apply to eLearning design and learning in general.

If you want to zip ahead to the links of resources related to eLearning and comic books, they’re closer to the end of this article. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with relaxing and reading the whole thing.

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Workforce Tests That Match Your Learning Objectives: The Issue of Fidelity

 

workforce-tests-match-learning-objectives-issues-of-fidelityA lot of you write test questions for online training (or even for paper-based training).

Maybe you’re doing it with an e-learning authoring tool, such as the ones from Articulate, Adobe, or Lectora. Or maybe you’re doing it with quizmaking tool built into your learning management system (LMS). Or maybe with pencil and paper. Probably not with chisel and cuneiform, though 🙂

However you’re doing it, you may sometimes find yourself wondering about the best practices for writing standard question types. (By the way, instructional designers often use the wonky phrase “assessment items” for this kind of thing–an assessment “item” is a question).

In this article, we’re going to give you tips about something related to test creation that learning experts call fidelity (no, not THAT fidelity–this is not a notably juice blog post despite the wedding ring image above). In training talk, fidelity is the extent to which your test or test question mirrors the real task your workers will have to perform on the job.

In describing fidelity and test questions, we’ll cover a few other best practices, too. Hope this helps you with your question writin’.

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