The Importance of Learning Transfer in E Learning Course Development

The Importance of Learning Transfer in E-Learning Course Development

Damian Hehire-learning

The Importance of Learning Transfer in E-Learning Course Development

How do you ensure employees use the skills and knowledge they learn in your e-learning courses (and other training initiatives)? This is known as learning transfer, i.e., the transfer of newly learned skills and knowledge to the workplace. It should be one of the most important priorities of any training initiative.

The aim of most e-learning course development projects is to positively change the way people work. You want to get results, improve performance, achieve objectives, and instigate behavioural change.

The Challenge

The problem is that implementing behavioural change through e-learning or any other training initiative is not easy. It takes careful planning and a structured approach designed to not only deliver an e-learning course but also achieve learning transfer.

Furthermore, the changes as a result of an e-learning course shouldn’t be sporadic and they shouldn’t fizzle out. In other words, you don’t want a situation where new knowledge and skills are only applied sometimes with employees then reverting to old ways of working as time goes on.

The ideal situation is that new knowledge and skills are applied in various situations and not just those covered in the e-learning course. The knowledge and skills should also be applied over the long term, i.e., you achieve a situation where learnings are extensively and persistently applied.

The Conscious Competence Model

The conscious competence model is a good reference point when considering learning transfer and its importance. In the conscious competence model, there are four stages of competence:

  • Unconscious incompetence – learners might be in this stage before you have communicated with them about the training and what you want to achieve.
  • Conscious incompetence – learners might already be at this stage, i.e., they know there is a skill or level of knowledge they have yet to achieve. Or learners might reach this stage following communication, such as information about an upcoming training course.
  • Conscious competence – this is the stage learners reach after successfully completing your e-learning course, i.e., they are aware they have a new skill or level of knowledge they can now use.
  • Unconscious competence – this stage is where the new skill or knowledge becomes second nature to the learner because they have applied it repeatedly in their everyday tasks. This stage is the ultimate level of learning transfer.

The Benefits of Learning Transfer

The main problem with learning transfer is it doesn’t happen by chance, but the rewards and benefits are worth pursuing. Those benefits include:

  • Behavioural change – there are some training courses that are viewed as tick-box exercises. That said, the best training courses are those that achieve positive behavioural change, i.e., behavioural change that has a positive effect on the business. Learning transfer is often the only way to achieve the change you need in the workplace.
  • Delivering objectives – you should have training objectives that you want to achieve, and those training objectives should be aligned with wider business objectives. Learning transfer helps you deliver on both.
  • Continuous improvement – modern businesses need to continuously improve to keep up with new technology developments, changing customer expectations, increasing levels of competition, evolving regulations, and regional/global events that jolt the business landscape. Standing still effectively means you are going backward, but learning transfer can help. Learning transfer makes the most of your training initiatives and ensures continuous improvement in your organisation.
  • Learner engagement – getting learners on board with training initiatives is a key priority in many organisations, not least to facilitate the continuous improvement objective highlighted in the previous point. You can improve learner engagement by ensuring learners have the ability and support to transfer new skills and knowledge to the workplace. This builds confidence in their abilities, with that confidence often translated to enthusiasm for training initiatives.
  • ROI – training initiatives are an investment in your organisation’s future, its performance, and its efforts to mitigate risks. Learning transfer helps you maximise return on investment in the development of e-learning courses and other training materials.

How Do You Measure Learning Transfer

There are four main stages to assess the success of learning transfer in your e-learning courses and other training initiatives.

  • Define objectives – start by defining the high-level objectives you want to achieve with the e-learning course. This is often connected to a critical business KPI. It is also beneficial to think about how you will measure success in terms of achieving those objectives.
  • Define behaviours – the next step is to define the behaviour you want to change and what those changes look like.
  • Validate the change – in the weeks and months after learners complete the e-learning course, you should validate that learning transfer has taken place. There are various methods you can use, including observation, getting feedback from managers, and getting feedback from learners.
  • KPI analysis – the final stage is to analyse business KPIs to get a better understanding of whether or not the behavioural change has had the desired impact, i.e., did achieving the learning objectives deliver on your business objectives?

Don’t Neglect Learning Transfer

When developing new training materials, including e-learning courses, there is a temptation to focus much of the effort on content creation and making the training course as good as possible. That part is absolutely essential, but there should also be a focus on learning transfer to maximise ROI, achieve behavioural change, and get the results you want to achieve.