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talk and chalk

Getting Away From Talk-and-Chalk and Trial-and-Error

By Sep Barkhodaee
Published on August 26, 2013

Talk-and-chalk is the catchy term many education and training experts have come up with to describe the way organizations approached training, and learning in the past. Fifty years ago, lecturing or talk-and-chalk, was probably the norm for employees – certainly sans an online training software component. Training often involved throwing knowledge at staff members and seeing what stuck. Once the lecturing or reading was over, employees were set loose to figure things out through trial-and-error, receiving guidance only when they ran into problems. For the small number of employees that could learn just by listening and figuring things out on their own, this system worked well. For everyone else, it was a recipe for lost productivity and rising turnover. As a training system, it was inflexible, in-adaptable, undifferentiated and reliant on large investments of time for trainers and employees alike.


Today workplaces are more diverse than ever. They bring together employees with many different and sometimes divergent skills, aptitudes and experiences working in offices spread across the country or the globe. In this context, training based on talk-and-chalk and trial-and-error is a recipe for disaster. Employees need more of what education and training experts call scaffolding – a set of steps, or checkpoints that help build the skills from where they are to where they need to be. They also need differentiation where learning is tailored to their individual strengths and weaknesses. The new paradigm stresses authenticity, interaction and hands-on guided learning to maximize consistency and development for all employees. An employee who fails to learn the proper way of doing something in your organization is a lost investment. No one wants to lose time and money.


Employees don’t want to be talked-at and then thrown to the wolves. They want a chance to think and develop their own relationship to the knowledge. They want clear expectations. “What do you want me to do?” doesn’t mean “Tell me what to do.” Employees are asking “What are your expectations as my employer?” “How do I learn to meet them?” “What is the most effective way to be successful?” Employees want clear goals, objectives and expectations, just like you.


A learning management systems (LMS) can help you stay connected to your employees, provide hands on learning without the pressure or trial-and-error. The flexibility of a learning management system allows you to provide differentiated instruction to employees based on their skills and role within a particular process, keeping training focused and on target. LMSs can help you construct learning modules where employees can practice skills in a simulated environment before putting them in front of clients or customers. You can build feedback structures into these modules to make sure your employees learn what they need to while ensuring that managers are kept aware of issues requiring more clarification or training. An LMS can help ensure that your employees, no matter where they start from, end up in the same place building value and bringing you a return on your investment through their growth and development.

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