For the third episode of E-Learning Council’s Leaders in Learning Podcast, we interview Katrina Baker, author of Corporate Training Tips & Tricks , LMS Success & The LMS Selection Checklist. Katrina is an E-Learning Symposium Speaker.
In this wide ranging conversation we talk about:
- Creating effective training
- Measuring training effectiveness
- Recruiting Trainers
- Challenges of Virtual Training
- Mobile Learning in the Real World
Katrina brings a wealth of real-world experience to our conversation.
Transcript of Interview with Katrina Baker
Announcer: You are listening to Leaders in Learning podcast from E-Learning Council. The mission of E-Learning Council is to advance e-learning for a community that provides leadership, best practices and resources in a collaborative environment.
Sanjay Nasta: Hi, this is Sanjay Nasta. Today I am speaking with Katrina Baker, with ROFL. Welcome Katrina.
Katrina Baker: Thank you.
Sanjay Nasta: What does ROFL stand for?
Katrina Baker: It stands for Resources of Fun Learning and I picked that name specifically because I like that acronym.
Sanjay Nasta: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Katrina Baker: Sure, I mainly work in the learning technology space. I have a pretty, varied weird background which is great for people in training. I guess it’s typical for us. I came from the world of production and I went into training management, went with a very large retailer. That allowed me to get into the world of learning management system administration and I love that world. I’ve written a couple of books that you may or may not have heard of. If you’re really in love with LMS you might have heard of them. There’s one called LMS Success and there’s one called The LMS Selection Checklist. I write and I also speak at conferences and that’s actually how I met Sanjay.
Sanjay Nasta: Katrina was a speaker at E-Learning Symposium and we had a great time having her there. Katrina, what’s your latest book?
Katrina Baker: It is Corporate Training Tips and Tricks, Save Your Money and Prove Your Worth. That’s actually the first book that I’ve written that’s not strictly on learning technology. It’s in there, but it’s also got some other fun stuff.
Sanjay Nasta: What pushed you to write that book?
Katrina Baker: I have a friend and that friend actually had the idea for it. It’s kind of funny, she’s not a trainer, but we were talking about some of the other stuff that I was working and she goes, “You know, you’ve talked to different people and mentored people on how to make their training programs more affordable. Why don’t you write a book about that?” I went, “Oh, that’s a cool idea.” Then I went, “You know, I’d love to write a book where there are a lot of trainers who give advice and all of their ideas and share their knowledge rather that it being me writing the entire thing.” That’s what I started working on, and I started working on that over a year ago to collect everyone’s ideas and thoughts and we’re just about ready to publish, so it’s very exciting.
Sanjay Nasta: I know another ELS speaker and somebody who works for Microassist, Kevin [Devonly 00:02:37] wrote a little bit for that book.
Katrina Baker: He did a great job.
Sanjay Nasta: He was excited to do that. Tell me a little bit about how the book is divided. How is it set up?
Katrina Baker: The book has three principal topics. There are multiple chapters here, but you can think of it as advice about the people in training, then the training program itself and also the technology associated with training. Those are the three categories that the advice is divided into. The book in intentionally a very non-linear format. What I mean by that is you can literally open the book to page 24 and start reading there. You can flip it open to any area that you’re struggling with and there will be ideas associated with probably what you’re looking for. There are ideas literally from hundreds of trainers and that’s why I’m so excited about this book. It’s not a me production at all. It’s everybody’s advice from all walks of life and all industries.
Sanjay Nasta: That’s neat because I know curating knowledge across from a high mind is a great way to get a lot of value. A lot of our audience is really working on making effective training programs. Do you have some parts on how do you build a consistent training program? Especially if your company doesn’t have one already?
Katrina Baker: Sure. It’s actually a topic that’s discussed in the book and a lot of people had great ideas on it. If you’re building a training program from scratch, one of the biggest things is to consider what categories of training based on what user groups you have, dividing up your user group and you can do that a few different ways. In fact, it’s effective to do it in a few different ways. For example, let’s say you’ve got different levels of management. You might have employees at the base employee level, meaning you’re non-management. Then you’ll have a layer of supervisors and above them you’ll have a layer of junior managers and then senior managers. That might be your hierarchy if you’re a mid-sized business.
