My eLearning Memoirs

By Kathryn Jackson, Ph.D.

Much has been written about eLearning including the benefits, the approach, and the obstacles. But not much has been written about the eLearning experience through the eyes of the user. I hope you’ll be fascinated by this fictional look at a how an agent, maybe one in your organization, would relate to the eLearning experience.

First Day After New Hire Training: Dear Max: I made it through new hire training and I’m working on my own in Information Services, the Red Team, second station from the right facing the breakroom. Larry, my supervisor, asked me to keep notes for the next two weeks so that management could see how well the experience prepared me for the job. I thought I would keep a daily log, and to make it more fun, I decided I’d write my observations to you – MaxMentor, my online mentor and friend.

I arrived today with fear and trepidation. I’M ON MY OWN! And yes, I know with all my training that I am screaming when I type in all caps. That first call was a doozey. Not only did it involve a complicated problem but also the caller was a little perturbed. Good thing we went over how to deal with angry callers in new-hire training. I still feel I could do better. Perhaps “Defusing Anger” will be one of my training sessions with you, Max! We’ll see.

Day Two: Max, Some veteran employees don’t like this new training. They aren’t used to the technology, so they find it intimidating. I tell them that eLearning is new to all of us and I’ve only been at it for a short time. “So see,” I say, “you are only a couple of weeks away from feeling as comfortable as I do!”

This is fun, Max. I take lessons that are highly specific to my needs, very interactive, and delivered right to my desktop. I can learn whenever I want to. I’m thankful to work for a company willing to provide eLearning so that I can be there for the caller. I’m more comfortable and they are too.

I realize this training environment benefits the caller. Since I practice a new skill before applying it during a real contact, the caller doesn’t have bear with me while I struggle through. That’s a big benefit!

Today, I used the “show me” approach. I forgot exactly what to do and you gave me step-by-step instruction — just-in-time training. I’m learning the best way to do something without having to bother a co-worker. No longer am I concerned that a co-worker is teaching me some work-around method rather than the most efficient way.

Day Three: Max, In a meeting, I learned that the members of the July new hire class, the first group to receive this type of training, seem much more satisfied at work. Its members already have a lower attrition rate than previous groups and lower handling times right out of training. They continue to handle calls faster even after three months on the job and they achieved performance levels faster than other employees did. Boy, am I glad I signed on when I did! Our October group looks better than they do.

I love the “learn by doing.” I can practice, play, be entertained, and learn all at the same time. You are amazing, Max.

Day Four: Max, Wow, because of you, my error rate has decreased and my anxiety level is almost non-existent. I really like the fact that knowledge is so visible and accessible, even though there is so much to learn, it is manageable.

I like how we are able to respond to changes so quickly. My coworkers said that people used to have to read tons of memos and try to remember all these changes. Now, we get the information and changes as we encounter the need to use them.

I remember so much more with eLearning. It is much easier to understand what I am supposed to do. Learning in these right sized chunks is really the way to go.

Day Five: Max, Yesterday, I posted my first question on the community forum. As I was going through the module on how to defuse anger, I had a question about what other agents encountered in this arena so I asked, “Are there any typical situations in which you are pretty sure that the caller will be angry?” When I checked today for answers, I got an earful and each answer helped me prepare for handling those specific call situations. What a great idea – that community forum!

I really look forward to our time together. The learning breaks help me stay refreshed for my next caller interaction.

On my way home yesterday, I was thinking how nice it is to know that all of us are learning a consistent message and a consistent way to do things. I remember in past jobs how different trainers or different supervisors would tell you to do the same things but in various ways. No confusion exists around here thanks to you, Max.

I’ve noticed a real difference in how I relate to my fellow employees. I don’t have to worry when they don’t get it. Before, I thought that I had to intervene. Now I know that the simulations, assessments, and tests will accurately reflect my coworkers’ struggles. I know these tests have accurately reflected mine!

I am also glad that I don’t have to wait for training. In my last job, I had to wait until enough people needed a class before I could be trained. Now, as soon as I (or anyone else) know I need training, I get it!

Day Six: Max, Each module explains the importance of what I am about to learn and how it contributes to the organization’s strategy. That’s a real motivator to me.

