Sunday, August 30, 2009

Training Must Be Inconsistent!!!

Consistency in training is one of the advantages of e-learning, we claim, as opposed to a human facilitator who could be tired, irritable, not in the mood, or just not well versed with the subject s/he is conducting the training on.

In comparison, once an e-learning program is created, it comes with the following advantages:
Easy dissemintation
Wide reach
Self paced...blah blah blah

An e-learning program does not have mood swings or give in to frailties of the body. It will behave in the same way even if you click the Next button at wee hours of the night...

It is always blessedly consistent. But what is the nature of this consistency?

Two questions I think of importance are:

1. Is this consistency to do with the presentation style?
2. Is this consistency related to the message/information being communicated?
3. Have we somehow confused/conflated consistency with quality?

Let's take the questions one by one.

1. Is this consistency to do with presentation style?

Just imagine a few f2f training sessions where a trainer is "perfectly consistent"--always saying the same things, presenting the same information in the same way, asking the same questions, carrying out each step flawlessly. Each of his/her sessions are perfect replicas of each other.

Are you shuddering with horror? Probably. How BORING you are saying. What about the learners and their different learning styles. A good trainer has to take into account different learner types and mould his/her sessions accordingly. A good trainer is flexible, intuitive, moving with the learners. To make his/her sessions impactful, s/he MUST BE INCONSISTENT.

I am a learning professional and am absolutely for e-learning. This brings us to question #2.

2. Is this consistency related to the message/information being communicated?
I think when we speak about consistency, it is important to clarify its attributes. In e-learning, consistency IS an advantage. And consistency does not mean the same presentation style all the time, for all learners. This is where e-learning has the advantage.

With sufficient Learner Analysis, it is possible to design programs that take into account different learning styles.

With e-learning, it is easier to design a program that has multiple entry points.
Imagine a program that has 3 entry points:
>An audio-visual
>A quiz
>An introductory write-up with diagrams

The learner analysis has shown that learners are a fair mix of the Auditory, the Visual, and the Kinesthetic types.

It is easy to guess which learner type would opt for which kind of entry points. The advantage of course is that any learner can choose to opt for all three and experience the same information presented differently.

Consistency then is not about presentation. Consistency is about:
~Communicating the same information without any loss of key points and emphasis
~Ensuring the same outcome and proficiency level for all learner types post the program
~Ensuring different learner types and learning styles are accomodated in the program design always, consistently
~Implementing multiple learning pathways in programs for maximum efficacy and impact
~Being consistently inconsistent and considering each learner as an individual

These are some of my thoughts. I would love to know more from you.

I am leaving my 3rd question with the hope you will help me with the answer.

Have we somehow confused/conflated consistency with quality?


  1. It is the choice of words and of course deeds should support it. If you speak consistency, yes, the consistent performance of the e-Learning program is a must. However, if you instead phrase it as "Replicate a good teacher consistently", then all the concerns manifest and solutions could be found out.

    We are aware as to how, we liked some subjects because of the teacher. If only, the same teacher taught us all subjects or the same teacher available to every one,: This should be the ideal pitch for e-Learning.

    This also brings us to the point to convince customers to spend on e-Learning every year on the same program, to revise, review and reshape the modules for a fresher look and feel. After all, e-Learning is a shelf product and needs to be marketed as "NEW", "REVISED and UPDATED", "A NEW FOREWORD FROM", "With additional bonus chapter" frequently. But what about ROI for such spends when the audience is captive?

  2. Consistency is a term I have heard quite often too. I understand consistency in terms of the following:
    a. Consistency in look and feel: The elements of an eLearning program must belong to the same family. (Else it will be a kitchidi. :))
    b. Consistency in language: The tone used must be consistent across the course.
    c. Consistency in feedback: Do all say That's correct or That's incorrect.

    I am ok with consistency. When I read your post, I was reminded of templates. I dread clients who share templates, style and guidelines document. I know it states their expectations clearly and this is great. But I hate to have to follow 'rules'. I dislike the word templates. Storyboarding should not be templatized; it restricts imagination and thought.

    Consistency in the way we create courses... hmmm. Yes, if consistency means in quality and not in style, treatment, and so on. Each project needs a different treatment. I also dread courses that 'belong to the same family'. The client says we have a series of course and we want all of them to look similar. Why should they look similar?

    I absolutely agree with you. Overall instructional strategy should be consistent across the course. By this I don't mean as a rule. Ensure that the theme is common as this holds the course together. The micro level instructional strategy should be diverse.

  3. Sahana, very good and interesting points. I agree. Here's a post which has been my favorite by Cathy Moore on the very subject. A good addition to your post.


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