Adaptive Learning: A Complement to In-Person Hospitality Training in a Blended Learning Environment
Nick J. Howe
Chief Learning Officer, Area9 Lyceum
This article is published in partnership with CHART’s Silver Partner Gilmore Global.
From retail to restaurants, manufacturing to medicine, training is undergoing significant changes. One factor that has a direct impact on hospitality trainers is the reduction in classroom-only instruction in favor of e-learning and blended programs. While hospitality has lagged other industries in adopting this change, there is no doubt that it is coming.
Although alarming on the surface, there is good news for hospitality trainers. The growth in blended learning, which combines computer-based adaptive learning with in-person training takes a best-of-both-worlds approach. This means adaptive learning and instructor-led training are far more complementary than competitive.
The graphic below shows the dramatic shifts in training, with a steep decline in standalone classroom training. However, the growth is in blended learning, in which in-person, instructor-led training will remain a vital component. For that reason, instead of viewing adaptive learning as a threat, trainers should embrace this advanced learning technology as a “partner” in blended learning.
Adaptive Learning: Building Competence and Confidence
To explain why blended learning is the wave of the future, let’s take a closer look at how learning occurs. Often, it’s assumed that the learner’s pathway from incompetence to competence is simple and straightforward. Cognition, however, is far more complex. Every learner, including those who appear to be very good at what they do, have areas in which they are:
- Consciously competent – they know the content, and they are aware that they know it.
- Consciously incompetent – they don’t know the content, and they recognize that fact.
- Unconsciously competent – they actually do know the content, but they don’t recognize that fact; often, this is a case of lacking confidence in their knowledge.
- Unconsciously incompetent – they believe they know something but, in fact, do not. They are unaware of their knowledge gaps, misconceptions, and false assumptions.
Trying to understand, moment by moment, what state a particular learner is in is nearly impossible in a classroom setting, and hasn’t even been attempted with traditional e-learning. Yet it plays a crucial role in whether you are best using a learner’s time, and whether they are actually learning something. Otherwise, people who are consciously competent (they know what they know) must sit through instruction about material that they have already mastered, which leads to boredom. In the other extreme, people who are consciously incompetent (they know what they don’t know) may not receive all support they need to comprehend the material; as a result, they become frustrated as they are left behind.
The real killer, though, is unconscious incompetence. It is a common problem that, if left undetected, can lead to errors, lack of quality, customer dissatisfaction, and even safety issues. Our data show that all learners exhibit some degree of unconscious incompetence, sometimes as high as 30% or 40% of the material they are studying or tasks they are performing.
What’s needed is a personalized approach that uncovers what each learner has already mastered, where there are gaps, and where they need to build confidence in what they know. This is the essence of how a tutor works with a student. While highly effective (as research shows), one-to-one tutoring is obviously neither practical nor scalable in a corporate environment. But it can be replicated, using technology.
Adaptive learning delivers high-impact, personalized learning that meets learners where they are to help them achieve competence in the fastest and most efficient way possible. The goal is 100 percent competence, thus eliminating the performance “bell curve” that’s often associated with learning. Said another way: with adaptive learning, competence is the given; time is the variable.
Below is a snapshot of actual learners’ paths to proficiency based on the experience of three learners in an adaptive training course.
Each learner’s path to proficiency loops around to some degree, as learners encounter new material and/or need reinforcement. Learner 1 shows a far quicker progression than Learner 2 or Learner 3, who require more reinforcement and spend more time in certain areas. Our experience shows that learners who need the most reinforcement often take four times as long compared to learners who grasp the material quickly. But what of it? Far more significant, and a goal truly worth pursuing, is 100 percent competence for everyone!
Another aspect of adaptive learning is its emphasis on self-assessment. This is more than simply testing at the end of a lesson. Rather, the questions are part of the teaching process. After giving an answer, learners are asked to evaluate how confident they are before the correct response is shown. This increases learners’ self-awareness (when they know something and when they are guessing) and helps build confidence along with competence.
In our experience, adaptive learning offers significant benefits:
- Training times reduced, sometimes by as much as 50%
- Higher proficiency among all learners
- Unconscious incompetence uncovered and addressed
- Knowledge and skills are more likely to be transferred to the job, improving business outcomes
The Blended Environment
Now, consider the impact that adaptive learning could make in hospitality training, when combined with in-person instruction. Adaptive learning provides the personalized learning experience that workers need to master the required knowledge and come fully prepared (with 100 percent competence) to in-person instruction. This would make instructor-led training all the more effective and would enable hospitality trainers to deliver even more high-impact learning experiences.
Greater use of adaptive learning and blending learning are becoming the norm across multiple industries, as these examples from our clients show:
- A national fast-casual dining chain with 8,000 employees converted from primarily in-person training to e-learning to achieve scale and efficiency. Using an adaptive approach, the restaurant chain delivered a 13-module leadership program that was personalized to the needs of each learner.
- A high-stakes safety training course delivered to a broad spectrum of people, from engineers with PhDs to workers who did not graduate from high school. Instead of using only instructor-led training in a two-day format, personalized adaptive learning was deployed first to help every learner achieve competence in the required knowledge. Then, a one-day, in-person instructor-led training session used role-playing and other interactive activities to practice putting the knowledge into action.
- A U.S. luxury retailer experiencing rapid expansion in its stores and product offerings had relied mostly on training by store leaders and product specialists. This resulted in variations in training from store to store and also took time away from store leaders’ other responsibilities. The solution was to offer adaptive learning to personalized training for store employees who vary in retail experience (from little or none, to years in the industry). This is supplemented by in-person direct coaching. Across the board, the retailer experienced higher revenues per employee and per store.
Adaptive Learning as a Tool for Hospitality Trainers
As this discussion shows, adaptive learning need not replace in-person training. Rather, adaptive learning can be the important “phase one” of learning to bring every learner to competence in their required knowledge. Then, these competent learners can enter the in-person learning environment, better prepared to put that knowledge into practice.
Blended learning is a win-win that allows trainers and instructors to do what they do best: connect, motivate, and interact with learners. Human instructor plus technology is a complementary approach that brings out the best of each.
Ready to try out adaptive learning?
Access this free 30-minute adaptive learning course on “How Working Remotely Can Work for You” to see how effective this platform can be, while gaining practical tips along the way.
Nick J. Howe is the chief learning officer of Area9 Lyceum, the learning company of Danish-owned Area9 Group. Area9 Lyceum has launched its fourth generation adaptive and personalized learning platform, Area9 Rhapsode™.