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Which of these statements is a myth?

  1. You’re only using 10 percent of your brain right now.
  2. Left-brained people are more logical than right-brained people.
  3. People learn better when the instruction they receive is tailored to their specific style of learning.

Okay, okay. Actually, all of these statements are myths. 

Surprised? Don’t be! It’s not just you. Myths like these are everywhere—in books, movies, and in the news. And once a myth has taken hold, it can be really hard to overcome it with facts. That’s because myths often start with a flawed or heavily biased interpretation of scientific findings or other data that end up in scholarly sounding books and articles, making them seem credible.

Myths might also provide a simple, quasi-scientific framework for understanding things that are otherwise pretty complicated. Who isn’t drawn to creating order out of chaos? Sometimes the more shocking the myth, the more we want it to be true because it confirms a bias we already have about how people think or act.

I’ll bet you can already think of a handful of training myths you’ve encountered. But let’s examine three of the most commonly held ones with a focus on why and how you can counter them.

Myth #1: More Clicking Means More Engagement

Fact: There’s more to engagement than just clicking. As with any good book or TV show, you’ve got to get people hooked, pull them in, and get them thinking and exploring. Things like conversational writing, attractive and supportive visuals, and well-used media all work together to transform dull, static content into something lively and relevant.

Bust this myth by using interactivity to achieve explicit learning goals. Before you add more clicks, ask yourself:

  • What’s the training goal? It’s easy to assume a performance problem is rooted in a lack of knowledge. But many performance gaps actually stem from a lack of practice. When the goal is to help learners acquire or improve their skills through practice, you’ve got a goal tailor-made for engaging interaction. 
  • Is it relevant? Business leaders, for instance, are pretty busy and goal-oriented folks. Use interactions only when there’s a meaningful performance payoff.
  • What’s the context? It’s important to think about how, when, and why learners might access their training. For instance, a cashier in a busy retail environment might not have time to click through an entire 30-minute interactive course to get to the lesson about processing a return. More so, you probably don’t want them to stop waiting on customers to take a course!

For more thoughts on when and how to add interactivity to your e-learning, check out this article: 3 Things to Consider Before You Add Interactivity.

Myth #2: The More Reviewers, the Better the Training

Fact: Adding more reviewers to a training project can lead to training that’s homogenous. It seems so logical. You’ve got a hot project with a pressing deadline. Surely adding as many reviewers as possible will result in training that’s more engaging, accurate, and effective … right?

In my experience, the reality is a little less convenient. Adding more reviewers to a project, especially one that’s already well underway, usually leads to an overall slowdown as the new team members ramp up.

Additional reviewers might also mean: 

  • Keeping a larger group of people in sync with shifting timelines and deliverables—and managing the roles and expectations of people whose skills or expertise overlap. 
  • More work for you in general. With more people to keep in the loop, the less you can focus on creating super-engaging and effective training. 

Bust this myth by nailing down all the project team members in the planning stage. When it’s early on in the project, it’s easier to convince folks of the power of a smaller, more agile team to get things done. However, if you’re brand new to training project management, or just not sure how to make your projects progress smoothly, you’ll want to snag some project management tips and resources from our professional skills series.

No matter the size of your project team, it's much easier to streamline the review process with a little help from technology. That’s where a tool like Review 360 is a real time-saver. With Review 360, you see your reviewer's comments in context. Your reviewers can see each other's comments, too, which helps to keep you from being stuck in the middle trying to resolve disagreements between experts. Best of all, no more spreadsheets and Word docs flooding your inbox. No more trying to decipher cryptic slide references or vague remarks. Review 360 makes it all painless!

Myth #3: Your People Will Only Learn Through Training

Fact: People are learning all the time—with or without training. With social media and websites like Google and YouTube at people’s fingertips, people are accustomed to self-solving. In fact, Google has said that 20 percent of the search terms typed into their search engine, per day, are BRAND NEW, never searched for before. It’s not just people searching for cat videos; some of those folks might even be your learners, looking for answers they’re not getting from training.

Bust this myth by bettering your understanding of your training audience. If you’re not sure what their needs are, brainstorm some clarifying questions, such as:

  • What information are people searching for? When are they searching for it? Why?
  • What tools do they use for finding information?
  • What tools or resources don’t they use?
  • Who is their most trusted source for learning new things? 

Once you’ve got a clearer picture of their needs, throw out some ideas on how you and the training team can help meet those needs. This process can be fluid depending on your audience and their work environment, but you can pick up some ideas for training alternatives in this article on the 10 Things You Could Create Instead of an E-Learning Course.

Finally, keep in mind that it’s not a negative reflection on you or the training team that people are learning from each other! In fact, understanding and embracing the realities of how people learn in the workplace can help you clarify your role and free up time for delivering the solutions that demonstrate the real value of training to your organization.

What stubborn training myths have you encountered? How are you fighting the good fight to overcome them? Share your thoughts in the comments below, or in a post in our Building Better Courses forum.

Follow us on Twitter and come back to E-Learning Heroes regularly for more helpful advice on everything related to e-learning. If you have any questions, please share them in the comments.

Neil Stevenson

Another popular training myth has to do with Dale's "Cone of Experience" which was not based on any research and is often combined with retention rates that are completely unsubstantiated. You've likely heard the retention rates idea as "we remember 10% of what we read" and so on. False citations and inclusion in textbooks doesn't help. One more. A picture is worth a thousand words. Not that pictures aren't valuable when used correctly but such a statement of the quantitative power of pictures is completely unsubstantiated. You ought not to replace great literature with a few nice pictures and you ought not to take down beautiful pictures and write about them instead. Great article! Thank you for sharing and for helping to educate any and all about how we ought to go about helping educat... Expand

Barry Leckenby