Take a moment to reflect back to the moments when people were arriving at your last training event. Notice the range of roles you played as you welcomed them. As I reflect I can see myself alleviating anxiety, optimising states for learning, connecting people to people and connecting people to content. While I am doing this I am gathering and desperately trying to retain a huge amount of essential information including names, aspirations, roles, and a variety of individual requests.
Why Connect Learners to Learners?
We all have expectations about the situations that we encounter and some of our expectations may create states that are not favourable for learning. A friendly message from the facilitator can impact negative states including apathy, feeling threatened and provide opportunity to correct any false assumptions about content.
The connection breaks the ice, and enables you to become familiar with your delegates, their names, occupations, where they work and what they hope to achieve, it also allows you to see common areas of interest – useful information which can be used to introduce people, get people talking and sharing quickly connecting learners to other learners.
Research shows that with pre-exposure of ideas prior to a learning event combined with priming throughout the event, retention can be increased by up to 34% so, if learners come into contact with new ideas and terminology before you explore these ideas fully during the event, you can help increase learners’ retention (Source: Mack, A, Rock 1998 – Inattentional Blindness).
Providing, attractive pre reading material containing content that encourages the learner to participate in a treasure hunt by searching through the document for key words, or to interact with a quiz in exchange for a prize introduces an element of competition and curiosity both great states for learning. A Fill -in-the-blank words activity based upon the content you send containing a question where the answer is not included in the text, encouraging the learner to research. Cardboard jigsaw pieces provide a highly effective method of connecting learners to learners and content. Send a piece of the puzzle out with your pre reading; include clues about key topics which you connect during the course to build a complete puzzle or information about a fellow learner encourage people to find that person during the introductions. (Always take an extra puzzle along to the venue in case somebody forgets their piece)
If time or budget is tight and does not allow you to create a pre course package, why not create a course overview in the form of a map or a journey, encourage your learners to connect with the journey with questions about the key topics with headings:
How can I use this idea in my work?
Who can support me to implement this idea?
What do I already know about this topic?
If I were to interview an expert on this topic what questions would I ask?
What situations have I experienced in the past where it would have been useful to have this skill?
What is it that I am curious about in relation to this topic?
What do I still need to know about this idea?
What are the barriers to implementing this idea?
There are a variety of methods available and the methods you choose will be influenced by whether the event is an in house or a public programme and your learners’ ability to access the internet. Public providers may be reluctant provide you with direct access to the learner; however they normally liaise through a Training Coordinator who can forward pre event materials.
If you are familiar with the client and their employees consider creating groups for Twitter. I use TweetDeck to create groups which I support through the pre and post programme learning and transfer stages.
If you would like to know more about creating groups for Twitter follow this link:
Perhaps your clients I.T. department is a little uneasy with Twitter, no problem, it’s easy to connect by email. A friendly welcome message with an enticing title including pre reading, and perhaps a photo of yourself to help people to recognise you when they arrive works just as well.
Receiving an unexpected package in the post can provide a wonderful surprise and is rarely ignored. Use colourful envelopes to create interest. Create your pre-reading in an A5 size bound booklet; and ensure your front cover appeals to your learner’s natural curiosity, enticing them to explore further. It is essential to select images that are visually stimulating; and relevant with your content and key words. The brain processes, and recalls images with greater ease than it processes text, if you re-produce the image and the link to the topic on your flipcharts you are reinforcing the connection.