You might want to offer different levels of leadership classes for all of those different levels. Your compliance needs might even be different depending on those levels. For instance, anti-harassment classes will be different depending on management level. You’ve got that layer, and then you can also go through and consider how many different departments you have, what are the training needs that are specific to those departments, and even your schedule as a business. For example, if you know that if you’re a retailer, the holidays are going to be a very heavy time for you and you’re going to need some specialized product knowledge right before the holidays. Consider that. After you’ve looked at all the different categories of learner that you have in your organization, you can start to know about a timeline on an annual basis of what training needs to happen when and which user groups need to receive that training. That’s something that we talk about a lot in the book, and just give a little succinct way of doing that.
Sanjay Nasta: It’s definitely the type of learning that [inaudible 00:06:00] and the other thing I heard you mention was the type of training that a lot of training organizations should start thinking about, compliance training, but there are so many different types of training and delivering the right type of training to the right learner at the right time is usually what leads to success.
Katrina Baker: Right.
Sanjay Nasta: How do you make sure that you’re providing training that is relevant to each group of learner?
Katrina Baker: I would start out by doing some needs assessments and some of us you know obviously if it’s compliance training, you’re going to know just based on what the regulatory requirements are as to when and who needs to receive what training. If you’re looking at things like soft skills, leadership training, customer service training, you may have gotten feedback from learners in the past as to what was effective. If not you can always reach out to those different groups. Management might have initiatives that are coming up that dictate who gets what training and when. Also your business form, just when you are busiest during the year might dictate the best time to deliver training.
Sanjay Nasta: About your LMS background, I know you care a lot about tracking of training.
Katrina Baker: Oh yes, very important.
Sanjay Nasta: A lot of people think of training as this creative act, but like with most creative acts, and you’re involved in a couple, there is also just the hard planning, tracking, improving. What are some of the benefits of tracking training and from the LMS background, how do you do it?
Katrina Baker: I would say that a lot of trainers are very sad and downtrodden when they have to put in their training data, but there’s a huge benefit to it in the sense that if management comes to you later and goes, “What have you done for me lately?” which tends to happen right around the time that the budget’s being set, you can basically pull out your data and go, “Well, we had this many people take compliance, we had this many people take leadership courses,” and you can start to prove the return on your organization’s investment in training. That’s not to say that training data should stand alone. It should really, if you’re going to pull out those numbers, it’s best to try to tie them to something and show their effect. For instance if you’ve had a lot of Workers’ Comp claims and then you come in and you start doing the targeted safety courses and you’re able to show, “Hey, we trained 250 people on this specific safety topic and we show an 80% decrease in incidents in our company related to Workers’ Comp around that issue.”
That’s when the training data is most effective, when you can use it to prove something essentially. Tracking training data has actually gotten much easier. Anybody in the learning tech world can certainly appreciate the power of an LMS when it comes to tracking training. You can basically input all of that data depending on your LMS and depending on your setup. If you’re doing web Xs, sometimes the attendance is actually tracked automatically, which is really cool. If you’re doing classroom training you typically input that manually and then e-learning courses are tracked automatically. It really cuts down on the workload and also helps you produce reports that are a little bit more effective in proving what you’re trying to prove. It automates the whole process.
Sanjay Nasta: One of the things that we are seeing a lot of is subject matter experts, compliance experts, but not necessarily trainers doing training. How do you get non-trainers involved in training employees and still be effective?
Katrina Baker: I would say they’re a subject matter expert and they don’t have a background in training, it’s best to try to partner with them rather than to have them stand alone. For instance if you want them to teach a classroom training, they have that set of knowledge, maybe pair them with a trainer who can help them and co-facilitate with them. Certainly subject matter experts are very important in the e-learning design process which I know Sanjay knows. You have to bring those people in and come up with a plan ahead of time as to how they’re going to contribute and what you want to get out of it. Also if you have people in the organization who are interested in training but maybe don’t have the background, there are a lot of fun ways to involve them.
There’s something that I like to call telephone training because it’s like the kids’ game where you start at one end and you have everybody involved in passing information along. That’s an exercise that I like to use under the guidance of a trainer to make sure that the information doesn’t get diluted or changed along the way. Basically you have employee A trained by the trainer, and then employee A actually passes along that information to employee B as the trainer’s watching. The whole point of that is if you’re learning something and then you teach it to someone else, it increases the retention and it also increases your ownership of that material and it gives that person the opportunity to practice training so that maybe later on you can actually use them as a trainer in their own right.
Sanjay Nasta: I’ll agree with you. Getting a subject matter expert to do training can be very valuable. I think we usually have to focus then to be more goal driven to give the information that the trainee needs to do their job. Right now we’re facing a pretty challenging time in the training industry in terms of finding people to do training.
Katrina Baker: Right, big demand.
