22.Feb.2018 Innovation in Training: Going Beyond the Default


We all know what a default training session looks like. Introductions round the table. A Powerpoint slideshow. Explain concept A, get the group to do some breakout work on it, brainstorming on flipcharts or solving a scenario. Share the results, do some action planning. Repeat for concept B. Happy sheets at the end.

A good trainer can still get good with training sessions like this. After all, you may reason, the learning should take priority, and if you can breathe life into the material through your personal style, you will engage learners. You don’t want to include novelty just for a gimmick.

But this kind of training session has been around a long time, and it’s a crowded marketplace. There are a lot of other good trainers and workshops out there, and many of them, as well as being good, are using blended learning and other innovative ideas to support what they say and do and make training fresher and more memorable.

It doesn’t need to cost the earth, either. For small group work, you can supply two or three low-cost Android tablets very easily, which can be hooked up to your PC via wi-fi or by using your own 4G smartphone as a hotspot. Some ideas can work via people’s own smartphones, or even their text messaging. In case not everyone will have one, you can bring along a couple of older, budget-friendly spares. Some of these ideas can be used just by changing how you use your own devices.

Could any of these ideas help you go beyond the default?

Default: PowerPoint

Some kind of projection support can be very helpful. But PowerPoint often seems stale. However, there are easy to use, free alternatives that can do the same job. Microsoft have released their own ‘replacement’—Sway—and Prezi, the darling of many TED talks, gives a very different style to a presentation.

Default: Standard activities such as flipchart brainstorms or discovery exercises

You often want learners to form small groups and work through something. But this doesn’t have to be via flipchart. With a simple tablet or smartphone set-up, you can have them discover and record ideas via a range of apps, sharing to your PC so that you can see what they do as they work and/or have them ‘present back’. You could:

  • Use interactive whiteboard apps such as Explaineverything or Syncspace
  • Use a learning platform like Spiral, that offers a range of options for group working, such as creating a simple presentation, answering a range of questions, live commenting on a video, or whiteboarding ideas
  • Set a ‘webquest’, where people use the internet to respond to clues and discover info
  • Have ‘activity stations’, where a different activity is set up at a tablet at each station, including the ideas above plus video, podcasts or other apps/tasks—groups rotate from station to station

Default: Open Discussion

Open, free-flowing discussion can be one of the most rewarding parts of learning. But it can also get very samey and bogged down, and it can be hard to bring quieter learners into the picture. A tablet/smartphone voting app like Voxvote could get round that, and the previously mentioned Spiral can facilitate all kinds of interaction. You can get everyone to type in their comment and all appear on your screen, allowing you to visually ‘throw’ the focus wherever you like, compare answers, and give an easy voice to quieter learners. Group use of mind-mapping software like Mindmeister encourages everyone’s contribution and can be sent out to everyone afterwards.

Default: Talking Through Theory

You know that short, punchy videos can add variety and interest. But standing there while a video of you plays seems off, and it can be hard to source the right video elsewhere. There are other options. Screen capture apps like TinyTake can showcase anything you can do on a PC. Short animated explainer or kinetic typography videos can add a playful feel and can created using apps like GoAnimate or be commissioned from professionals at reasonable prices via creative platforms like Fiverr. Or how about using a GoPro to video a point-of-view how-to for something a bit different?

Default: Flat Case Study/scenario

In place of a paper case study, an app like Spiral can be used so that individuals or groups comment live on a case study, interacting with comments as they come in. A more interactive approach is to construct a ‘choose your own adventure’ scenario with easy-to-use systems like Inklewriter or Twine. Small groups or individuals (on smartphones or tablets) or the whole group (using your PC at the front) can see the consequences of their choices at each stage and make new choices based on a developing scenario.

Default: Happy Sheets and Pre/Post Course Reading

You could go beyond ‘happy sheets’ at little or no cost by using an app like Remind, that automates follow-up by messaging/email, to link into apps like Surveymonkey or Google Forms, so you can set questions easily and get reports on the answers. Managers or colleagues can be involved, as well as attendees. You can automate post-course follow-up by creating a Chatbot that responds to learners’ questions and answers via messaging. Again, creatives and tech developers on platforms like Fiverr or Freelancer can do a lot of this for you. And all of this can be linked to online sources for pre and post-course reading, as well as making pre and post-course more interactive using apps like Spiral or even by asking learners to collaborate on creating a ‘wiki’ (like a Wikipedia page but on a course-relevant topic).

Going Beyond the Default in Practice

The ideas here are more a jumping-off point than a how-to, but future posts may pick out individual ideas and go deeper. I’m interested to hear other’s thoughts. How have you gone beyond the default, and how will you in future?

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