The relevance of trainings in soft skills has been a favorite topic of discussion among instructional designers and learning experts. Soft skills are behavioral skills; therefore, such trainings would require behavioral outcomes. It has been long argued that no training, however well-designed, can be greatly effective in changing the behavior of an individual.
Conventional methods of learning have been partially successful in imparting soft skills to learners. Experts have however wondered if self-paced, short e-learning modules can help a learner to imbibe soft skills. The argument still continues. However, both learning methods face similar challenges when it comes to imparting soft skills training.
While I agree that skills such as integrity, leadership, time management, stress management, and communication cannot be imparted through any method of learning— conventional or modern—it is imperative that skills and behavior are a result of environment, available information and knowledge gained.
If a real-life environment can be simulated to familiarize learners with behavioral concepts and decision-triggering scenarios, training methods can help individuals in acquiring soft skills.
E-learning is a preferred method of learning in organizations these days as it is cost-effective and self-paced and allows them to save money and time. With visible advantages, e-learning is fast replacing conventional learning mechanisms in corporate training.
However, it is crucial for organizations to understand that individuals still relate better to conventional training. Moreover, a facilitated training is more dynamic than a web-based or computer-based training program. Thus, the most effective way of training should be the blended approach–mixing e-learning technology with conventional instructor-led classes.
Let us look at how soft skills training can be made effective while being delivered via the e-learning media.
Add a face
Learners are usually reluctant to attend a soft skills training as they tend to think of it as being non-essential, as opposed to technical, work-related training. Already non-motivated, learners will resist a training that is imparted by a faceless, soulless monitor.
Adding a friendly face to the course material will add a human dimension to the training. Introducing a coach, buddy, or a mentor at the beginning of the course will make it easier for learners to understand the learning objectives. Bringing him/her back at checkpoint and summary screens will be a good idea. Coaches can also help introduce scenarios in the training.
Answer WIIFM (What’s in it for me)
In ALL trainings for adults, it is required to address the most important question posed by the learners: What’s in it for me?(WIIFM) While most learning objectives address the question in concrete, technical terms, they fail to motivate and convince the learners how the training proposes to benefit them. An instructional designer or content writer should focus on responding to this question in a simple, mentor-like manner, explaining clearly the advantages of the training to the learner.
A soft skills training cannot be imparted with a series of dos, don’ts, shoulds, and shouldn’ts. A learner will not gain anything from the training unless the training responds to the corresponding whys and why nots. Well-illustrated scenarios can help explain the finer details of the soft skills.
Familiar territory: Use characters and situations closer to real life to present scenarios. A thorough audience analysis will help build strong and effective scenarios. Factors such as age, country, ethnicity, language, culture, even attire and food should be taken into consideration while creating scenarios. At times, non-familiarity with the audience could result in a well-meaning scenario giving offense to the learners.
Provide online help
This is the toughest challenge and is often not considered because of technical limitations. An always-available guide can help learners extract more from trainings. I am not referring to a physical guide here, but an online repository of information acting as an available facilitator.
A two-way approach to online guidance, as described below, can benefit all types of web-based trainings, soft skills or otherwise.
FAQs: Maintain a dynamic repository of frequently asked and answered questions.
Discussions: Help learners create discussion forums and chains to discuss the course content. An expert can periodically add useful information to the forums. Discussion among peers, as in a classroom, can help learners gain more from the trainings.
Whatever be the medium of training, it is important that learning experts understand the audience and act according to the theories of adult learning.
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—About our writer:
Anuradha says, "A wannabe writer and die-hard dreamer, I am an independent writing professional with experience in instructional design/content development and web content creation. I thrive on optimism and hope to make a difference in the world. Catch me day-dreaming at http://dieharddreamer.blogspot.com/"
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