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As an organisation the Ministry of Defence (MOD) is like any other organisation in that they have to implement training and development strategy. This strategy will be a driving force in the success of that organisation. The need for training must be identified and communicated to all individuals within the organisation. This training and development must be relevant and contribute to the growth of both the individual and the organisation.
This assignment identifies how good management of training contributes to the success of the training and development, the importance of recognising that individuals have differing learning styles and that training does not come in a one size fits all approach. This, along with applying a balanced approach to training by incorporating multiple delivery methods will increase the effectiveness of the organisations training and development strategy.
1.1 Executive Summary
Learning is one of the most fundamental functions of human beings, it is a measure of growth. This growth can either be in individuals, organisations, or society, it can be the defining element of any of these groups as to whatever they success or fail.
The importance of the management of training within the organization should not be overlooked. This needs to be incorporated within the organisations HRM strategy and must be used with a top down approach and incorporated at all levels within the organization. It is recommended that the management of training within the workplace adopts a planned and systematic approach, (Mullins, 2001, p.504). As the organisation needs to ensure that the full benefits of the training are achieve. This management of employee training like most management strategies needs to be grasped at the strategic level so it can be filtered down through the organisation.
Learning styles/preferences of both trainers and trainees plays a crucial part in the success of training being delivered. Trainers need to be aware that all trainees learn differently and more importantly be aware that their own learning style or preference will have an impact on how training is delivered. It is recommended that organisations need to understand the criticality that learning styles have on the training aspect of the organisations Human Resource Management (HRM) policy (Bird & Cassell, 2013, p.79). The trainer needs to realize and have the fore front of their mind when designing training packages that “your own preference can infect the way you design your training” (Bird & Cassell, 2013, p. 92). Not being aware of this can make the training you design and deliver in theory worthwhile and beneficial to the trainee but in reality can be unbalanced to all learning styles and detrimental to your audience.
Striking a balanced approach to training will ensure that the training being delivered is worth wile and productive. This approach whilst seems to be “common sense” seems to be forgotten as trainers and course designers become single minded in the way they develop training especially in this ever digital social world. It is recommended that adopting a blended learning approach to training and training techniques, (Bird & Cassell, 2013, p.13). which adopts face to face exposure in the classroom with other related activities. This approach is best used and incorporates the benefits of both the individual and the organisation's needs are both met. (Egan, n.d).
1.2 Assignment Aim
The aim of this assignment is to distinguish between different learning styles and strategies that can be employed within the workplace to enable the author to design and deliver a training package for Equipment Table (ET) Sponsors to attend prior to a new version of the application being rolled out across Defence. This is due as a result of a major software application upgrade within the Defence Equipment Table arena which was a result of a budget savings measure bought about an organisation change was brought into service in September 2011.
1.3 Assignment Limitations
Due to a project delivery over run, the course design and associated manuals are based on a version that is imminently about to go live. The training was thus conducted by ET Sponsors on a system that was not in service. Depending on the length of project over run this training may need to be re-run to ensure application familiarity when the system goes “live”. To carry out this assignment, two areas of research were acknowledged; the research of reports, internet, journals and texts and the development of training materials in order to deliver a course for application users. These are all secondary sources and will provide qualitative information.
Information was used to gain knowledge within the organisational learning and training arena, then subsequently used to understand how we learn and design and deliver a software application training package to Equipment Table Sponsors (ET Sponsors) as a demonstration of this knowledge. By co-relating these methods together it is envisaged that the author has gained sufficient materiel to inform the discussion and produce a coherent and comprehensive training package.
