SBC Summit Reflections – The Importance of Training & Development
Following on from Friday’s talk at the SBC Digital conference, EPIC’s Director of Operations Pete Wallis, who holds a MSc in Educational Practice and Innovation, discusses the virtues of eLearning in the safer gambling sphere, with a particular emphasis on how important it is to provide this method of learning alongside other traditional methods of education.
I recently encouraged the team to consider what three things have made them proud of their time at EPIC, and our reaction to COVID was a common answer. We were able to continue delivering our vital services using digital means during a time of uncertainty when there was an increased risk of gambling harm. This made me reflect on what has made our digital offering successful, what was underpinning it, and what could I share to help others too?
As Plato once put forward, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ and I believe we have certainly seen this with COVID-19. With organisations moving their workforce to home-based working and the reliance on video conferencing to keep people connected, delivery as we knew it ceased.
Although we are now seeing some staff returning to their offices, continuing restrictions on visitors and group sizes mean we have all had to find new ways to deliver our services sustainably.
As a result, many have turned their attention to eLearning and remote-based delivery. Fortunately, at EPIC we had already started preparations for creating more digital content to complement our impactful face to face delivery as part of our strategy for growth, indeed the recruitment of Caty our Head of Training and Development last year was a key part of this strategy.
In the course of my studies and professional development, I have spent a long time researching digital delivery, in particular eLearning. Of course, I won’t subject you to the full content of my dissertation; however, I will attempt to share some of the key points below so that you can make sure that you are purchasing content that will be effective.
Part of our strategy was to think very carefully about the best way to build this digital content, in particular, it needed to complement our other training offerings. Our philosophy has always been to build bespoke training for our clients. People often equate ‘bespoke’ with expensive and timeconsuming; however, this needn’t be the case. In keeping with adult learning theory, we seek to involve the user into the design process, not only does this ensure we are differentiating the content to their specific needs, but it also maintains their motivation as they are actively working towards solving self-identified problems. As Benjamin Franklin once said:
‘Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn’
By building bespoke it also allows us to ensure that we are considering the necessary supporting measures needed to make the training ‘stick’, that is to ensure the content is transferred into practice. Based on Baldwin and Ford’s often cited model, this requires 3 elements, individual motivation, effective content, and finally the organisational support to allow the content to be applied. When designing training we make sure all these elements are in place. For example, to make the safer gambling training sustainable, and thus improve motivation and organisational support we aim to weave the content into wider leadership and management programs - the content doesn’t need to stand in isolation, there are many overlaps with the common skills needed in the workplace. Whilst not impossible, this is certainly harder to do with ‘off the shelf’ content.
Concerning effective content, this brings us nicely onto eLearning. The debate regarding the effectiveness of eLearning has been raging for many years. With the boom in digital technology, it was a natural consequence that organisations turned to eLearning as the panacea to make workplace training efficient, cost-effective, and accessible. Unfortunately, it is a widely advanced view that little training is transferred from the course into the workplace (Merriam and Leahy, 2005). Awonyi, Griego and Morgan (2002, cited in Merriam and Leahy, 2005) argue that only 10% of expenditure results in transfer, whereas Sak’s (2002, cited in Burke and Hutchins, 2007, p. 263) proposes that only 50% of training results in the transfer. The research suggests that at best only half of the taught content will be retained after the training. When considering the importance of safer gambling material, this is indeed a little worrying and further emphasises the need for the training to be well-designed.
The key to designing an effective eLearning package is to have a fundamental understanding of the relevant training methodologies and theories. Arguably if someone understands how people learn, it is easier to design content that works. Unfortunately though, based on research, it seems that few education and training initiatives account for transfer in either the planning or implementation phase of programming let alone any other relevant learning theories. I’m sure you’ll be relieved to know that we do.
No doubt we have all experienced (and I fear will continue to experience) poor eLearning content that looks wonderful, has lots of pictures of happy-looking people enjoying the subject but fails to deliver. I’m confident we have all spent time completing mandatory modules that force the user to read all the content before they can continue, a commonly deployed method to ensure that the user has ‘learned’ the material before progressing further. This knowledge is then confirmed using a test that can be repeated until they pass, thus proving they ‘learned’ something. I’m sure you can see the holes in this plan.
Experience suggests that many eLearning modules concentrate their focus on the content (for example in the gambling context this could be claimed about using lived experience to form the material) whilst not thinking carefully about how it is delivered, beyond that of using eLearning. Whilst the use of lived experience is vital (EPIC were the first to do this and will continue to do this); if the medium to deliver it isn’t carefully thought through, then this important voice can become lost - ‘technologies are merely vehicles that deliver instruction, but do not themselves influence student achievement’!
At EPIC we take a different approach, we employ a holistic view and use our in-depth knowledge of training and design to build content that works. We have been developing training material that challenges the status quo and indeed pushes the boundaries on what can be achieved within eLearning. However as alluded to above, this eLearning doesn’t stand alone, rather it is part of a suite of training options that we can develop to meet our clients' needs. These range from digital sessions with breakout spaces, collaborative seminars through to more traditional eLearning and everything in between. All of which have the authenticity of the message that our lived experience team provides and is personalised to the unique circumstances of the client.
Of course, we would rather be back in the room with our fantastic clients delivering our impactful training face to face; however, thanks to our expertise we have managed to deliver a suite of options that come a close second. All of this within a few weeks of lockdown too.
Why not get in touch and discuss how we could develop some incredible safer gambling content for you. Drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.