We’ll be straight with you: Actually launching your program can be the hardest part. In fact, 70% of the World Bank’s information and communications technologies for development (ICT4D) programs have failed. And finding out why can be a tricky test.
For one, digital literacy is often low among the frontline workers in the regions where mobile data collection tools are introduced.
Another reason is that the interpretation of technology varies from person to person and depends on the context of the use case: The way an experienced ICT program manager sees a particular data collection app is likely different from how the community health worker will approach the same solution.
Use the information you have about your audience and environment to transform your new tool into a successful program. Realize it is not the app that will solve all your problems: It is the people who use it who matter most.
Many frontline workers, like these in Benin, learn best when they actually get their hands on the app
Choosing the right method of training
Effective adult learning involves specific techniques. Experiential learning, an understanding of a topic’s importance, and freedom to learn in their own way are a few methods that are helpful during trainings. Keep in mind your participants’ backgrounds while choosing which of these techniques is the best fit.
First, your workers need to know how the app will help them do their job better. Explain to them how it will help them reach more beneficiaries or consult them faster. Show them results from the pilot or data from similar efforts and challenge them to beat it. You can’t expect your workers to just accept the challenges that might come with the new way of working – you have to empower them.
Second, everyone learns in a different way. According to Malcolm Knowles, an adult educator, there are three main approaches to learning:
- Visual: Visual learners prefer to be shown how the app works. Walk them through each screen, show them how the features work and make sure to keep asking, “Do you see how this works?”
- Auditory: Auditory learners prefer to have the app explained to them. Talk them through the features of the app and what they stand to gain from using it.
- Tactile: Tactile learners like to get their hands on the app. You can still talk them through workflows and features but do so while they have the app running so they can experience it as it’s explained to them.
Just like you know your workers’ level of digital literacy and objectives, you should know what type of learners they are. Depending on the makeup of your audience, you might try for a training approach that blends all three methods.
No matter where it’s taking place, make sure your training session is engaging
Deliver the training
We cannot stress enough the importance of the connection between trainer and trainee. Our trainings have been most successful when participants have been able to interact with the trainer without inhibition.
Building this connection can be tough, and it requires you to help the trainees overcome the usual dynamic and feel open enough to ask questions and share their thoughts. Our field managers often use some of these tricks (and they’ve often found bringing some candy helps to sweeten the sessions).
You should expect your approach to trainings to change the more you learn about your audience. Just like building your app, this is an iterative process. For more advice on how to run your training sessions, check out these tips from our global services team.
Check in with your team often to make sure they stay up-to-date on your app’s features
Post-training reinforcement helps a great deal in the retention of newly-learned skills and knowledge by filling any gaps that remained from the initial training. Two ways we reinforce our training are:
We conduct refresher trainings at regular intervals to cover both the things that our workers have forgotten and our new workers. It also provides a good opportunity to notify workers of new features or for workers to share advice and feedback.
We develop support mechanisms to guide workers as they use the application in real time. Whether it’s a one-pager that frontline workers can quickly reference on the go, a comprehensive user manual for figuring out the more complex aspects of the application, or an in-app training module, the idea is to provide your team with the tools they need to troubleshoot any issues on their own. You can also complement these materials with best practices and tips from other workers for those users looking to go above and beyond. For more advice on how to compile a training guide for your app, check out our guide.
Give yourself and your team the best shot at successfully launching your mobile data collection program by arming your team with the tools and training they need. Tailor your approach to their needs, just like you did with the app, and they will be better for it.
And remember that you won’t always get it right the first time. Never be afraid to switch up your approach to training: Add more visual aids, toss in an icebreaker to get everyone loose, or shorten your user manual into a one-pager. Work with your users to figure out the right balance for them.