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20 hours of Practice to Learn New Skill: Can an E-learning Curriculum Help?

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20 hours of Practice to Learn New Skill: Can an E-learning Curriculum Help?

Do you remember how long you took to learn to ride a bicycle? How long did you take to be confident and comfortable driving a car, or learn to use a word processing program or software, learn to assemble a new product launched by your company, or for that matter learn to use your company’s new accounting software system? Chances are that you have put in 20 hours of practice before you got comfortable with any of these tasks. That is what Josh Kaufman says.

Josh Kaufman is an author of international bestsellers – The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business and The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything…Fast! He says it takes 20 hours to learn any new skill. It is not some random number, but Josh says it is based on an independent and systematic research done to understand skill acquisition patterns and behavioral psychology.

If you want to listen to the talk by Josh, click on the link below. If you want to jump to learn its relevance to eLearning in your organization, scroll down.

The website of first20hours.com says, “Josh’s research helps people make more money, get more done, and have more fun.” Now, wouldn’t organizations want the same for themselves and their employees? This got me thinking. Can his theory be applicable to corporate training as well?

Take for example a learning skill. You need your employees to use a new software program in your organization. This new software program helps improve performance, get more work done and also eases the drudgery of doing work for your employees. You have 2 options.

  1. Give them a 1 or 2 day classroom orientation, give them a link to an online course that teaches them all the functionalities of the program and then leave it to them to practice.
  2. The second option is to provide them with a broad-based eLearning curriculum that they can learn with more focus and practice over a period of time.

Would the first option fail? I don’t think so, but it does put a lot of pressure on the employees to take the ownership of learning. The second option, however, is more of a collaborative effort between the organization and the individual.

As I thought about it, I felt, with some amount of thought, organizations can help employees gain a new skill by facilitating and guiding the 20 hours of practice. I propose that an eLearning curriculum to be an effective facilitator in this process.

In the talk given by Josh, he gives a 4 step process that is useful in learning a new skill. Here, I tried to understand and apply it in the organizational context.

1. Define the level of proficiency you want your employees to achieve. 

This is done by training managers or supervisors, who identify the skills-gap.

2. Deconstruct the skill into sub-skills and present them as manageable units. 

This is the key. Having a curriculum that employees can complete over a period of time is more effective than dumping all at once in rapid training sessions spanning a day or two.

3. Research just enough to identify the sub-skill that is most essential.

This is a task that employees have to do by themselves. However, organizations can provide the necessary resources for their employees – manuals, job-aids, how-to guides, videos etc. This will help them identify and prioritize the sub-skills they need to focus on to learn the new skill.

4. Remove barriers to practice

We all love to learn but at the same time we tend to procrastinate. To learn, we need to fight these barriers to practice. Though the onus to remove barriers is primarily on the employees, organizations could pitch in and allocate a defined time, every day or every week (depending on the urgency to master the skill), so that employees are allowed to practice.

We at CommLab had shared information about different rapid authoring tools over a period of time. We found that this was a great hit with our audience. People are less intimidated to learn a new skill when we break it down to digestible units and give them time to practice. An eLearning curriculum gives enough opportunity to practice a new skill, in a structured and time-bound manner. So, I think it is a good idea for organizations to think in terms of developing an eLearning curriculum that can be completed over a period of time instead of an isolated 60min eLearning course. Do check out the curricula, we have developed, for mastering various authoring tools at the link below.

View Webinar on Corporate Trainers: Make Your Training Curriculum Earn While You Sleep

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