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Using Collaboration to Retain Knowledge and Influence Younger Generations

VJ Esguerra helps create and maintain online training at L-3 Communications Link Simulation & Training. As a Lead Instructional System Designer, VJ monitors and seeks to continuously improve the instructional efficacy and integrity of courseware designed for government use.

What follows is an interview between VJ and Maestro eLearning, as a part of a new series called Trainer Talks. This series explores the difficulties of being a trainer and how to overcome them, along with tips and advice to make your training more effective and even more engaging.

Q. How can organizations retain employee knowledge after an employee retires or leaves?

“Brain drain” is a fact of organizational life, so companies need to plan ahead of time about what to do when people leave. A corporate culture of keeping secrets, competitive individualism, or both, doesn’t help.

Companies need to make their employees understand the importance of documenting how they solved a problem or performed a task better than expected.

Q. How has technology changed learning?

I have participated in the administration of a learning management system (LMS) and in the right hands; a LMS can be a very powerful tool. I often use the analogy of a jukebox, or for the younger/hip crowd, the iPod, to describe how a LMS works in relation to the “stuff,” training, documents, etc., that’s put on there.

Online training can be uploaded to a LMS like MP3s to an iPod and “playlists” created to meet the needs of particular learners. These playlists are analogous to curriculums or similar training packages.

However, like all technology, when not used appropriately, LMSs can be a waste of money or make employees resent online training. For example, companies need to be sure that they actually need a LMS, i.e., have enough courseware already in place that could benefit from being put online.

Also, companies need to investigate how much work will be needed to maintain the LMS and the degree of user-friendliness for learners—companies who underestimate the commitment required can easily be in over their heads.

Q. What experience have you had with “online learning communities”?

I actually got my Master’s degree through an online program, so whenever “online learning community” enters my field of awareness, I immediately think of online forums for discussion of learning experiences, e.g., books read, papers written.

These forums have to be carefully integrated within an instructional framework, like a college or corporate university, in order to succeed. Otherwise we’ll all be poking each other and sending Mafia Wars requests for help.

Q. How should organizations approach the younger generations?

HR/training professionals need to be cognizant of how the younger generation is communicating and getting its information. Advances in technology won’t wait for us to catch up, and those teens and twenty-somethings who grew up with smartphones and iPods will be expecting to get their training in bite-size, on-demand pieces that are engaging and useful.

I wouldn’t be surprised if companies are developing formal training for distribution via iPads, or for use with an XBox 360.

Q. What do you recommend your audience to read in their spare time?

I would recommend reading anything about the whole “games as training” phenomenon. James Paul Gee writes a ton about learning via digital media. While not everybody is a hardcore “gamer” at heart ala Halo, I agree with Gee that there’s some kind of learning going on in video game play that can be “re-appropriated” for training use.

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