The Butterfly Effect

Every day we in L&D make changes that can have significant impact at a later date. A change or update in content, a new method of delivery, a new platform, the use of mobile technology, a targeted training plan to address specific issues, the list goes on.

In my last blog post, I spoke of the three phases to the new normal and hinted towards one method that I think will make for a big impact in delivery of L&D in this new world we find ourselves in – flipped classroom methodology.

I first read about flipped classrooms way back in 2012 in relation to The Khan Academy. The concept was a simple one, with flipped classrooms age and ability did not matter, everyone could be grouped together. In our education streamed culture this was deemed a wild idea. Was it insane? Or was it ingenious? My money is on the latter.

At the time of researching flipped classrooms I was working at The Open University for corporate clients. Since its creation, The Open University had embarked on practice-based learning and a form of flipped classroom methodology as the core of its teachings. Students (myself included) would study at home and then participate in tutorials either online or face-to-face to formalise their learning. Our assignments were based on applying theory to real world examples, giving us the ability to actually tackle big issues appropriately. The more I read and experienced them, the more I wondered if I could apply this to workplace L&D.

In 2018 I was given the opportunity to put my theories into practice. I was invited to join Solera Holdings, a global car insurance software development company who had asked me to create for them a Business School from scratch for their 37 companies in 93 countries, starting with their EMEA division. For some this would be a daunting experience, for me the words ‘from scratch’ were music to my ears. No legacy. The opportunity to create something truly innovative, and so I pitched to them a three-fold strategy; flipped classrooms, built within micro qualifications, on the foundations of what I call ‘socialist L&D’ (the latter two I’ll cover in forthcoming blog posts).

So how do flipped classrooms work?

I’ll give you an example you are all probably familiar with… A manager has identified that a member of staff needs presentation training. It’s written into their personal development plan, and they are booked onto a training workshop. In a workshop of 20-30 people they sit and listen to a presentation about how to present whilst doodling and making short notes on a PowerPoint handout. They finish, head back to their desk, put the handout in the drawer, and carry on with their day-to-day activities. Time passes and they need to give a presentation. They locate the handout, stare at the printed slides, attempt to decipher the scrawls and recall what was said. They give up, write a presentation and present it. It’s probably not that great, and their boss is confused as to why the presentation wasn’t Oscar worthy, given they had been to training. The member of staff has no idea how to improve.

Sound familiar?

Now imagine the world I created at Solera… A manager has identified that a member of staff needs presentation training. It’s written into their personal development plan, and they are enrolled on the course; Fundamentals in Sales, Part 3: Presentations and Presenting. During the online course they are taught the science behind presenting – how to identify a topic, how to build a narrative, how to build a story board for the slide deck, how to create peaks and troughs for audience engagement, how to adapt content for the audience, how to practice and how to deliver.

During the course they are required to build, practice and present their own presentation, which they deliver to their line manager. This stage is important for two reasons; firstly creation of assets as they learn is the very core of practice based learning, moving the learning into a practical application, and secondly that the manager is involved in the development of their staff (the latter is the crux of my socialist L&D movement). The line manager, with an awareness of how their staff create slides and present can give real time feedback on the accuracy and application of the presentation. Most training facilitators, especially third party, wouldn’t be able to comment on the accuracy or audience needs of the presentation as they wouldn’t have the tacit knowledge required. A line manager can, and should therefore be involved in the process. The member of staff may need to tweak and represent to the manager, but once the manager is happy they approve the checkpoint, and the member of staff advances to the face-to-face workshop or a webinar workshop. There they can practice presenting in a room of their peers, see how others have storyboarded their decks and presenting, and therefore learn not from one facilitator, but instead from a room full of peers *and* their facilitator. They take useful notes on their presentation, edit accordingly, and then represent it to their line manager for a final sign off and certification on the course.

As you can see the outputs from the two methodologies that the flipped classroom provides a deeper level of learning, more interactive, practice based, and fundamental providing soft skills for real time application in the workplace.

For me, as stated in the last blog post, that Covid-19 provides L&D the ideal opportunity to transform L&D beyond what we provide currently, and it could start with this first step.

“You could not remove a single grain of sand from its place without thereby … changing something throughout all parts of the immeasurable whole”.
Johann Gottlieb Fichte, The Vocation of ManĀ (1800)

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