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Times Are A Changin’: From Late Night ‘TV’ to Workplace Learning

Updated: November 26, 2018 | Learning | Share on LinkedIn

by Brandon Carper, Learning Solutions Supervisor

Brandon CarperWhen I was in high school I had to stay up till midnight to watch David Letterman drop watermelons off the roof and banter with bald bandleader Paul Shaffer. The next morning, I would yawn all the way to the bus stop. Today I watch Jimmy Fallon play Wheel of Musical Impressions with Jamie Foxx or Twister with Shaq. But now my late night viewing actually happens in the early evening, via YouTube clips. I’m not alone: Jimmy Fallon’s YouTube videos had one billion views between November 2015 and February 2016.1

A similar shift has happened in the workplace. Once restricted to a scheduled face-to-face training session with an instructor, people can now get self-paced e-learning on demand: whenever they want, without sitting through the parts they don’t care about. And if there’s a section that’s really helpful, they can replay it as many times as necessary. Other possibilities include having short remote sessions with an instructor, without needing to travel to a training facility. Either way, these online options mean you no longer have to take a week off work to get that one useful nugget of information, and then get back to the office and try to remember what exactly it was.

tv-color-barsOnline training provides just-in-time delivery and increased flexibility, but the best of both worlds is combining it with face-to-face training to create blended learning. This training method accounted for 32% of the training delivered in U.S. in 2015.2 It keeps people more engaged and helps them learn better than either online or instructor-led training alone, with many corporations reporting the return-on-investment of blended learning programs at 100% or above.3

For example, in traditional point-of-sale training, a large group of new hires might meet with an instructor for an entire day to learn the system start-to-finish. In a blended learning model, the employees could learn the basics of the system on their own, through a web-based simulation on their home computers. They would then meet with an instructor for only a couple hours to discuss special situations and receive more detailed feedback. There are benefits for everyone involved:

  • Less burden on schedules and resources. Instead of preparing practice machines for all of the new hires or teaching them in small groups across several days, the instructor can train several small groups in one day. In addition, the new hires don’t have to sacrifice a solid day to training.
  • Better use of everyone’s time. Because of the web-based simulation, the instructor doesn’t have to teach basic operations that the new hires can learn on their own. The quicker learners don’t have to wait for the slower learners. The slower learners don’t feel pressured about taking too long. All the new hires can come to the face-to-face class on a more level playing field, ready to learn about the finer points of the system.
  • The spacing effect. People are more likely to remember something if they review it periodically instead of drilling it repeatedly in one session. 4 By having a self-paced learning activity followed by a face-to-face class, the new hires have at least one repetition built into their instruction.

For blended learning to be successful, however, employees need the proper support. Otherwise, the training can end up as a disconnected field trip that never recoups the investment of money and time. If you’re a manager of someone taking blended learning, make sure you provide the following:

  • Technological assistance. People unaccustomed to taking computer-based training might need some extra hand-holding while they log in and progress through their first self-paced courses.
  • Time. Account for the training in your scheduling. 5 Ensure hourly employees are paid for the hours spent; ensure salaried employees aren’t distracted by additional work. Employees don’t have to be in a physical classroom for them to be busy learning.
  • Motivation. For any training, it’s essential for learners to understand why they’re taking it. 6 It’s especially important for blended courses, where learners don’t have constant encouragement from an instructor. If the employees didn’t request the training on their own, don’t just sign them up and send them off. Show them the relevance of the training to their jobs, careers, and customers.
  • Accountability. Whether the training is blended or not, your employees are more likely to use it on their jobs if you hold them accountable for it. 7 After the training finishes, discuss what your employees learned, set goals for using the new skills in the workplace, and follow up to see if the attempts were successful.

With these tips in mind, you can help your employees take advantage of the growing opportunities in blended learning. And if you happen to run across a successful blended course on getting one billion hits on YouTube, please let me know.

1 Andy Smith, “Late Night Television’s Takeover of YouTube,” Tubular Insights, February 9, 2016,
2 “2015 Training Industry Report,” Training, November/December 2015,
3 Charles R. Graham, “Emerging Practice and Research in Blended Learning,” in Handbook of Distance Education, ed. Michael Grahame Moore (New York: Routledge, 2013), 341, 345.
4 Rachel Seabrook, Gordon D. A. Brown, and Jonathan E. Solity, “Distributed and Massed Practice: From Laboratory to Classroom,” Applied Cognitive Psychology 19 (2005): 107, doi: 10.1002/acp.1066.
5 Lynne Rabak and Martha Cleveland-Innes. “Acceptance and Resistance to Corporate E-learning: A Case from the Retail Sector,” Journal of Distance Education 21 (2006): 132,
6 Harold D. Stolovitch and Erica J. Keeps, Telling Ain’t Training (Alexandria: American Society for Training and Development, 2002), 166.
7 Mary L. Broad and John W. Newstrom, Transfer of Training: Action Packed Strategies to Ensure High Payoff from Training Investments (Reading: Addison-Wesley, 1992), quoted in Lisa A. Burke and Alan M. Saks, “Accountability in Training Transfer: Adapting Schlenker’s Model of Responsibility to a Persistent but Solvable Problem,” Human Resource Development Review 8 (2009): 384-385, doi: 10.1177/1534484309336732.

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