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Technology Training, E-Learning and Documentation for New York Law Firms

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30 Tips

Learning styles

We used to think learning was a matter of sitting in a classroom, listening to an instructor, and following along in a book or on the screen.  If you got a good instructor, you also got to discuss and ask questions.  If you got a bad one – too bad.  You sat there and tried to absorb what the instructor was saying, or gave up and daydreamed.

Things have changed.  We have different methods of learning – classroom, e-learning, webinars, one-on-one “hand-holding,” quick reference guides – and we know some people are better suited to some than others.

What does this mean in a law firm?

Lawyers want to learn quickly, and to learn the minimum they can to solve the immediate problem and get back to work.  Sometimes a tip sheet is all they need; sometimes e-learning works, sometimes they need a fast classroom session or a few minutes of one-on-one.

Lawyers read.  It’s part of their job description.  So tip sheets work for them – but tip sheets that include a brief explanation as well as a detailed step-by-step guide.  See the Tip Sheet on creating a signature in Outlook for an example.

Secretaries want to take more time and learn thoroughly.  Often, they want an instructor to take time with them, but not always – the “power” secretaries don’t want training to waste their time, any more than the lawyers do.  But they do want to learn in depth, not quick surface solutions. And the power secretaries know they will be asked questions by their peers – certain secretaries always become a resource.  So the answer for them may be classroom training, with documentation “take-aways”, and the opportunity to follow-up with e-learning.

What else works?

Everybody loves quick solutions they can use right away.  But how to get these to them?  A newsletter? Regular mailings? A resource library? The more variety of learning materials, the better.

What about webinars?  Do they work? (See Conducting successful webinars.)  They can be risky – every trainer who does webinars has seen technology glitches that can ruin the session.  Plus there’s the risk that the students won’t pay attention if they’re not being watched – they’ll multitask, check their e-mail, even work in another application and monitor your webinar.  So you need to ask for responses at regular intervals.  If it’s a small group, you can ask them direct questions.  If it’s a large group, build response screens into the webinar. (But make them real – there’s nothing so irritating as being asked to respond to a stupid question, just to prove you’re paying attention.)

Tip – in general, women multitask better than men.  In any group – classroom or webinar – it’s especially important to keep the attention of the men.  If they’re reading their e-mail, odds are they’re not listening to you.  Women may be absorbing what you’re saying even if they don't appear to be.

Another tip that sounds sexist, but is actually about the different ways men and women communicate:  women often like a group setting, whether traditional classroom or a group attendance at a webinar.  That way, they can confer with each other.  Men prefer to work independently, so they often respond well to e-learning and documentation, or to a group setting that allows them to explore independently.

Which method should you use?  All of them, if you can spare the time and money to develop them. To reach people with different learning styles, you need to offer the method that works for them.

Use the right tools – use e-learning authoring that also makes it easy to develop tip sheets from the same materials.  Think ahead – if you write this tip, how many ways can you use it?  And call me – I’ll help!



Last modified: 04/28/08