Important Topics Deserve Great Learning

by Extension Engine | March 21, 2022

Estimated time to read: minutes

Crucial Topics, Snore-Worthy Training

Remember the phrase “death by PowerPoint?” When electronic slide presentations were the slick new technology, everyone wanted to throw as much information into a 60-slide deck as possible. Many trainings were heavy on data but didn’t inform or engage their audiences. 

Now, with so much training delivered online and asynchronously, even the most important subjects are often relegated to a “virtual PowerPoint.” The presenter is now digital — but the audience is still bored.

Online Instruction, Minus the Learning

You know the format: click, read some text (or if you’re lucky, watch a video), click some more, maybe answer some questions, and just like that, you’ve learned everything you need to know.

Or have you? 

Bloom’s taxonomy categorizes different levels of learning. The most basic level is remembering the content. That’s followed by the capacity to apply, analyze, and evaluate the material. The ability to create — like writing an article or creating an action plan — is the final stage of learning.

With that definition of learning in mind, ask yourself some tough questions:

  • Did I remember the content a week later?
  • Could I explain this topic to someone else?
  • Do I want to contribute research to advance the conversation?
  • Can I now do something new based on what I learned?

Using Bloom’s definition, if it seems like you didn’t retain or synthesize anything, then the format is not leading to actual learning.

Bloom’s taxonomy is just one model for understanding how people best synthesize information. But even if you’re not an education scholar, you’ll probably admit that yawning through another virtual PowerPoint isn’t quality education.

Quantity, Not Quality

No surprise there! The virtual PowerPoint optimizes scale at the cost of engagement. This format is easy to produce and share, and companies can easily track completion. Small wonder it’s become the most readily available format.

But this model doesn’t engage the person taking the training. The format treats learners as a captive audience: in many cases, the training is required — attendees have to complete it as part of their employer’s requirements, so there’s supposedly no incentive to make it interesting or stimulating. 

But engagement is a key to learning. In some ways, a “bored learner” is a contradiction. If we want to have a lasting impact, then there’s no greater incentive to make an engaging learning experience!

Exemplary Training

Take a look at how the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA) centers user engagement to drive better outcomes. 

To train finance and accounting professionals online, AICPA designed a flexible, responsive training experience that included: 

  • Learn-by-doing pedagogy that challenges learners to apply knowledge in increasingly complex simulations, which reinforces learning
  • A customized platform guiding users through an intuitive, efficient, and learner-centric experience
  • A clean user interface that shows the learner their progress and makes recommendations for their next steps  

Feedback from AICPA’s learners has been overwhelmingly positive, and AICPA continues to develop the learning experience according to their audience’s changing needs and input.

Wanted: Learning

On the other hand, a mismatch between important content and lackluster delivery can seem ironic. Think about how many trainings you’ve taken with titles that sound like they’re going to change your life — only to be delivered like appliance instructions (although there are some impressive appliance instructions out there!). 

The mismatch can even seem frustrating. Take HR topics like harassment training or diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).  These are crucial topics that affect how we interact with teammates and perform our professional roles. 

What would the workplace and beyond look like if everyone was allowed to truly engage with these issues? What if we all felt inspired to make them part of our lives rather than one more presentation to sit through? 

If you’re providing learning, here’s one more tough question…

How would your learners answer those questions? Are you certain that most learners don’t feel like they’re just sitting through a presentation? 

How well are you balancing engagement with scale?

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