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Stop Buzzwords. Start Application.

We may be confusing the market, the learners, and ourselves.

There was a time—not that long ago—in which I was in the Training Department. And the call to action was clear: Train your people so they know how do their jobs well. Training might have consisted of onboarding training, role-based training, and even training on the job. Every large organizational initiative included training so that people were prepared for what they had to perform in their roles. We designed classroom training, online training, and performance support documentation, such as job aids, digital guides, and checklists. We had roles that included instructional designer, technical writer, and facilitator.

Now, as HR departments become Talent Management teams and managers become people leaders, the Training Department is now Learning and Development (L&D). Our call to action is more holistic, but also less clear. We cannot create learning—that is personal to the learner. But, since “training” sounds so 2002, our training programs are called “learning experiences.” ILT with some pre-work is called “blended learning.” Adding some resources to a course is called “curation.” A short video or animation is labeled “microlearning.” Performance support is now called “continuous, on-demand learning.” Also, with this change, the names of the roles have changed. Are you an instructional designer? Or learning experience designer? And fundamentally, what’s the difference?

The names that we are creating also generate confusion for our people in L&D and for employees at large. We may be unknowingly disenfranchising those who design classroom training and eLearning because we are labeling those methods as “traditional.” However, if there is a time to use the classroom, keeping the human element to encourage learning, it’s now!

While I’m not supporting the idea that we have to use the same terms as in the past, I am advocating that we clarify and say what we mean and mean what we say. Stop getting lost in buzzwords and start applying. You want learner experience? Great—practice the principles of user-experience design methodologies to support learning in context. You want design thinking or human-centered design? Great—start with your humans (your audience) before your perceived problem.

These new terms can be extremely liberating, but it’s not worthwhile to just say them. Practice what you preach. Apply them with effective training methods, and when you do, you’ll find that performance support with curated content provided a great learner experience based on work from a design-thinking initiative. Or, more simply, an online checklist helped get the job done.

About the Authors

Britney Cole
Britney is a learning leader with experience in organization development, human performance, and corporate learning and has worked remotely, managing virtual teams for more than a decade. Britney lives in Minnesota with her husband and three small children (ages 5, 7 and 8) where she keeps warm with plenty of blankets and cozy hats. She likes to talk, so you might see her at learning conferences as a speaker. Britney has provided consulting for clients in the financial services, pharmaceutical, steel, chemical, media, technology, retail, manufacturing, and aerospace industries. She forms lasting partnerships with her clients helping them with learning design and architecture, content development, leadership and professional development, performance consulting, technology implementation, and change management. Most recently, she is helping pioneer new experiential learning methods and defining learning 3.0 taxonomy.

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