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Who Doesn’t Want to Create Amazing Learning?

Tiffany Rapplean is a senior learning consultant who has worked with a variety of clients including Time Warner, Newmont Mining, Lucent, GE and ING. She is currently working with Ernst & Young developing simulation-based learning as well as more traditional web-based learning and ILT modules. In addition, she serves on the advisory council for Meeting Sciences, Inc., a company that is doing some exciting work with software and processes designed to help companies and individuals plan, conduct, and follow through on much more effective meetings. One of her passions is online communities and she has discovered that her skills she developed as a forum moderator and guild leader translate remarkably well not only to learning, but also to business in general. Tiffany can be reached via LinkedIn and you can find out more about her experiences there.

Q. Tiffany, with all your experience in the field of learning, could you tell us about a book that has changed the way you approach training and development?

Accelerated Learning for the 21st Century: The Six-Step Plan to Unlock Master-Mind by Colin Rose and Malcolm J Nicholl is a book that influenced the way I approach training and development fairly early in my career. My mentor recommended this book to me while I was working for him at Lucent and I have recommended the book to many of my colleagues since.

Q. Could you point out some aspects of this book that our readers would find interesting?

Probably one of the aspects of this book that clicked with me the most is the realization (albeit, one that should probably have been obvious) that traditional public schools in the United States subject children to the same sort of learning that I was seeing so much of in businesses during the 1990’s and early 2000’s. There was an emphasis on the auditory learner, a lack of meaningful context (giving a name and date as opposed to a rich discussion of the political, philosophical and socio-economic atmosphere of the time in which the person did something notable) and learning was treated as a chore.

In examining the training programs around me at the time, I was shocked to see that we had in fact applied many of the less engaging and less effective (I would even argue more abusive when I’m feeling dramatic) learning elements not only to primary education, but also to professional adult learning. This was such a huge “a-ha” moment for me, as I suddenly could see the bigger picture of what learning has been in this country and realize what I could personally do to help bring about a positive change.

One of the learning ideas this book emphasizes is “how to learn” over “what to learn,” a concept I embrace both in my career and in first selecting, then working closely with the schools my daughters attend. As stated in the book, “…learning how to learn needs to take priority over what we learn — especially when one can’t predict what skills will be needed and what we learn can become so quickly outdated. Learning how to think logically and creatively is critical if we are to solve complex personal and social problems effectively.”

This idea has enormous implications for the public school system, but it also greatly impacts adult learning. Consider the difference between teaching users of a new software package exactly what you would like them to know in a lecture and demo format vs. using a hands-on learning approach to help them learn not only how to navigate the system, how and why it works the way it does, but also where to find help or learning materials that will deepen their knowledge base in a just-in-time setting. This concept alone significantly changed the way I design and develop learning processes.

This book also discusses the theory of multiple intelligence. It was something I first learned about years ago while reading Howard Gardner’s Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, which helps to explain the logic behind designing and developing learning that appeals to multiple learning styles. In my previous roles of developing and delivering training within the financial services industry, I did not know how or why it was important to create learning that would appeal to different learning styles. Although I worked with a talented group of people, none of us had received very much formal training in the field of instructional design. Even though a substantial amount of our training included hands-on practice, it was written primarily for auditory and kinesthetic learners. Although I already knew about multiple intelligences, I was not yet fully aware of all of the different learning styles, much less how to design and develop learning that would appeal to each of them.

Q. Were you able to directly apply anything you learned from this book into a real-life training and development program?

Yes, during the time I was reading Accelerated Learning for the 21st Century, I had recently been introduced to the ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, Evaluation) process and I was working in a department that strove to design instructor-lead training that appealed in a somewhat balanced manner to visual, auditory, intuitive/reflective and kinesthetic/tactile learners. This positively changed the way I created learning materials and I appreciated having this book to fall back on when I was having difficulties. For example, I had issues with how to appeal to visual learners when developing highly-technical developing highly-technical software training from purely text-based design documents written by software engineers. This was challenging, to say the least, but this book has often helped me shift my perspective so that I can creatively think of new ways to present content in ways that will appeal to different learners.

I think it is easy to become complacent in this field and easy to settle into a pattern of complacency in which we no longer challenge ourselves to create learning that will engage most (if not all) participants. We want to develop learning participants will enjoy and retain well beyond the training event itself. This is one of the many books that, supplemented by online articles, innovative colleagues and the guidance of my mentor, helps to keep — or sometimes force — me out of this rut by enabling me to refocus on the fact that we can and should create not just adequate learning, but amazing learning. I’m passionate about learning and Accelerated Learning for the 21st Century is one of the first books that really helped me focus and fuel my passion.

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