Harold D. Stolovitch, PhD,
CPT, and Erica J. Keeps, CPT
series of articles, we will address whole learning systems, some of are
rarely used although they have demonstrated effectiveness. We're not certain
why some beneficial systems aren't used more frequently, but our experience
tells us that many people in the learning and performance world either
don't know about them, don't know how to develop and implement them, or
simply are fearful of rocking the boat.
Over the next five
editions of the HSA e-Xpress, we will address five (of many) learning
systems that have stood the test of time and have demonstrated effectiveness:
natural experience, experiential learning, structured on-the-job training
(SOJT), learner controlled instruction (LCI) and individual developmental
plans. For each of these learning systems models, we have created an information
chart that can familiarize you with them and help you try them out. In
this edition, we present natural experience.
- As its name suggests,
this "system" is as close to the way we naturally learn as
possible. The twist is that the placement and general set of natural
experiences the learner will acquire are, to a large extent, planned.
- The individual
learner or group of learners is placed in the natural environment. Learners
become part of the work or usual participant group (for example, railway
office staff who process purchase requisitions from the operations workers
are given hardhats, steel-tipped boots and appropriate clothing and
are placed in the "yard" or on the line to work with the regular
work shifts; police are placed in shelters for the homeless for two
weeks as shelter employees).
- Learning takes
place in the real environment.
- The learner learns
through real-life, trial-and-error events and is treated as much as
possible like the real worker, inmate, victim, counterperson or whatever
role she or he is assigned - no privileges.
- To the extent possible,
learners share the same conditions as the "real people" for
the duration of the natural experience.
whom can it be used?
- It is best used
with people who will have to deal with those whose jobs, conditions
or backgrounds are considerably different from their own. Generally
this includes managers or professionals whose work requires them to
understand with whom they'll be working or whom they'll be serving or
- It is also effective
for preparing personnel who will be expected to function well in new
contexts or cultures.
- This can be effective
as a prior step to full hiring and/or training. By spending several
days or a week working in the district compound of a natural gas company,
a few days in a call center or a month in a shelter for battered victims,
the learners acquire mental models of the job, conditions and context.
They decide whether the job fits them. It also provides an experiential
base that makes subsequent training more meaningful.
- Natural experience
is appropriate in crosstraining situations: sales personnel spend time
working in the distribution center and distribution personnel spend
time working with the sales group, experiencing customer interface and
- Natural experience
is also appropriate for management personnel who have not spent time
"in the ranks" doing the front-line jobs.
what type of content can it be used?
- It is best
used to acquire "life" experiences, as opposed to technical
or specialized content knowledge.
- Natural experience,
as a learning intervention strategy, is best applied for acquiring knowledge
of and ability to perform within unfamiliar contexts; under conditions
dramatically different from those with which the learner is familiar;
and frequently with people whose backgrounds, habits and culture are
very different from the known.
- This is a learning
system that offers emotional dimensions. It is particularly effective
where attitudes require re-examination and realignment with respect
to a group of persons or a work/social/cultural/linguistic/geographic
- The focus should
be on social/cultural learning more than technical knowledge and skills
acquisition although these may be acquired through natural experience
(for example, learning how to adjust locomotive airbrakes while working
in the railway yard; serving customers in a restaurant while learning
what it is to be "in the hospitality business").
- Learners can become
familiar with the language and rudiments of a job if the natural experience
is an initial exposure to a position.
are the components?
- Because natural
experience is natural, there are few "components" required.
The main component is the natural setting.
- Appropriate clothing,
tools and materials for the setting are needed.
- Adequate time is
needed to enable the learner to become used to the setting and able
to function at a survival level within it, and to begin performing in
some useful way.
- A daily journal
to record events, learning and reflections can be helpful.
does it work?
- The learner is
assessed to ensure that he or she possesses sufficient capability (physical,
mental, emotional) to benefit from the natural experience.
- The learner is
provided with a set of general objectives - a purpose - for participating
in the experience. This includes some form of anticipated outcomes,
such as a general mental model of the environment and people operating
within it, an appreciation of the realities of the environment and people,
a basic set of coping skills, a set of new concepts and vocabulary terms,
and possibly an enthusiasm for making a positive contribution to improve
the context or for functioning positively within it.
- The environment
for the natural experience is prepared to receive the learner. Co-workers
and supervisors should know the primary reason why the learner is being
placed in their environment
- If necessary, the
learner is briefed prior to the experience.
- The learner enters
the environment and tries to function within it.
- During the experience,
the learner not only acts to survive and contribute in a "natural
manner," but also reflects on her or his experience there.
- At the end of the
specified time period, the learner leaves the natural experience environment
to return to his or her usual position, or, is given with additional
training before returning to the natural experience setting for ongoing
are the advantages?
- Natural experience
is the real thing and, as such, gives learners an opportunity to deal
with the world as it is.
- A dose of reality
has a dramatic impact on learners. It can markedly alter attitudes and
- This type of experience
can create a clear portrait of a job or work situation for learners
and thus increase the meaningfulness and effect or subsequent training.
