Mark Gross, President, Data Conversion Laboratory, appearing in training.
I asked a colleague’s daughter who was interning with us last summer what she thought of when I said the words, “training materials.” Her answer didn’t surprise me. In conjuring up her vision of training materials, she used words and phrases such as “thick binders,” “stacks of paper,” and “boring.” You know what? She’s not wrong. Believe me, even in this age of free-flowing, easily accessible information from just about anywhere that is consumed on innumerable devices and platforms, important documents, curricula, and materials are still stuck in paper. OK, some are in PDF, but that is still way behind where this content could and should be.
In fact, training materials are a perfect example of content that would get a tremendous lift from digitization. As I learned from my colleague’s daughter, training materials have a reputation (or at least a tendency) to be less than exciting to the modern eye. I can’t argue with that, but it doesn’t have to be that way. This content can be liberated from paper and given a new life on mobile devices while incorporating video, audio, graphics, and even animation. They can even be interesting.
I can point to a major digitization project we did for American Prison Data Systems (APDS). Historically, training materials have been available to correctional officers only in print form. Print is costly, cumbersome, insecure, dates quickly, and is not very portable—not a good recipe for a tightly budgeted small organization working in a sector as complex as the prisons system. Our mission with APDS was simple: to make correctional officer training digital. The results speak for themselves:
More than 2,000 pages of training materials now are digitized.
Training content now is delivered to trainees through a secure portal.
More than 600 officer training tablets have been deployed; the officers can use them to study anywhere when they have a few free moments.
APDS is able to analyze the usage and results of its training materials, and provide valuable reporting to its clients
APDS is just one example of a successful transition of training materials from paper to digital. Are you thinking about making this move? Here are some tips as to why you should be thinking this way, for not only will it help your training program now, it will set you up for a sustainable and successful training future.
Make your training content more accessible. This might seem obvious but its importance cannot be overstated. These days accessible can be many things—“mobile,” “online,” “searchable,” “findable”—but it all means the same thing for your content. Your training materials should be available in ways that people today are accustomed to receiving any other form of information—digitally. You can read a book, shop for a car, and look for employment digitally, so why should training be stuck in paper? Going digital frees up not only the way you create and update your training materials, but also how and when your trainees consume it.
Integrate other forms of media into your training such as video and audio. Training is learning, and any way to make learning feel less like heavy lifting, the better. Also, people learn in different ways. Some are visual learners; some are audio learners; and some retain the written word very well. With today’s technology, audio and video are easy to create. Why not offer all of these methods for your trainees? Digitizing your content allows for this. Integrating some of these ideas into your training advances it toward the realm of e-learning, which is generally more self-paced, multimedia, and interactive. In other words, it’s a rather effective way to learn. Paper limits this.
Use digitized content to enable analysis—for both trainees and trainers. Effective training and learning needs engagement. The more trainees are engaged in the training process, the better that training will be. Varying the media you use, such as audio or video, will go a long way to capture trainees’ attention. But there’s more that can be done. Enabling trainees to be active participants in their progress is another way. But how do you accomplish this if your training program is trapped in paper? It can be done, but it’s regressive. We want progress. Digitizing your training can offer opportunities to drop in quizzes, material reviews, and recaps throughout the training. Trainees will be more engaged because they will be aware of their own progress (or lack thereof). This idea also applies to the trainers or creators of the materials. Seeing analytics on the results of the training will help improve the training materials for the next iterations.
Training materials are no different than any other form of content out there today. They need to be accessible. They should integrate and utilize new media types. There needs to be an easy (and modern) way to analyze the results of the training. All of this can be accomplished by digitizing your training materials. Having binders stacked side by side in a conference room or at employees’ desks looks productive, shows history and longevity, and offers a tangible visual record of the materials you’ve created. But is it the most effective representation of your training? And is it realizing the full potential of what your training program can be?
This article appeared in training.