Learning is an action verb.
Most of us learned the definition of “action verb” in junior high school, but as a reminder action verbs “express something that a person, animal, or object can do.”
Learning requires doing. Obviously, if no action is involved, then no energy is expended; and if no energy is expended, then no transfer of knowledge or acquisition of skill is taking place.
So, whether you are an online course designer, classroom instructor, or curriculum developer, you are faced with a major challenge when attempting to train others. And what is that major challenge? Competition with another action verb that people also enjoy—finishing.
Finishing also takes effort. However, finishing a course or class may be more attractive because it typically does not require the same amount of effort as learning. What does this look like in practice? How about someone clicking through online course slides just to print a certificate of completion, or someone sitting in a classroom checking Facebook the entire time? Learners may pick up a nugget here or there, but behavior transformation is highly unlikely.
As a designer, I see tons of emphasis on the importance of engaging and interactive course design. While I certainly believe training designers and developers should put their very best efforts forward, learners are also part of the equation. Here are some tips to remind employees of the role they play in the learning process:
- Ethical standards apply to learning – If employees take an online course or participate in a live class, the employer is footing the bill. Skipping ahead or checking out is, quite frankly, stealing from an employer. An employee may say, “This course is boring.” Well, so is patching a pothole, but crews don’t skip ahead to the next one until the one under repair is good to go.
- Beware of repetition fatigue – Employees may think, “I have heard this a million times.” Actually, that may be true. However, practicing fundamentals is key to long-term success regardless of the industry. If employees can’t find personal application, then encourage them to find application to team, customers, or the organization.
- Remember the power of choice – Viktor Frankl, a Nazi concentration camp survivor once said, “One has the ability to choose one’s attitudes.” “Choosing” is also an action verb. It requires energy and effort. When employees are presented development opportunities, we must encourage them to wisely choose when it is time to learn and when it is time to finish—and the importance of knowing the difference.