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In everyday life, people learn from their own and others’ experiences, mistakes, and daily activities. But what about learning when attending a training course? Remembering everything covered during a course and putting it into practice is a challenge. There is simply too much information to process in a short time and to retrieve from memory when necessary.

Adult learners want to acquire skills efficiently and effectively in training courses. They need training to be relevant to their roles and responsibilities on the job. Therefore, it is important to consider how to select training courses that are designed to help individuals learn better, remember content, and be able to put it into practice.

Here are some ways that set one course apart from another:

  • Pre-course materials – Learning is easier when learners have a foundation of prior knowledge related to a training course. In the absence of such a foundation from their prior work experience, learners should be provided with a written summary of key course material to review before attending the course in order to prime their memories and provide a framework for acquiring knowledge and learning skills in the course.
  • Study aids – Learners will not be able to immediately retain all the information that is presented in a course. Study aids of various types can assist learners as they begin to acquire knowledge and skills. Study aids include items such as definitions of terms, safety checklists, cards with guidelines to follow, etc. Such aids can also assist learners in putting their new knowledge and skills into practice when they return to work.
  • Engagement – Learners must engage with course material if they are to gain knowledge and skills. Instructors should pose questions to learners as material is presented and prompt learners to ask questions. Class discussion of issues should be designed into courses and learners encouraged to participate.
  • Workshops and exercises – Training courses should not mostly consist of presentations. They should also make liberal use of exercises and hands-on workshops. Exercises and workshops provide a break from listening to a presentation, giving attendees an opportunity to engage with the course content and reinforce in their minds the material presented. Instructor feedback after exercises and workshops is important in steering learners in the right direction.
  • Graphics – The old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” certainly is true for training courses. Graphics quickly communicate key information in an integrated manner and provide a framework that facilitates memorization of the information presented in the graphics. Course materials should use graphics liberally.
  • Relevance – Individuals often bring considerable personal experience to a training course. The instructor must ensure that the course material is presented so as to be relevant to the personal experience of learners, for example, by the use of relevant anecdotes.
  • Examples – Worked examples help learners understand the material presented. In process safety, examples of incidents impress on learners key lessons learned. Course materials should be supported with examples of many different types.
  • Videos – Narrative descriptions of process safety incidents, such as an explosion caused by human error, are common. However, a much better alternative for training courses is to show a video. Actually seeing the effects of a catastrophic incident better reinforces the lessons learned from the incident.
  • Summaries – Learners should be asked to summarize each course section so they can reflect on what they have learned and how it relates to their own experiences.
  • Quizzes – Many textbooks have study questions at the ends of chapters to help reinforce what you just read and ensure understanding of the material covered. This same method can be applied in training courses with quizzes spread throughout or at the end of a course. The process of recalling information helps learners to transfer information from short term to long term memory. Instructor feedback on incorrect answers provides an opportunity to correct any misunderstandings of the course material. Learners should be encouraged to take the same quiz periodically after attending a training course to reinforce memories of the material and help to avoid the fall off in retention that otherwise occurs.

People learn better and retain material longer when courses are designed and delivered in accordance with the practices described above. Primatech incorporates these practices and other learning strategies into our training courses to help ensure learning is effective and efficient for learners.