Why Learning Transfer Fails and How to Make Your E Learning Courses Successful

Why Learning Transfer Fails and How to Make Your E-Learning Courses Successful

Damian Hehire-learning

Why Learning Transfer Fails and How to Make Your E-Learning Courses Successful

Learning transfer involves getting learners to apply new skills and knowledge in the workplace. It is about behavioural change, improving performance, and achieving objectives. Learning transfer is difficult, however. How many times have you been frustrated that very little changes in the work environment after colleagues complete a training course?

Why does learning transfer fail and what can you do to increase the chances of success? The importance of this should not be underestimated as learning transfer is directly connected to return on investment, i.e., maximising ROI requires successful learning transfer.

Let’s start with the main reasons why the learning transfer process is difficult and why it commonly fails.

Why Learning Transfer Fails – Not Enough Focus on Learning Transfer

In many situations, the main reason why learning transfer fails is that it doesn’t get enough attention. It is too often assumed that learning transfer will just happen if you put together a great training course. The problem is that learning transfer doesn’t happen by accident.

Learner Corporate Training Process

Understanding the main stages of the corporate training process can help – from a learner’s perspective. Those stages include:

  • Preparation – in the preparation stage, learners should receive information explaining the objectives of the training course and how success will be measured. They should also get an understanding of the relevance and importance of the training course, as well as the company’s expectations.
  • Knowledge transfer – this is the part of the process where the learner goes through the training materials. This could be an e-learning course or another type of training delivery method.
  • Practice – for many training courses and topics, practice is an important element. It could be part of the knowledge transfer stage above or take place separately.
  • Application on the job – this is where the learner is supported, encouraged, and monitored as they apply what they have learned to the job.
  • Second nature – the use of the skills and knowledge should eventually become second nature to the employee. This often evolves into a diversification of applications beyond the scope of the initial training.

All Stages Are Important

All stages of the process outlined above are important but there is often too much focus on the knowledge transfer and practice elements and not enough focus on what happens before and after.

This isn’t surprising as the knowledge transfer and practice elements are the easiest to control. They are achieved through the development of the training course and the elements you include. In an e-learning course, these could be scenarios that engage learners and give them a chance to practice what they have learned.

However, learning transfer all too often fails because not enough work is done during the preparation stage and in the stages that come after the learners have completed the course.

Other Reasons Why Learning Transfer Fails

Barriers to Learning Are Not Overcome

Learners can be resistant to or unengaged with training for a range of reasons. Questions you should consider include:

  • Is the learner motivated to learn? What is in it for them?
  • Is there resistance to the changes you want to see implemented?
  • What is the nature of any resistance that exists? Is it fear of something new or fear of failure? Is it a lack of ability or a lack of confidence? Is there a misalignment between the training and the learner’s career goals?
  • What is the learner’s context and how will that context impact their motivation to learn? For example, will the training help the learner do their job better or will it make them fearful that their job is at risk?

No Buy-In from Managers

Managers are crucial to the learning transfer process. Managers need to support learners, provide the right environment for the application of new skills and knowledge, and provide encouragement and motivation when necessary. Managers also often need to provide feedback on the success or otherwise of the behavioural changes that you want to achieve.

If managers are not bought into the process, the learning transfer process will become much more difficult. It is also often important to provide managers with support.

Structures Are Not Put in Place

The learning transfer process can fail because the work environment doesn’t support the employee in applying the new skills and knowledge they have learned. For example, they might not be given enough time because of other work pressures and priorities, or they might not receive support from management, SMEs, or other key stakeholders.

There might also be a lack of opportunity to apply the skills and/or knowledge. For example, equipment or software might not be immediately available.

Focus on Learning Transfer

The main takeaway from this blog is there needs to be a focus on learning transfer when developing e-learning courses and other training materials. That focus should be holistic, covering the preparation stages through to post-training monitoring, feedback, follow-up activities, and support.

It should also look at all potential influences on successful learning transfer. This includes the training course itself, the resources you allocate, management buy-in, the work environment, and support structures. This focused approach will positively impact learning transfer and help you achieve your objectives.