- Natural experience
requires the learner to act naturally. This permits the learner to assess
whether this is the right job for her or him. It also permits the organization
(of an educational institution) to determine whether a person possesses
the right stuff for the work.
- The cost of designing
natural experience is generally very low.
are the disadvantages?
- It is a time-consuming
means for learning. Given that a learner has to have sufficient time
to orient himself or herself to new surroundings and people, adapt to
these and then try to act in a useful manner, adequate time must be
allocated for the experience to be worthwhile.
- If the natural
experience is very different from the world that the learner knows,
she or he can be traumatized by the experience, with consequent negative
- Both learner and
receiving environment require some preparation, and this may decrease
the naturalness of the experience.
- If not exploited
soon afterward, the value of the natural experience fades.
- Natural means that
there is a lack of predictability in outcomes. Negative learning may
result (for example, unsafe ways of doing things, ways to get around
the system, inefficient behaviors or unproductive attitudes).
resources are required?
- a performance
consultant, managers and specialists to determine what the natural
experience should be, its objectives, length of time and how the
experience and learner should be assessed
- an administrative
person to set up the mechanics of the experience
- a training
professional to monitor and track progress
- a host to welcome
and orient the learners.
- time to design
and develop the objectives, process and procedures for the natural
- time to prepare
all parties involved
and trainer time to prepare, run and monitor the experience and
- learner time
- minimal costs
because this is a natural experience
- personnel and,
in some cases, lost opportunity costs.
are some examples?
- Field placements
- Assignment to a
team or task force
- Temporary job placement
- Duty rotation
- Field placement
prior to new-hire training.
Be sure to catch the
next learning systems model - Experiential Learning - in the October 2010
edition of the HSA e-Xpress.
This article is an excerpt from Harold Stolovitch and Erica Keeps' bestseller,
Beyond Training Ain't Performance Fieldbook.
Interested in learning more? Click here
to order a copy of the book.
Management is a monthly magazine directed to top-level management,
senior human resources and workforce and organizational development executives
whose task is to optimize the abilities of their human assets to drive
and improve the execution of enterprise strategy.
is the "Human Performance" columnist for Talent Management
magazine. You can read his latest article, "How
Well Do You Perform? Prove It" by visiting page 10
of the July 2010 digtial edition at http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/mediatec/tm0710/#/12.
For more information on Talent Management, visit their Website
If there are any topics that you would like Harold to address in his column,
please email him at email@example.com.
Harold Stolovitch, Emeritus professor, Human Performance at Work and Principal
of HSA Learning & Performance Solutions, has successfully developed
workplace learning and performance professionals for over 40 years. He
is an experienced keynote speaker, workshop leader, author and consultant
who has worked with hundreds of major corporations and professional organizations
throughout the world.
Harold is available
for presentations, keynote addresses, consulting and workshops at corporations
and professional organizations. Click here
for more information.
Our Guest Author Series
features articles by various professional colleagues. The latest in our
series is by Linda Waddell., President of TecKnowledg-e Learning, Inc.
and Danielle Turner, Principal of Velvet Pumpkin Productions (www.velvetpumpkin.com).
Linda specializes in analysis, design and development of online workplace
training programs. Danielle specializes in producing various types of
videos for professionals and businesses. You can contact Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org
and Danielle at email@example.com.
Eight Tips for Multimedia Effectiveness
in Performance-based Online Learning
By Linda Waddell and Danielle Turner
the thrill of getting that giant box of crayons as a small child? You
know that special box of crayons - the box with a very large palette of
colours and hues. Not the box of ten shiny, perfect crayons that fit in
the box with the wrappers still intact, but instead, the giant box of
well-loved crayons with torn wrappers that never seemed to fit back in
the box. That humungous box of crayons provided hours of amusement - even
playing peacemaker in sibling crayon wars. Best of all, that box of crayons
provided the basis for a lot of learning through color experimentation.
as with that box of giant crayons, online learning offers a palette of
design opportunities to enhance on-the-job performance through the use
of effective multimedia elements that stimulate the senses, emotions and
promote learning. To help remain competitive in today's world, online
learning has become an effective way for many organizations to provide
rapid, cost-effective workplace training. Frequently, however, we observe
the misuse of multimedia elements. Given the prevalence of online learning
as a viable and important method of delivering workplace training, it
is important to ensure that multimedia elements do not simply entertain
learners, but add to a deeper understanding of required workplace performance.
eight tips present recommendations for using multimedia, online learning
programs to increase workplace performance:
- Ensure multimedia
elements provide value. To
be considered for inclusion, a multimedia element should promote knowledge
construction and a deeper understanding of job concepts and job processes.
- Ensure you create
context for visualizations. A picture really is worth a thousand
words. Animated/annotated diagrams and pictures provide excellent means
for learners and build a mental image of hard-to-understand, abstract
workplace concepts and processes. Diagrams and pictures deliver to learners
a glimpse into the internal workings of things otherwise not perceived
by the naked eye. However, as a caution, ensure you incorporate the
context for these pictures and diagrams so that workers understand the
- More is not
necessarily better. You do not have to employ all 64 crayons to
make the point.
- Do not clutter
the screen. Focus on the object of discussion clearly and concisely.
