5 Approaches to Staged Learning

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In an earlier post, we touched on the five approaches to  Staged Learning. These are classroom training, eLearning, Social learning, coaching, and collaborative learning.

Classroom Training

Most of us are pretty familiar with classroom training. Typically an instructor stands at the front of the room and clicks through a variety of PowerPoint slides while the students sit there and wonder how much email is piling up, or perhaps not wondering as they check and respond to email. We’ve already described Ways to Engage Classroom Learners.

Classroom training still is the preferred option for most instructors and learners as it is a structured, comfortable, known approach. It also provides for immediate feedback, questions, and answers. The downside is that it can take away large chunks of time from your “regular” job, and that the content provided isn’t always retained. To combat that downside we can then follow up classroom training with eLearning.


eLearning is being more widely adopted for a variety of reasons. It allows for “just in time” training to get the information you need to do your job. It can be taken when it fits into the learner’s schedule. It is useful for new hires who weren’t around during the formal, scheduled classroom training. If done correctly, the eLearning is broken into small consumable chunks of content which are easier to retain. And the learner can go back and review content that they didn’t remember from the formal classroom training, or forgot the details. on.

Having eLearning available after the classroom training provides an extra layer of competency where the learner can reinforce or lookup material on an as needed basis. This stage provides the proper learning support for employees.

Social Learning

Social Learning is where people learn by observing others. This can be a more formal setting such as “Hey, as a new hire can I sit down and observe you for an hour to just see how you do your job?” Or a random “that was cool. How did you minimize all the windows at once?” (The Flying Windows key on the keyboard + M if you are interested).

Social Learning is invaluable because the learner is learning on a one on one basis from someone who has experience. They can also ask questions and get immediate feedback. The potential downside is that sometimes outdated practices can be passed from one person to another. Because of this Social Learning can not exist by itself. It’s important to periodically take stock of what and how people are doing and maybe circle back around to classroom training and eLearning to ensure people are performing the tasks correctly, compliantly, and efficiently.


Coaching is helping someone unlock their potential. In some ways, it is the opposite of Social Learning. I envision Social Learning is where the expert is the one in the chair and the learner is looking over the shoulder. Coaching is where the learner is in the chair and doing most of the work, and the expert is looking over the shoulder providing additional advice and guidance. Once again this could be either more formal or informal but requires the learner to be relatively versed in a topic and just looking to fill in the holes in their knowledge. Coaching can occur virtually too and does not have to be in person.

Coaching is an excellent way to reinforce known information as well as supply additional information so that the learner can morph into an expert.

Collaborative Learning

Collaborative Learning is “group learn” where as a group, people can discuss, try something new, or work on a project. This type of learning embodies the phrase “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”

Of course for collaborative learning to work best, there must be, well, collaboration. A scenario related to me by another instructor was that a group was working on a team building project where everyone in the room had to grab this one ball and move it from point A to point B. The dominant person of the group kicked everyone out of the room so he could do the task, figuring if there was only one person this particular task got done quickest. While he gets points for creative thinking, he certainly lost more points for not collaborating or team building. The team learned quite a bit from this exercise, but probably not what was intended.

As individuals, we may all be really good at what we do, but we don’t know everything our colleagues may know. By getting together occasionally for lunch and learns, or table talks, or a conference call where the participants share something they’ve learned recently, the group as a whole can benefit, grow, and improve.

Staged Learning

The five items above represent Staged Learning, and while they range from formal to informal, each stage represents a valuable method of ways we can all learn.