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Training of Information Consumers, Part 2

Published
  • December 01 2003, 1:00am EST

Editor’s Note: Two online courses in the BI/DW certificate program from Knightsbridge Solutions, UC Berkeley Extension Online and dataWarehouse.com are available next semester. Data Warehousing and Information Access Strategies is offered January 5 – February 2, 2004 and March 3 – March 31, 2004. Planning and Project Management of a Data Warehouse is offered February 3 – March 2, 2004 and April 5 – May 3, 2004. For more information visit www.dataWarehouse.com/certification/, to register go to http://learn.berkeley.edu/base/.

When developing and delivering training programs for information consumers, organizations often overlook the fact that they are dealing with adult learners. Adult learners have different motivating factors for attending training courses than do children, teenagers or young adults. In order to create an effective learning experience for information consumers, organizations must consider the unique characteristics of adult learners. In the first part of this three part series, I examined various course delivery mechanisms for information consumers. Organizations can choose from a broad range of delivery options in order to provide students with choices about their learning environment and the delivery mechanism that is most convenient for them. This article focuses on the content and structure of courses and materials, which are the most important elements in the training of information consumers. The manner in which course materials are organized and presented can have a significant impact on the learning experience.

Incorporating adult learning theories in the training of information consumers enriches the student’s experience and creates lasting retention. Experts in the field of adult learning have collectively identified the following characteristics of adult learners:

  • Adults are individuals and desire self-directed learning experiences.
  • Adults have accumulated a wealth of experiences and knowledge based on work-related activities, family and social responsibilities, and previous education.
  • Adults are goal- and relevancy-oriented.
  • Adults are practical, focusing on the aspects of a lesson that are most useful to them in their work.
  • Adults take pride in their work and need to be shown respect, as do all learners.

In addition to incorporating the principles listed above, training courses for adults are most effective when objectives and goals are clearly stated. Additionally, course content should be structured into learning components that build on each other in a progressive manner. Each learning component should be a discrete topic or skill.
Information consumers choose to attend a business intelligence (BI) or data warehousing (DW) training course either because they were told to attend or because they want to achieve a higher status in their current job. Understanding their motivation is important in keeping them engaged and receptive to new information and skills. When developing and facilitating a BI/DW course, the instructor must keep in mind the following critical elements to ensure that students learn:

  • Define clear and concise learning objectives and goals for the course that take into account the student’s motivation for taking the course.
  • Break the objectives and goals into learning components that are easy to comprehend and have meaning and purpose.
  • Create a progressive model that reinforces prior learning components.
  • Relate learning components to the BI/DW solution so that students understand the components’ relevance to their organizational roles and daily tasks.
  • Keep students engaged by creating a positive and rewarding learning environment.

BI/DW courses are typically structured to either educate or train information consumers, or to do a combination of both.

When Your Goal is Educating Information Consumers

When a BI/DW course is designed with a focus on educating, the objective is to provide information consumers with knowledge of the BI/DW environment, the processes for obtaining information, or the context of the information that is available. For example, the course on Data Warehousing and Information Access Strategies that is offered through http://www.dataWarehouse.com/c ertification is focused on providing individuals with an understanding of DW concepts, DW terminology and approaches to accessing information through the use of BI applications. The objective of the course is to provide students with the foundation necessary to understand typical DW components and architecture, the practical uses of DW and to create an awareness of different information access strategies. This type of course, focused on providing knowledge and information, is typically structured as follows:

  • Explain course objectives and goals
    • Deliver the first learning component and explain how it relates to the course objectives and goals
      • Lead the students in an engaging and thought-provoking activity
        • Conduct an assessment of comprehension
    • Deliver the next learning component and explain how it relates to the course objectives, goals, and prior learning component
      • Lead the students in an engaging and thought-provoking activity
        • Conduct an assessment of comprehension
    • Repeat this process for all learning components, conducting periodic assessments of comprehension of cumulative learning components
  • Summarize all learning components and their relationships to the course objectives and goals
  • Conduct a final assessment of comprehension of cumulative learning components

When Your Goal is Training Information Consumers

The purpose of a training course is to improve students’ proficiency with BI software through the use of specialized instruction and hands-on practice. The most common example of this type of BI/DW course is the application training that most software vendors provide. These standard training courses demonstrate the features and functionality of the software application as well as provide students with step-by-step exercises that help them understand how to use it. Software training familiarizes students with the application, its capabilities, and how to use it. This type of course, focused on improving student proficiency with a specific application, is typically structured in the following manner:

  • Explain course objectives and goals
    • Deliver the first learning component and explain how it relates to the course objectives and goals
      • Demonstrate the relevant software feature or functionality
        • Have the students perform an exercise encompassing the learning component
          • Conduct an assessment of comprehension
    • Deliver the next learning component and explain how it relates to the course objectives, goals, and the prior learning component
      • Demonstrate the relevant software feature or functionality
        • Have the students perform an exercise encompassing the learning component
          • Conduct an assessment of comprehension
    • Repeat this process for all learning components, making sure to conduct periodic student exercises and comprehension assessments for cumulative learning components
  • Summarize learning components and their relationships to the course objectives and goals
  • Have the students perform an exercise encompassing cumulative learning components
  • Conduct an assessment of comprehension of cumulative learning components

When Your Goal is Both Education and Training

We have found that information consumers have greater retention of course material if the BI/DW course is focused first on educating students and then on training them on how to use a specific application. Such a course would consist of the following components:

  • Background, concepts and theory: informing the students about the BI/DW environment and the context of the data that is available to them.
  • Demonstration: showing the features, functionality and practical usage of the BI application in their environment.
  • Practice: providing students with practical exercises that reinforce the learning objectives, make students proficient with the BI application and allow students to apply the exercises to situations that emulate their daily tasks or job responsibilities.

The objective of this type of course is to make the information consumer knowledgeable about the BI/DW environment, the information that is available and how to use the BI application in an effective manner. By covering these three topics, this type of course eliminates or reduces the transference gap – i.e., how to practically apply the newly obtained information and skills.
In order to create lasting value from an investment in the training of information consumers, adult learning principles must be incorporated into the design and structure of training courses. The incorporation of adult learning principles will lead participants to be more engaged, have greater retention and be able to apply their new knowledge and skills to their role.

Bibliography and References for further reading:
Brookfield, S. D. 1986 Understanding and Facilitating Adult Learning, Buckingham; Open University Press
Knowles, M. 1973 The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species, Houston, TX; Gulf Publishing Company
Lieb, S. 2001 Principles of Adult Learning: Adults as Learners, http://www.hcc.hawaii.edu/intranet/committees/FacDevCom/guidebk/
teachtip/adu lts-2.htm

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