Sanjay Nasta: It’s a big demand, it’s not a profession that is traditionally taught in universities, oddly enough. What are some of the ways to recruit the right learning professionals?
Katrina Baker: I think recruiting any role starts with the job description and making sure. Maybe you’ve had that trainer role in your organization for a long time and the job description’s never changed, but the role itself has. Sometimes that pre-research is going to be existing trainers and being … what exactly do you do now? That’s key to it and that job description really dictates what happens next. I think that there are organizations that sometimes focus on trying to get the most qualified candidate, which is great, but you have to think that in relative terms in comparison to that job description. Meaning it doesn’t really make sense to hire a PhD when you need someone with a bachelor’s degree. You don’t want somebody who is completely so senior that the role is not going to be challenging because then you end up with turnover, you end up with someone who’s dissatisfied, and you could’ve hired somebody else for maybe less of a salary who’s more passionate about the role. I think it’s really key in hiring a trainer that that passion stand out because the knowledge itself can be taught, but the passion can’t be.
Sanjay Nasta: I agree with you and always [inaudible 00:13:25] when hiring. The other thing that’s important for us is not to focus just on the hard skills that are easy to read on paper, the five-year experience with X, but also the emotional skills, especially in training. You’re interacting with human beings and the emotional skills are very important. We touched on this a little bit before. Training is one of those areas that’s always under budget pressure. Clark Wynn and I talked a lot about that in the previous podcast about how to get training more aligned with strategic areas of the business. What are your thoughts on what to do when training is facing the budget cuts? How do you focus on showing value, but also how do you become efficient? How do you reduce the cost of training without losing trainers and losing capability?
Katrina Baker: I think it’s really key. Trainers are often the keepers of knowledge in an organization just because they touch so many departments and they talk to so many people and so the loss of a trainer is often a loss of succession, a loss of that information being able to be spread. It’s very important whenever there is a downturn to try to find a way to hold on to those people so that knowledge isn’t lost. It’s never an ideal situation, but if you can take somebody and convert them to part-time and make 50% or 30% of their job something else other than training that still uses their skillset, that’s one way of doing it. There are ways, let’s say you’ve got an increased need for training but you have no increase in budget, you can always keep the trainers that you have and then reach out to people who are senior in their departments and basically say, as you’re preparing for your next promotion, we do expect you to take on a training role within your department.
They would do that under the supervision of a trainer, but the nice part about that is you’re giving a training responsibility to somebody who’s looking to move into leadership. They are learning leadership skills through that experience and your organization is also benefiting from the increased hours in training. There are a lot of different ways that I think the training position can be protected and augmented during times of downturn.
Sanjay Nasta: Those are some great tactics. We’ll shift to an area of technology which I know is a passion area for you. One of the areas that I’m looking at a lot is mobile training. Have you seen great examples of mobile training out there? What are some that you’ve seen?
Katrina Baker: I’ve seen a lot of people who are starting to incorporate gamification more. Mobile training in gamification and I’ve also seen some clients who are doing a lot more field tests, meaning they’ll have an instructor actually in the field or on the floor using some kind of a mobile device and filling out basically some kind of an evaluation about how their student is doing. Those are a couple ways that I’m starting to see mobile learning used more. It’s not just about watching an e-learning course on a device any more. It’s expanded. It’s easy to really augment training with mobile features because mobile devices are so affordable now. Everybody it seems like, has a smartphone, so if your organization has a bring your own device policy, you can save quite a bit of budget just in terms of what you’re spending on devices.
Sanjay Nasta: The other thing that mobile delivers really well is that it’s available at the point of the … the example I always use is you don’t care a lot about how to charge the battery in your car until you show up to a dead car. Then suddenly that piece of mobile learning or YouTube in that case be crucial. It does deliver at the point of new training really well.
Katrina Baker: Yeah, and it also saves money just in terms of you don’t have to pull somebody off the floor and to the nearest computer. You can just deliver it right where they’re standing and let them get back to work.
Sanjay Nasta: It does require rethinking of the kind of training. For me, mobile is not suitable for that traditional e-learning course where you sit down for a 15-minute module and flip through slides and take a quiz. It does require really thinking through what that trainer needs. By the way, in a former life I worked developing mobile apps. That’s very true of mobile apps. Just focusing on starting on the critical things that are needed and implementing that in a mobile app. How do you overcome the cost of developing for mobile, have you seen tools out there? Have you seen tactics out there?