Consistent navigation with clear instructions about where to click
to see more allows the learner flexibility and control. Linear presentation-style
slideshows are sometimes a form of instructional rigidity. While
they may assist in image-building, they lack flexibility to delve
deeply or explore the content - enhancements that stimulate retention
- More multimedia
elements do not increase learning. Multimedia elements (also known
as "seductive elements") such as music, animation or pop-ups
in a course do not necessarily improve workplace performance, unless
those elements add value in specific ways. See point number 1.
- Video can be
a powerful learning tool if used properly. Video has the capability
of affecting several senses simultaneously. It can even motivate learning
through emotional channels.
- Write a script
and/or lesson plan for the video portion and ensure the video content
connects with the learning objectives.
- Know your learning
audience well. The content of the video has to intrigue the learner
sufficiently to pay close attention to what is being presented.
Dialogue, images and humor must match learner demographics.
- Sound quality
of your video must be excellent. The picture can take a hit of bad
lighting and your learner may still watch, but tainted sound guarantees
an abandoned video.
- Be careful with
the use of "talking heads." All too often, we hear people
question the value of a talking head. My friend, Harold Stolovitch,
always emphasizes that "Telling Ain't Training." He's right.
A talking head ain't training, either. If you plan to use a talking
head, be sure to engage the learner. The learner should understand the
purpose of the talking head. Don't just insert it into your learning
material without careful consideration of the desired impact.
- Limit the duration
of the message. No one wants to sit motionless in a classroom with
non-stop talking for long periods. Learners in an online environment
have the freedom to ignore the message, so keep it short and to
the point. If the necessary content is long, consider breaking it
into a series of shorter videos.
- A talking head
can add workplace relevance and can add value if it presents an
important element of applicability for actual workplace performance
by providing context or validating the importance of the concept.
You can increase impact by including text or questions on the screen
that lead the talking head into the next topic or by adding other
engaging visuals to the video.
- Use caution
when considering an animated cartoon character. If you are considering
making the talking head an animated cartoon character, analyze your
target audience and the subject matter. The younger, multi-tasking,
computer-proficient, gaming generation of today may accept a cartoon
character, but other audiences may not. In addition, the serious
nature of a subject may dictate that a cartoon character is an inappropriate
choice and may lessen credibility for the lesson.
- Add relevance
by showing workplace performance. Seeing is believing. Demonstration
videos can be very effective. Consider including video or photo
content with a speaker demonstrating actual workplace situations
while the speaker continues with the message.
- Be careful with
the use of sound. As
mentioned earlier, sound quality has no room for error. Make sure the
quality is perfect. You can't have any exceptions with this rule. Overuse
of sound dulls its effectiveness. Poor choices of sounds can mislead
practice, practice, practice.
If practice is done with a performance-based focus, simple or complex
simulations and scenarios provide an engaging way to see how certain
concepts can be applied in different workplace situations.
- Plan your use
of multimedia elements. The most important component in producing
an effective online learning experience continues to be the quality
of instructional design and content - the actual media is a vehicle.
Just like the giant
box of crayons, visual and auditory multimedia elements can enhance the
online learning experience, as long as these elements add value by increasing
learning and overall performance.
Over the last few
years, we have been including articles from respected members of our field
in the HSA e-Xpress's Guest Author Series. These have been very
well received by our subscribers. We are looking for articles and/or book
excerpts that would be of interest to our readers. If you have an article
and/or book excerpt that you would like us to include in our Guest Author
Series, please contact Erica Keeps at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Along with your article, we will include your bio, company name and contact
information including a link to your Website. You are welcome to submit
a previously published article and we will be sure to include a reprinted
with permission statement. Articles should be about 750 - 1,000 words.
where Harold Stolovitch will be presenting in the near future:
- ASTD Telling Ain't
Training and More... Conference - September 28 & 29, 2010 in Denver,
- ASTD Telling Ain't
Training and More... Conference - October 12 & 13, 2010 in Arlington,
- ASTD Telling Ain't
Training and More... Conference - October 14 & 15, 2010 in Atlanta,
to view HSA's Events Calendar to learn where and when Harold will be speaking
as well as to read session descriptions.
you have any burning Human Performance Technology questions? Visit the
Ask Harold section of HSA's Website
and ask your questions for Harold Stolovitch to answer. Here is a recent
submission that might intrigue you:
was wondering if you could point me in the right direction in finding
a case study (or studies) that compare the learning results of Instructor-led
Training (ILT) versus Web-based Training (WBT)? I am currently working
on my Masters thesis in which I am comparing the two, and I am trying
to find some numbers that back up my theory that ILT is more effective
because of the live human interaction, etc. I remember you mentioning
at a conference I attended that well-designed WBT is just as effective
as ILT, but I'm still skeptical. Any resources that you could recommend
would be greatly appreciated.
the response, visit Ask
Harold. To ask your own question, just click on the crystal
ball at left, fill out the form and click on submit.
on any of the covers below for more information or to purchase copies
of our books and learning aids.
you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact Samantha
Greenhill, Publications and Communications Specialist, at email@example.com.
Copyright 2010 Harold D. Stolovitch & Erica J. Keeps