Job-related training, professional development and continuing education. It’s all adult education, built on a hierarchy of learning, from remembering facts to creating a new point of view or product. The structure includes three key aspects: a framework for identifying what level of learning will be achieved, the objectives to be met, and consideration of different learning styles.
Whether on-demand/asynchronous coursework or virtual instructor led training, all good professional development has structure. You are investing your time and energy, you have committed to maintaining and improving your understanding of your trade or profession. You might be looking for credits for mandatory continuing education for licensing or association membership, you might be self-directed. Either way, your time is precious. Here’s how to sift your way through course offerings and find the ones that will benefit you most.
LEVELS OF LEARNING
One of the standard industry frameworks for crafting effective learning objectives for a specific course or program is known as Bloom’s Taxonomy (2001 revision). This is a pyramid shaped diagram showing levels of learning. The higher the level on the pyramid, the deeper the understanding. Most webinars are at Level 1 - remembering. Webinars provide information transfer over a short period of time, 45 to 90 minutes, typically. An introductory course at college or university could encompass Level 1, 2, and 3 over the length of the semester. To master Levels 4, 5, and 6 in any skill or subject area typically takes many training sessions (formal and informal) and many years.
- Learning Objectives
Learning objectives are used to guide you along the learning path. Learning objectives (LOs) use action words (verbs) to describe what is being taught. It’s good to understand how adult education is structured, so that you can determine if you are registering for a course that suits your level of understanding.
For example, in a general information, or beginners’ course, the learning objectives help you to remember (Level 1) and understand (Level 2) the information and concepts that are presented in the course. If you are reviewing this course for your continuing education credits, how do you determine if you are beyond the introductory level of knowledge on a topic? You look at the learning objectives and determine whether the course is right for you - maybe you want a review or refresher, maybe you want a deeper dive into the subject. Here’s a selection of verbs that are used to describe learning objectives at different levels. Use this to help you figure out what level of understanding you have on topics.
2. Consideration of Learning Styles
To accomplish the learning objectives of a course, it must include activities that help you succeed in reaching those objectives. Let’s continue with the example of an introductory course above. The course must contain activities that guide you to memorize core facts and ideas. This takes learners to Level 1 (“Remember”), allowing them to list or define the information they have assimilated from the course. This information serves as a foundation for their understanding of the content (Level 2 “Understand”).
Once you get past Level 1, you are starting to convert retained information to actual understanding. This requires a move from passive to active learning. To meet learning objectives and achieve Level 2 (Understanding) or higher, successful training engages you in a variety of ways.
Education theorists agree that there are at least three styles of learning: auditory (by listening), visual (by reading or seeing), and kinesthetic (by doing or experiencing). These styles dictate how a learner needs to receive information in order to convert it to retained knowledge. Most people have a dominant learning style but rely, to some extent, on all three ways of knowing.
BLUE HOUSE ENERGY LEARNING STRATEGIES
Blue House Energy has clearly defined learning objectives for every module of every course. BHE training engages all three ways of learning through our interactive e-learning courses:
Visual learners benefit from on-screen text and images
Auditory learners are supported by professional, well-paced voice overs
Kinesthetic learners are engaged through interactive exercises
Content formats that help all learner types include videos, animations, and visuals that illustrate the topic. Studies have shown that combinations of words and pictures leads to nearly 90% improvement in comprehension than just words on a screen.