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Learning Processes


Learning Processes
by Robin Hoyle

ebc is the fastest growing custom content e-learning developer in the UK. With its strong heritage in learning design, the company has developed an excellent understanding of learning processes and training methods. ebc believes that the most effective way to train people is to focus on the experience dimension of learning.

For ebc the learning process is represented by the ARGOT model as follows:



Group-based activities

Opportunities for practice

Transfer to the workplace

ARGOT is a blended approach in which e-learning complements traditional training approaches and expands learning from an event (a course, seminar or conference) into a process.

How ARGOT works

The model incorporates a variety of learning design theories and an approach grounded in cognitive psychology. The process needs to be sufficiently thorough to enable the designer to draw up an accurate audience profile and the designer must of course have a sound knowledge of the subject matter allied with continuous access to a subject matter expert.

Since ebc creates custom content e-learning programmes it must first identify the training needs of the client organisation. A matrix is constructed representing the skills of each individual within the target group. In this way gaps in skills and knowledge across the organisation can be identified. It is important to take into account the way in which each individual may prefer to learn and tailor material accordingly, so the next step is for learning designers to take an overview of the audience with a view to presenting materials in a manner which suits a broad range of learning styles. It is possible to give learners with different preferences alternative routes through the learning materials.

For e-learning to make sense commercially a fairly large audience with a wide range of styles is needed. ebc’s materials respond to this in ways in which it is impossible for a standard course to do. The example at the end of this article demonstrates this.

Learners must understand the ‘know what’ and the ‘know why’ before they are confronted by the ‘know how’. ‘Know why’ means that they should be able to see the motivation behind the training and be equipped with the knowledge of the skills that they are required to develop. Typically the training needs analysis stops at the point where skills needed and behavioural change required have been defined. A traditional course attempts to train people in the required skills. But if the course is based on assumptions about the amount of knowledge and the level of motivation that the audience has, then it is unlikely to be successful.

The custom content e-learning programme represents an organisation’s internal communication and must take into account the corporate image. It must be recognisable and familiar to the learner in its format. However, ebc understands what motivates learners and what alienates them, and has a responsibility to the client to advise them when ‘corporate-speak’ may or may not be appropriate. The aim is to reflect the existing company culture.

Continuous access

E-learning technology gives employees and employers an ‘any time, any place’ alternative. Users can log onto their training programme at their desk, in a dedicated learning space at work, at home, or even in a hotel room. This gives them continuous access to the material – something which is impossible with other distance learning resources such as videos and work-books. Once the technology is in place e-learning can significantly reduce the cost of training by taking away the need to have both tutor and learner in the same place at the same time.

Learners are able to gather knowledge first, before they have to put it into practice. The learner is therefore equipped with all of the information beforehand, unlike classroom-based learning, where people may be unprepared and scared of showing their ignorance. Gathering the knowledge, before it is tested in group situations, makes people feel better prepared and gives them confidence.

Group activity is an essential part of the ARGOT process and e-learning complements this traditional approach by making it more productive, more intense and potentially a more effective use of time. Group-based activities help to inject the interpersonal elements of learning back into the e-learning process. Learners take reassurance in being able to share and compare what they have learnt with others. Group-based activities may involve some classroom-based training, one-to-one tutoring or work shadowing. The technology which accompanies e-learning can facilitate group learning. Learners in different locations can work together via the internet, information can be exchanged, and the results can be a collective effort.

ebc specialises in understanding the way in which different individuals learn. On the so-called Huthwaite programme, called SPIN® Online, if the learner gets something wrong, the information is then presented from a different angle. If the learner doesn’t understand, it may well be that the learner’s learning style does not match the presentation methods employed. The learning objective is still the same, but the presentation of the message is different. ebc believes that the future of e-learning lies in the personalisation of learning. Smart programmes will be able to recognise what the learner responds to and how he or she prefers to learn. The programme will then recommend the most appropriate route incorporating a variety of methods to target each individual learner.


If I want people to be able to offer good customer service on the telephone, I may give the operators a course on the procedures required to answer a call well - smiling when you’re on the phone, always using the customer’s name, defusing situations with angry customers, etc. I may set up a number of role plays to help people practise these skills and procedures.

However, if my client rings up with a query about a product or service which the operators know next to nothing about, answering the phone nicely doesn’t help the customer whose expectations are left unmet. Do I give everyone the same level of product information, even though some of them know the product really well, or do I assume that everyone understands the product? Either approach is dangerous, but a pre-course e-learning programme removes this dilemma.

I can create a learning object about each product, check prior knowledge as people enter the programme, direct them to the areas of the product range in which they are lacking information and understanding, and organise the course on customer service safe in the knowledge that everyone has a similar level of knowledge about the whole of the product range. Because the process is automated I can check that level of understanding and require people to complete certain areas of product knowledge learning before joining the course.

I can also make the learning constantly available as a reference guide if people forget about a particular product feature or only infrequently have to deal with a particular product or the way an industry sector uses the product. This helps with opportunities to practise and transfer to the workplace.

Robin Hoyle is a learning designer and consultant working as e-learning evangelist with ebc, a learning design company developing interactive distance learning solutions across the world.

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