Katrina Baker: Yeah, I think HTML5 has become a lot more accessible and there are a lot of free tools out there. I used to be a web developer in a former life and there are a lot of free tools out there for that. The entire field has opened up a lot and I really like the new version of Captivate for creating mobile. They’ve incorporated a lot of features that make it faster to see what you’re doing from a responsive design perspective, which I think is really great.
Sanjay Nasta: I’d love to see more mobile training. I’d love to see our industry start pivoting a little bit towards thinking about mobile training because I think it’ll also force us to rethink what training is.
Katrina Baker: Oh absolutely.
Sanjay Nasta: What about virtual training? Talk a little bit about virtual training, what it is and how to best incorporate it into a program?
Katrina Baker: I think the barrier for virtual training is a lot lower than the barrier for getting more classroom trainers because you might have … let’s say your company has 50 locations. You won’t be able to necessarily have a classroom trainer on the ground at each of those locations, but you can have someone who’s teaching virtually who touches all 50 locations. That’s the great part about virtual and the only barrier to accomplishing that is getting trainers to the point where they’re comfortable. It is really weird teaching a virtual class without that learner feedback. You can’t see somebody’s face and you have to get used to that idea of putting yourself on video and sending you then into the ether, but if you incorporate a train the trainer program for virtual and allow the trainers to get used to that scenario, get used to how that feels, that’s the only barrier to something that’s tremendously helpful, that has tremendous value. I think it’s underused, honestly.
Sanjay Nasta: We’re actually having some of our trainers do webinars. It’s like a step towards virtual training. Didn’t you say that you’d rather jump off a building than face a camera though?
Katrina Baker: I don’t know how tall the building is. It would depend, I guess.
Sanjay Nasta: And what you land on. Do you think that e-learning can be used for training on any topic?
Katrina Baker: Yes and no. I think it just depends on how you present it. I think there are topics that are much more adequately covered in person through one-on-one training. For instance, there are some soft skill topics that I would say are greatly enhanced by having another human being across from you. I think e-learning is great for compliance, I think it’s great for simulation. Games have become so much more robust in the past few years and I think any topic can be presented in a way that is effective. It’s just a matter of what the outcome is we’re truly trying to accomplish. Is a 15-minute e-learning course going to be better or is a 15-minute interaction or even a document going to be better?
Sanjay Nasta: I think sometimes we start hammering nails because we have hammers. That’s one of my thoughts is how do we move past the traditional 15-minute e-learning module? What are some of the other things you’re seeing out there?
Katrina Baker: I think balances is very important as you’re pointing out. You can’t have a training program that’s all one medium even though I think in both of our hearts we love e-learning. You have to have … doesn’t make sense to have e-learning module if all you need is a one-page quick reference guide.
Sanjay Nasta: Some of my favorite books are Atul Gawande’s checklist book was great for teaching us that sometimes a checklist works better and I’ve always had a lousy memory. Even in my teens so checklists are crucial to me surviving life.
Katrina Baker: I’m the same way.
Sanjay Nasta: The other thing is our tools sometimes inform our learning. I mean Captivate, Camtasia, Lectora, are all wonderful tools, but they do restrict how we teach sometimes. Are you seeing tools out there for building simulations and some of the more engaging forms of learning?
Katrina Baker: I’m seeing, honestly I like Captivate for a lot of things, I like Storyline for a lot of things, but as you were saying, there are certain things where maybe Captivate isn’t the fastest way to build a branching scenario for instance. I know there are a lot of tools out there that are being developed and I think it’s great to try to find free tools and use different things and try out different things. I also think it’s important to when you can, buy a template or buy something that you can white label and that’s not for every piece of training but I think when you can utilize a template or you can utilize a game that’s partially built, which a lot of stock libraries have. I think it’s a good way to cut down the budget for that piece of training which allows you to deliver more training in different areas. You’ve got budget left over so that you can create more e-learning courses, more documents, more classroom trainings.
Sanjay Nasta: True, and the other end of that is going into the sophisticated development, especially since you came from the web development background. Katrina, it’s been awesome having you visit Austin. As usual, we’re running out of time. I just looked at the clock and go wow. Time went by.
Katrina Baker: It’s quick.
Sanjay Nasta: It is.
Katrina Baker: It’s great being here.
Sanjay Nasta: You came at the perfect time of the year for Austin. The perfect temperature.
Katrina Baker: It’s beautiful. Walked around the lake and everything, and got to come over here and see you guys in person.
Sanjay Nasta: We look forward to the book, we’ll probably giving a couple of copies of that book away.
Katrina Baker: Yay. That’s always good.
Sanjay Nasta: Thank you Katrina.
Katrina Baker: Thank you.
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