Running effective training

Over the past few months we have been looking at how we can improve the training we provide clients and partners using Epro.

As a User Experience (UX) designer, I’m concerned by systems that require users to have training before they can use them, as the idea of needing to be trained implies that a system is overly complex. Contextual support and error prevention can be used on most systems and websites to ensure that users have the freedom to use the service at their will. However, looking at the nature of tasks users have to perform using Epro, and the potentially fatal consequences of errors, in this case the system does demand that users have a good level of understanding before they are able to use a live system. Training is therefore essential to protect patients from errors that could, in some instances, be very unpleasant.

We currently run training sessions with groups of users at Trusts before Epro is launched within their Trust. These include interactive demonstrations of a test system that trainees can explore and play with, so that they become familiar with the tasks they will need to conduct. Although this does work well, we have been looking for ways to improve as training does not always occur at the optimal time for participants (due to busy hospital schedules). If we are to provide the best training for users we need to find ways to ensure they retain the information they learn.

After doing some research into training techniques, I’ve developed a list of key points we are going to use during our review of our Epro training procedures, which are shown below. These focus on ideas that can help users to recall information in the long term.

Improving information retention

“It goes in one ear and out of the other.”

– Exactly what we don’t want

Information recall can be improved by making allowances for the following factors:

Content structure:

People remember things better that are at the start or end of training sessions. Structuring content to complement this can help to ensure the most important lessons or take aways are retained above less important points.

Refreshing trainees memories

People recall things more poorly 24 hours after training – reviewing materials at this point can help to cement them, and allow them to retain the information. One way to do this is to run a quiz or test the day after training has taken place. We are actually developing an online quiz for our Epro trainees to use following their training sessions to help them put their learning into action.

We are also planning to introduce an online community forum and knowledge base where Epro users can go to re-engage with training materials as well as ask questions and request new features. We hope that this helps to maintain the user’s level of knowledge over time.

Use triggers to aid memory

People struggle to remember lots of similar things, so you can influence what they remember by making key points unusual or unexpected. These points will be more memorable, and if they are particularly surprising, they will be easily recalled by trainees.

Another tactic to help people remember details is to use mnemonics and/or analogies, like the ones used in school science classes: remember ‘MRS GREN’ (Movement, Respiration, Sensitivity, Growth, Reproduction, Excretion, Nutrition).

Engage both sides of the brain

People recall things better when they engage both sides of the brain: both analytical and creative thinking. Visual material and material that stimulates emotional responses is more memorable than material that is heard or talked about. These different types of stimulus are ‘saved’ in different parts of the brain, so having materials that offer these different characteristics increases the chances of the information being stored and recalled.

Maintaining concentration

During training, participants ability to recall or follow information gradually reduces as they lose concentration. Unfortunately as humans we have limited capabilities to keep attention for extended periods of time. This can be partly alleviated by structuring the training to incorporate changes of pace and short bursts of activity. These changes help to re-engage those who might have lost their train of thought.