1.4 Assignment Background
The Equipment Table Information System (ETIS) Project began on 2 May 08 and was delivered at the beginning of September 11. The requirement was identified due to the obsolescence of the old Army Equipment Table Production Centre (ETPC) FoxPro application (Adams, 2012, p. 7). Subsequently due to the manner in which the project was managed, the requirement for an upgraded version was quickly identified to satisfy the current application versions capability shortfalls. As a direct result of the implementation of this new version, a planned change was envisaged by the project manager and the customer in the way that future business was going to be conducted. Despite this change requirement, the training line of development had been overlooked and the user community has been left with an application upgrade which is significantly different than the previous version which, in turn, replaced the legacy application with no formal training or user manuals. The project board for this application did not foresee the requirement for a training plan but as the project has moved forward, this requirement has been identified as a shortfall within the project. This has shown a lack of configuration control within the project but also how to manage the change of business process and keep the senior user and key stakeholders involved in the process (The Office of Government Commerce, 2009, p. 95).
1.5 Assignment Methodology
Due to the restriction that the application is not yet live and will be after submission of this assignment due to technical issues with other Defence IS applications connectivity, the author decided to pilot the training to ensure that the training package was available once the application is live.
Prior to the training being delivered, the author decided to conduct a pilot run. This was done using the author’s previous experience of conducting surveys and using a similar process of conducting pilot surveys. Polit, Beck & Hungler, (2001, p. 467) state that a pilot study can be used as a “small scale version or trial run in preparation for a major study”. The purpose of this pilot training was to validate the survey and to serve as a dry run ensuring that any logistical & qualitative issues pertaining to the training are resolved prior to the main survey being deployed. De Vaus, (2002, p. 54) advises researchers to “check to see if there are any ambiguities or if the respondents have any difficulty in responding”. By piloting the training it is envisaged that the author has managed to avoid misleading, inappropriate or redundant training.
The pilot training was conducted by two colleagues who work within Defence Inventory Management. They were invited to complete the training and provide any feedback on the survey paying particular attention to the following areas:
- Training Order.
- Time taken to complete the training.
- Ease of use of the ETIS User Process Guide.
Whilst the sample population should be a portion of the population to be surveyed, (Polit, Beck & Hungler, 2001, p. 234), the author decided to use a sample population that did not work within the field of British Army Equipment Tables nor use a sample population that is representative of the population being trained. The author believes that the chosen personnel would provide a completely impartial and objective assessment of the survey. As they work within Defence Inventory management the sample is similar to the population being trained, this has assisted in ensuring that any training bias is kept to a minimum (Polit, Beck & Hungler, 2001, p. 234). The pilot sample size represents 6.06% of the total population the final training package will train.
On closure of the pilot training package, 100% of those invited to participate responded to the user feedback. Respondents found the training easy to follow but as the training was conducted without access to the application able they were unable to say if the training combined with the application would run smoothly but could see how the interaction of PowerPoint® and the application would work, in principle. An area of feedback was the inclusion of a progress counter. As a result of this feedback the author changed the layout and added a progress bar to each page. The author also added a more comprehensive brief about the user process guide at the beginning, explaining how the guide can be used and how it can be used a desk top guide outside of this training. The training package can be found at Appendix A of this report.
The feedback from the piloted training package commented on the following areas:
- PowerPoint® theme. It was noted that the main theme for the presentation should be changed from our corporate theme to another theme as we as a Top Level Budget (TLB) do not own this training package, just have complied it. The training package will be owned by the Defence College of Logistics, All Arms Wing (DCLAAW).
- Instructor Notes. The screen shot contained within the instructor notes were particularly small, making their value negligible and was suggested that they should be larger.
- The author was complemented on the fact that as a package 100% of those who piloted the training said ”that with a modicum of preparatory revision, they could present the course”.
The author, after some reflection, looked at the comments made from the piloted survey and has made the following amendments to the training package prior to delivery once the system has gone “live”.
- PowerPoint® theme. The author having taken this information on board contacted the DCLAAW and had a discussion with them about ownership of the training package. At the end of the discussion it was agreed that they would sponsor the package, as it was related to a Logistic IS application. But the content of the training was owned by the Senior User within the community and they would be responsible for future updates and package delivery, which the Senior User has agreed too. This resulted in the user adopting the PowerPoint® theme for DCLAAW.
