3 types of training (corporate learning) techniques

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Poll Everywhere welcomes John Breakey from fivel.ca as the guest author of this post.

On average, employees are subjected to 30+ changes per year.

Some of these changes are digital (program upgrades, new software), and some are to processes or procedures (forms updates, new steps for customer support). Some changes are top-of-mind strategic changes for company advancement, or tactical/supporting changes that are low on the radar and not closely managed.

No matter the type of change or its priority level, every update, upgrade, or improvement requires some form of training to bring the implementation from deployment to business outcomes.

There are three buckets for learning initiatives, each with its own pros and cons:

  • 1. Live Instruction
  • 2. Virtual Learning
  • 3. Micro-Learning

1. Live Instruction

Example: on-site/off-site classroom training

class-training1492452628This training method is one of the most expensive methods for corporate learning.

Traditionally, employees would be sent off-site to participate in complex, day- or week-long courses. These courses would be designed to help the employees learn first-hand about new processes, procedures, or products. They would be in-depth and cover every possible aspect of the new system. These methods are typically referred to as guided methods.


  • Training is in-depth and covers all aspects of the change.
  • Trainers (instructors) can monitor attendance and engage with employees face-to-face.
  • Adds a personal touch to training and allows employees to ask questions of the instructor while on-site.


  • Typically the most expensive option.
  • Employers have to pay for on-site instructor, or pay employees for travel expenses.
  • Employees are often only assessed for attendance.
  • Employees absorb so many lessons/concepts that they are apt to forget before using them.
  • Adoption and understanding of concepts is not easily monitored.

Summary: Live instruction is beneficial for training employees on key strategical changes being made within a company. This method is useful for training on certificates or compliance with industry standards. However, this method rarely allows for tracking and reporting on user adoption of techniques. It is not recommended to use for simple implementation of changes, and should be used in conjunction with other training methods.

Assessment and interaction for live training

Poll Everywhere enables you to conduct instant attendance checks, assessments, surveys, and reporting in a live training session. Contact sales to discuss a solution you can deploy to your entire learning and development staff.

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2. Virtual Learning

Examples: webinars, LMS/LMP, how-to videos

elearning1492452628Virtual learning lets employees learn about new changes being implemented on their own time. Companies benefit from this method since it is less expensive than on- or off-site training, and the control (responsibility) is placed in the hands of the employee. Typically, this method is used for tactical or supporting changes, which go under the radar and are seen as user friendly or low-priority on training initiatives.

Generally what happens is employers request from the product supplier to host a webinar, and give the employees an expectation that attendance is mandatory. They might also ask the IT department to create a server to host manuals, procedure documents, or checklists for employees to access as needed. How-to videos are widely used as well and are usually supplied by product suppliers. These are generally hosted on the supplier’s website and available for consumption as the employees seek them out to help with adoption of the change. Because employees have to seek out learning, most virtual learning initiatives are considered self-serve, and the control is placed into the hands of the employee.


  • Employees are given the control of when to learn and what to learn.
  • This method is less expensive than instructed learning.
  • It allows employers to provide training to more employees.


  • Attendance for webinars are logged, but retention is not tested.
  • It’s harder for webinar hosts to accurately see who is paying attention and who isn’t.
  • LMS’s/LMP’s have very limited tracking in who utilized what training tools, and what their retention is.
  • Self-serve can be time consuming or daunting as employees have to make all the effort to learn.
  • Self-serve is generally seen by employees as difficult to sort through and find the information that they need.

Summary: Although employees enjoy the fact that they are given supporting materials for their continued success, they will generally put off training if left to their own devices. Webinars and other virtual learning initiatives are beneficial because they let employees learn or support their training on their own time. However, employees don’t tend to have much time available for training, let alone self-training. Employees might also worry that taking time for self-training might be seen as an inefficient use of time, and might fear that management will see it as a waste of time when they should be focused on making calls, finalizing sales, etc.

It is important that, when using self-learning models, employees are encouraged and feel positively about taking advantage of the training and learning initiatives provided to them.

3. Micro-Learning

Examples: Short bursts of information delivered in video and audio form.

New to the corporate learning world is micro-learning. This new method was developed because:

  • Employees have less time available and allocated to learning.
  • Traditional and virtual training methods are costly and take large chunks of time to complete.
  • Employees find it difficult and time consuming to access self-serve learning.
  • Traditional and virtual training methods provide limited participation and retention tracking.

Microlearning-Imgs-300x1981492452629There are between 10 and 20 current providers of micro- or e-learning initiatives, each with their own pros and cons. Generally speaking, though, employees do well with this method.

Micro-learning gives employees short bursts of information that are targeted to encourage learning on specific topics.

The idea is to let employees access the material on their own, when they need it, in an easy-to-find database of content. Most databases let employees bookmark or tag content that they find relevant, and can search based on what they’re trying to use.


  • Targeted towards employees who have consistently less and less time available or allocated to training.
  • Focuses on delivering short bursts of knowledge that either support complex training or provide tips, tricks, and shortcuts on stand-alone processes or systems.
  • Generally less expensive than instructed and virtual learning techniques.
  • Content is available 24/7 for users to access and engage with continuous learning.


  • Not all micro-learning solutions provide guided services to help employees focus on what they need.
  • Typically, content is delivered on a subscription basis regardless of what employees are actually using.
  • Some options have limited tracking and monitoring features to gauge engagement with the service.
  • ROI can be hard to determine without proper tracking or methods for encouraging continued success.

Summary: Micro-learning provides employees with an opportunity to learn essential skills and information in a shorter amount of time. When used effectively, micro-learning can increase rate of retention, and quicken user adoption of changes within a company. This method is generally seen as self-serve, but when it’s used properly, guided methods such as suggested learnings make the process more user-friendly.

Companies who use micro-learning should beware of subscription services. Users tend to get overwhelmed easily when they utilize subscription-based services, and usage tends to nosedive after the first month.

Which solution should you use?

Unfortunately, the answer depends firstly on whether the change being implemented is a strategic, tactical, or supporting initiative. Secondly, it depends on the business objective and the time-frame of when you’d like the change to be adopted.

Basically, our suggestion is to never use only ONE method of learning. This is especially important for strategic initiatives, or initiatives that should be adopted fairly quickly. Micro-learning is a great supporting aid for either instructed or virtual learning programs that may be used.

For tactical and supporting changes that don’t need an adoption sooner than 2-3 months, an intuitive and guided micro-learning initiative would usually be sufficient, depending on the service’s available content, and their reporting features.

Happy Learning!

Flexible assessment and reporting

Use team meetings and all-hands events to check in on the impact of your learning initiatives. Simply add a few multiple-choice or open-ended questions to your presentation slides, and use Poll Everywhere to collect and record responses. It’s a whole-group activity that motivates everyone to keep working toward their learning goals.

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This article is by John Breakey from fivel.ca.