Managers from all levels of the organization tell me how they have contributed to the training and how much they support it. I’m sure this is a big part of the success of this eLearning program.

The management team is fanatical about measuring the results of the training and continually improving it. Wow! What a great team.

Day Seven: Max, Today I relied on my own initiative to request a training module rather than wait for someone to assess me. The onsite coordinator was enthusiastic and gave me great advice about which specific class would be best for me.

And Max, I appreciate how accommodating you are. I can skip ahead or repeat a section whenever I want. You don’t force me to go through a lesson a certain way. Thank you. I learn much better this way.

I don’t know how you do it, Max, but I feel special. The comments that I get after I take an assessment seems like you have spent hours making sure it is personalized just for me!

Day Eight: Max, I feel so good when I see how much I have learned. Those pre- and post- tests are a great idea!

You don’t stop with just the knowledge in the lesson.  You also provide extra material that I can see if I am interested. I’ve gone to several of the websites you linked me to and have actually checked out a book from our department library that you suggested. Great suggestion. I am enjoying the reading.

Today our “defusing anger” learning team met. We had all printed out the worksheets from the lessons and were pleasantly surprised at the game that our trainer had prepared for us to help us continue our learning. Does this multi-faceted approach to learning have no end?

Day Nine: Max, Last Monday when I started a new module, I discovered some rather remarkable features. Larry calls this “blended learning.” Well, did I take advantage of these! In this module, I am able to consult with a real, live online mentor (no offense to you, Max) while I am taking the training. I can send email to the content expert directly from any point in the module. I can go out on our Intranet and see FAQs (See Max, how suave I have become? I even know that FAQs stands for “frequently asked questions”). A message board in this module allows me to post what I have learned. One of the other agents told me that he posted something that he had learned about a topic during a caller interaction and the trainers actually took his lesson and added it to the next version of the module. How cool is that?

Max, you know what a perfectionist I am. It is so reassuring to me that I can make mistakes and experiment in this learning environment without being fearful that it is going to count against me. I can even show my ignorance and not be afraid (quite a wonderful difference from my previous experience!).

Day Ten: Max, Since Larry asked me to give him my opinion about the on-going training, I have been interested in what this eLearning and blended learning is all about. Max, I remember taking a course in college with a friend of mine. After one of the classes, we discussed what we had learned and it was amazing. We had learned completely different things – from the same lecture. We looked at our textbooks to see what each of us had underlined and that was different. We took turns saying what we thought would be on the next exam and that was different. We were 180 degrees from each other. I learned that each person learns differently – in his own way, and at his own pace. Much of what we learn is filtered through our life experiences – what we already know. I want you to know Max, that I am impressed that you can tailor a lesson just for my learning requirements. I am not quite sure how you do it (yet) but I know I am glad you do.

Today as I was going through the time management module, I was thinking about one of the professors I had in college. I was bored in his class and I realized that he was forced to accommodate the average skills and interests of the entire class. His approach was fine for some – but was too fast for some and definitely too slow for the rest of us. I learned that the larger the group, the smaller the percentage of students who are (as Goldilocks put it) “just right” for the method of instruction. That’s why I think much of this training works for me – the group size is small – most of the time I am a group of one!

Here’s my “today” list of what I think is good about this training:

  1. I get feedback about what I must know in order to achieve success in this job.
  2. I get confirmation about what I already know and what I have yet to learn.
  3. I am constantly given encouragement about how well I am doing through the learning process.
  4. I know when the learning process is over and the application process must begin.
  5. I immediately know how well I did in the training and because I am a competitive person, I also like to see how I did in relation to my peers!

That’s the journal. We expect agents to genuinely feel all these benefits. Of course, a real-life journal would include frustrations and glitches. Things happen. The author may even have given Max numerous suggestions for improvement.  Still, we are excited about the promise of eLearning and we look forward to working with agents such as this fictional one to make eLearning an indispensable part of a comprehensive training package.

Kathryn Jackson, Ph.D. is President of Response Design Corporation, which works with organizations to assess relationships, including those among employees, clients, stakeholders, and the community. You can reach Dr. Jackson at 609-398-3230, 800-366-4732, or KJackson@ResponseDesign.com.

[From Connection Magazine October 2004]

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