Make your learning more engaging without spending a penny

Talking to learning professionals we know and attending workshops, webinars and conferences, we hear it over and over again – how can I provide engaging and effective training with little to no budget? It’s a challenging question. Here are a few ways to add interest and engagement to your learning that may not cost you a penny...

  1. Talk to other people in your organization to see if there’s potential to pool resources. Even if you’re dealing with different topics, there may be an opportunity to share resources, templates or components that have been successful. Working together to create organizational standards can also streamline development, saving time and money.
  2. It’s a fact that 80% of workplace learning happens informally. Put on your detective hat and find out how this is happening already – are there ways to enhance this with free or inexpensive tools? For instance, is there a subject matter guru that everyone turns to for your topic? Could you record her answering frequently asked questions and distribute them as a weekly podcast or post them on an intranet site? If you can record from your computer, the only cost may be your time.
  3. Become a storyteller – an inexpensive yet effective technique to engage learners and make them understand the importance of your topic is to tell real stories about the subject within the organization. For instance, if you’re developing policy and procedure training, gather stories from real employees as to how they are important to their work. Using a conversational tone and adding emotion enhances the stories.
  4. Take your own pictures and video. There’s a place for professional A/V teams, but you can do a lot yourself with a digital camera you already own or borrow that beats stock photos any day because it’s real. Follow a subject matter expert around to capture what your learners really need to know in its true context. Tools you probably already have on your computer or can easily download for free will let you crop your photos to focus in on the action.
  5. Make a point to seek out and regularly follow a few blogs on the topic as  they’re great for new ideas. I particularly like the Rapid eLearning Blog (great ideas for eLearning even if you don’t use Articulate) and recently started following Gamestorming (awesome focused games for face-to-face). The eLearning Learning blog aggregates posts from other bloggers, so it’s a quick way to get ideas from a variety of sources. I find using a free tool like Google Reader or NetNewsWire makes managing the blogs I follow a snap.

And as for getting that bigger budget - we’ve found that the first step is working on ensuring your training is clearly aligned with business needs. Then, add evaluation so you can prove to senior management that what you’re doing is really worthwhile and has a clear impact on organizational performance and bottom line. Dollars follow proven results!

8 tips for creating a successful evaluation strategy

#4 in our training evaluation blog post series:

In this tight economy, organizations want to know that they’re getting their money’s worth wherever it’s spent – and training is no exception. But when it comes to training, many organizations are unable to clearly identify what they are getting in return for their dollars. Research shows Levels 4 (Results) and 5 (ROI) are the two training evaluation levels least integrated into organizations, and yet they can provide the greatest value, as they measure the impact that learning has on the business and determine the return on investment.

So how do you get your company headed in the right direction and where do you start the evaluation process? A good first step is to create an overall evaluation strategy for training. Use it as a roadmap to help you stay focused on the big picture while implementing the details. When creating a strategy for your organization, consider the following tips:

  1. Flip the Kirkpatrick evaluation model upside down and start with Level 4 evaluation (Results). Identify key corporate goals and strategies and determine how training aligns with them. Identify stakeholder expectations. What are they looking to achieve as a result of training? This information will drive your evaluation strategy.
  2. Get buy-in from the top and commitment from appropriate stakeholders.
    • What strategies can you put into place to "sell" senior leaders and stakeholders on the benefits that evaluation will have to the organization?
    • What senior leaders and stakeholders could be strong champions providing support and commitment?
  3. Determine who owns the evaluation process.
  4. Identify what training course(s)/program(s) will be evaluated and at what levels. For each course or program, answer the question, "Is there a strong business need for this training?"
  5. Identify how each level of evaluation will be measured. What tools will be used to gather the information needed for your evaluation strategy?
  6. Determine what resources will be required for each level of evaluation. Levels 1 and 2 can be directly controlled and managed by a training team while participation, time and resources will be required from employees, managers, senior leaders, stakeholders and business partners for levels 3, 4 and 5. Are they willing and able to provide it?
  7. Identify challenges and risks for each evaluation level.
  8. Talk to other departments to determine what information is currently being tracked in your organization that can be used for levels 4 and 5 evaluation.  Don't reinvent the wheel. Use what's available then figure out if you need to fill gaps with further information.

Evaluation doesn’t need to be complicated. There are a number of fairly simple ways to implement evaluation in your organization that can provide a lot of value. Start by creating your evaluation strategy then stay tuned here for future tips and ideas that will help you implement evaluation successfully in your organization.

Be sure to check out our other evaluation blog post in this series: