I’m getting involved in another MOOC, this time it’s open only for a short time, 48 hours in fact! It’s a bit of an experiment from HT2, which is something I really like about them – trying different things to see how they work.

This MOOC is 48 Hours To Better Sales Training and focuses on the design of training programmes.

Before I get more into the MOOC itself, there’s a Google Hangout on Information Overload as part of the two days and the guest speaker is Dr. Will Thalheimer. Specific attention in the one hour hangout is being paid to memory, forgetting and information overload.

Google Hangout with Will

The conversation in the hangout was great, discussing many different things to do with training design, focused specifically on sales training. Cognitive overload and memory is something that I find really interesting as it impacts on my session and programme design, as well as something that I often deliver myself.

Will Thalheimer on the Google Hangout
Will Thalheimer on the Google Hangout

It’s interesting that one of the roles that Will takes in his consultancy is breaching the gap between research and what goes in practical training development. He helps people understand where their practices are in alignment with research, and where they aren’t.

I’ve curated some materials that focus on scientific research specifically in relation to learning styles, which you may find interesting: http://www.scoop.it/t/learning-styles-by-jo-cook

Limitations of the brain

Will said “often times these things about the brain are double edges swords. When we remember things, some things become more accessible in memory, which is great, but then other things fade in memory. This is great, because if everything was at the same level of priority, we wouldn’t be able to think!”

When we do training and people forget, we know that it’s a big issue when considering the time and financial resources involved. Will said that there are things that we can do to limit this. He explained about attention and highlighted “that we have to help people pay attention to the right cues and stimulate to be able to transfer that back to on the job performance”.

Ebbinghaus and forgetting

With regards forgetting, host Craig Taylor shared a common held belief/saying about how much we forget over time. Will highlighted that Ebbinghaus did a great service to the world and the learning industry in analysing learning and highlighting the forgetting curve. Will also said “we can’t rely on his finding for our learners. We have different learners, different content, different complexities”. All really interesting and I’ve written an HR Zone article about the Forgetting Curve, which was interesting to research and think about.

The learning environment and the real performance situation should be similar. Will focused on sales training and performance and said “to help someone to be a better sales person, put them in a the kind of real role of speaking to a customer. That’s context alignment.”

Will continued, “we know that practice is important for learners to retrieve something from memory. Often we teach too much content and don’t give enough practice.”

“Lastly we need to space learning across time. It’s a surprising learning from research – it’s shown to be one of the most important things we do to help long term memory” said Will.

Spaced learning

“Is there a difference between spaced learning and spaced reminders?” asks Craig.

Google Hangout host Craig Taylor, Solutions Architect at HT2
Google Hangout host Craig Taylor, Solutions Architect at HT2

Will responded, “From a cognitive perspective, it’s the same thing. What you are doing is bringing information into working memory and repeating it, after a delay. That has a particular effect, whether it happens during or after training. Doing it during training we are minimising the forgetting curve. In addition to minimising forgetting, we should make sure they don’t forget in the first place, we should put things in some kind of learning aid. With a sales person trying to remember features of products, we could look at having some of that externally, on a phone, in a manual or so on. Some performance support will help that.”

“There’s a spacing period and a repetition period. If you want to remember something for a month, space it over a month. But that’s not logistically feasible for most training. Research has found that if you space over a 24 hour period, and include sleep (and learning before sleep) it will help learning.”


Nick Ribeiro shared about his drumming and asked about the link between learning something physical and a behaviour. Will said that it’s about human cognition and highlighted that it was about attention and energy to the task: getting feedback for example.

Nick Ribeiro, Director of PT3, on the Google Hangout
Nick Ribeiro, Director of PT3, ont eh Google Hangout

Will highlighted that “spacing is more than a rest, it’s separating out your learning. With the physical aspect [drumming] there’s a lot going on, making movements with cues from the body and the sound are contextual. If you have a training at the front of the room, you are taking in contextual cues about the sound, the temperature in the room, the amount of caffeine in your body.”

Mistakes in sales training

“One of the biggest mistakes is trying to teach the sales person all of the product features. Ideally we would have a situation where something that the customer says would cue to a feature-set. The framing of why this is beneficial will link better to the customer that way. When delivering sales training we should think about what are the cues we want people to react to and then how we can design our training to do this.” What a great way to look at it, cue to action.

Getting people to think differently

If people want to ‘dump information’ on people Will comments “you need to dig deeper and find out what they really want, which is usually about people performing better. Just simply show them the learning and forgetting curves. If we get them up the learning curve and then four days later they forget everything, is that worth the investment?” I think this is a great way of putting it and helping people understand about the issue.

Hangout final thoughts

One key thing to take away from this is that Will said “get into the science of learning”. Love it!

48 Hour MOOC thoughts

I definitely enjoy the MOOCs that I’ve attended from HT2 using the Curatr tool, including the openness and innovation, as well as the discussions that often happen via Google Hangouts and so on.

I’m also enjoying the content of this 48 hour MOOC – yes it focuses on sales training and I happen to have an interest in this due to some client work. If you aren’t into sales training, the content is basically about good instructional design, which is excellent.


The interesting challenge on this MOOC more specifically, is the 48 hour time period. I commented within the MOOC course that this could be difficult as attending takes time. But it’s about setting aside the time and planning ahead for this, which I’ve been able to do to an extent. With good notice and promotion/marketing (internally or publicly) on these subjects the time element should be less of an issue.

What I have found challenging from a time perspective is that each evening of the two day MOOC, there is a Google hangout, 8-9pm local time. This is the time that I would usually put aside for actually reading, watching videos, commenting in the course and doing an external research to share within Curatr. I love the hangout discussion, but now I don’t have that time to actually ‘do’ the course.

What’s the answer? What about doing the hangout the day before and the day after, like an intro and a reflection? But then are we making this a four day MOOC!? Would the topics be be relevant and interesting – would I attend this session if I hadn’t started reading this in the MOOC? Alternatively, I might find this session so interesting (and it was) it encourages me to go and learn more in the MOOC. All good food for thought.


I think that there’s also a little link here to the year-long Learning Technologies MOOC, also from HT2 on the Curatr platform. I’ve already mentioned above, about the innovation from HT2, I think is a worthy point around learning technologies in itself. It’s about developing not only a platform but also how you innovate and use it.