- Instructor Notes. Having had a discussion about the PowerPoint® theme, the author then addressed the issue of the pictures in the lesson plans for each slide and the fact that the pictures were on the small side. The pictures in the lesson plan are to give the instructor, especially inexperienced, a quick reference guide to what slide is coming next, a visual guide in the presentation. Whilst the author disagrees with this and believes that they add little value to the trainer. The author is somewhat restricted in removing these from the training plans as this layout is standard practice within the DCLAAW and as they are the sponsor of the training package. The author felt obligated that they should keep within the spirit of the training establishment and retain the pictures.
- The author verbally thanked the pilot participants for their assistance and for their kind words of encouragement.
The author recognises that once the training is formally delivered to the user community more amendments from the post course evaluation will have to be incorporated to the training package.
1.6 Literature Review
This literature review only covers learning theories, whilst the author has had to research and develop knowledge in other disciplines, the author feels that the focus on one discipline for this review is sufficient as this may make the literature review become too wide and varied and lose relevance to this assignment.
The author has noted that the field of learning styles is not unified as one but comes across in 3 different fields of study: theoretical, teaching and commercial. This brought complications for the author and was somewhat unexpected. These problems can be seen as:
- This is a multi disciplined area and has authors from fields including but not exclusive to psychology, sociology, business studies, management and education. This comes with its own issues as the authors will interpret the various evidence in their own discipline terms and possibly be steered by their own subjects theories and possibly tailored to suite their own subjects perspective.
- Commercialism is promoting certain, models, styles or inventories. This has led to certain models becoming more popular than others. In the UK for example Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory (LSI) and Honey and Mumford’s Learning Styles Questionnaire (LSQ) are widely known and used. The gains for the creators of these models is huge but also any critical activity into the theory and empirical elements of their model claims are seen as unfavourable (Coffield, Moseley, Hall & Ecclestone, 2004a, p. 2).
- Research is completed for differing purposes. Some aim to contribute to theory and do not intend for their model to be used in mainstream use, whilst others develop to be used by individuals in all disciplines.
The author was presented with a very large amount of information available for the literature review, this made it difficult to review especially as the author is not a specialist in any of the aforementioned disciplines. This meant that the author was hit by a wave of unknowing what was relevant, current etc . This was further emphasised by the Learning and Skills Research Centre’s 2004 study (Coffield et al, 2004a, p. 1) which identified 71 models of learning styles and was initially used by the author to try and get a firm appreciation of the task at hand. Due to this the author became more aware of overlap between learning styles and other learning aspects.
This was further put into context, (Reid, 2005, p.56) who explained that learning styles were connected to seven other aspects of learning and depending and as each area had different interpretations which may cause confusion. The author certainly believes that this is true and learning is a subject that does not fit neatly into its own box but in fact is a “Russian Doll”. This was typified by Curry’s 1987 evaluation of learning styles by the use of the “onion model of learning styles”, (Coffield et al, 2004a, p. 8). Whilst Curry’s model is referencing learning styles you can clearly see his model used to explain the interconnections of learning styles (at the centre of the onion) and the seven other aspects (the next seven layers of the onion) so as you peel away each layer or another aspect you get closer to understanding the subject at the core of the subject, in this case learning styles.
Kolb defines learning theory as “the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combination of grasping and transforming experience” (Kolb, 1986, p. 38). His model places experience as the core element of the learning process. The author agrees with this but also believes that the theory fails to explain the importance of knowledge to complete the learning cycle. Just because an individual experiences activity does not necessarily mean that the individual has understood what has been done or more importantly why or how it works in relation to other activities especially if it is part of a system. This is due to having to choose which continuum is applicable for that learning experience, grasping or transforming, (Dochy, Gijbels, Segers, & Van Den Bossche, 2011, p. 57), as the learner is forced to choose as they cannot do both simultaneously.