Posted on January 25, 2017
In order to reshape corporate learning at Valin, we’ve created a flipped and blended learning program for our 200+ employees. Valin is an industrial technology and automation firm in Silicon Valley. Over the past several years, we’ve evolved from an old school ‘push’ learning curriculum to a ‘pull’ learning environment. This means that we pay more attention to what our employees choose to learn on their own time at home with their own money. We then bring those innovative resources into Valin to benefit other employees. For example, we now offer Udemy for Business because one of our sales team members discovered an excellent Excel course on the platform. He shared it with our Sales VP who found it so useful he had the entire sales team take the course to become more data-driven in their decision-making.
We built Udemy for Business and other new resources into our flipped learning approach at Valin. What this means is that we essentially ‘flip’ the classroom and do the ‘homework’ first by assigning online video courses and then reinforcing them with role-playing sessions. The pre-work is an individual online learning experience and is used to introduce new concepts or techniques people can learn themselves. We then follow this with more ‘active learning’ such as role-playing in a classroom to ensure people actually apply what they learned.
For example, putting employees in a face-to-face practice area helps them process the leadership skills they just acquired. This ensures transference occurs. Manager coaching is also a big part of helping employees master these skills in the long run. As a professional educator and trainer, I try to continually help people develop a conceptual understanding and procedural fluency with a particular concept or skill. After all, if there is no context to the learning, it is difficult for learners to fully transfer the knowledge into practice.
As part of our flipped learning approach, we have a customized 13-week sales course that includes a combination of online learning, discussion forums, and role-playing classroom sessions with coaches. The training starts with a 6-hour overview of what to expect so that each salesperson can conceptualize what it will mean for their role.
Each week, we assign an online module which is followed by an online discussion hosted on our learning management system (LMS) discussion forum. Following the online learning, two to three discussion questions are formulated that may consist of more articles to read, an assignment to do, or a video to watch. After several weeks of pre-work, the employees come together in a role-playing session in the classroom. Through the discussion forums and role-playing sessions, the participants reflect and take what they learn back to their jobs. It is through this reflection that employees actually process, retain, and apply their new skills.
Finally, at Valin, we empower our employees to decide what they want to learn. Our employees determine what they need to enhance their skill set and we give them the flexibility to go out and take the course themselves. Why? When employees buy into their own training, they open their minds more, and pay attention to what they are learning.
I’m not the kind of learning officer who wants to control the curation of content for our employees. When our employees pick a course out of the Udemy for Business collection, they are required to give me feedback on what they got out of the course and if they think it is a good course for others to take. This feedback gives validity to the quality of the course, helps me understand what content is relevant for people, and gives me the confidence to recommend courses to others.
I don’t go anywhere without asking: what did you learn today? If you could do it over, what would you do? I encourage our employees to harness the value of informal learning. Go read a book, use social media, or watch a video online. With all the resources out there, there’s no reason not to learn.