Post authored by Mike Broderick, CEO of Turning Technologies
Note: This article was originally featured on TrainingIndustry.com.

Like many core processes in business, excellence in training depends on relationships. Trainers who can build rapport with learners have a better chance of holding class attention. When instructors can inspire learners from different departments and locations to work together to solve problems, students are more likely to learn new concepts and retain knowledge.

In a training session, instructors and students are under time constraints that can make it challenging to allow relationships to develop organically. Some instructors attempt to expedite the rapport-building stage via exercises such as having each student tell the class something about themselves or the instructor share an anecdote to kick off the training session.

These techniques can help create engagement, but their utility tends to be limited. Not all students are enthusiastic about public speaking – in fact, most people aren’t. Training session participants are more likely to spend the time before their turn to speak dreading their moment in the spotlight than listening to their classmates and learning something about them.

And while an amusing story from the instructor can help break the ice, it’s a top-down communication that rarely does more than briefly capture student attention. A more effective approach is one that allows instructors to engage in a two-way conversation and enables all students to participate in the training session without fear of being put on the spot.

One male and two female office workers talking and smiling

Many instructors have found an ideal solution to this dilemma in response technology. With response technology, they can embed questions into PowerPoint slides and allow students to answer anonymously using clickers or smartphones. Instructors can then display the aggregate response data on screen in chart form.

This technique provides immediacy since instructors can instantly display aggregate data in an array of chart types. It also enhances engagement since every student has an opportunity to participate – without having to speak up in class. Instructors find that this technique is more inclusive since even those who fear public speaking and dislike attention will participate.

With the right response technology solution, instructors can embed questions throughout the PowerPoint presentation to keep engagement levels high. Students are more likely to follow the lesson plans and pay attention – even during a lengthy presentation – when they have the opportunity to give their feedback and compare their own reaction to those of their classmates.

Response technology can also help instructors spark discussions among students and encourage cooperative problem solving. Depending on the type of response technology software they use, teachers can embed a variety of question types including multiple choice, yes-no questions and open-ended queries that are specifically designed to facilitate discussions.

Research shows that when students work together to solve problems and arrive at a correct answer, they are more likely to retain knowledge. When instructors can make open-ended questions a part of the lesson plan, they can encourage and facilitate class discussions, providing guidance while students collaborate to resolve issues – and gain lasting knowledge.

By using response technology, instructors also have the ability to gauge student knowledge retention in real time. Rather than relying on responses from a few engaged students in the front row, teachers can ask questions that are designed to assess material mastery and get instant data on how well the entire class has understood the lesson. On the basis of that data, they can choose to move on or stay on the same topic.

Although corporate training brings students and instructors together, it can be an isolated experience when conducted under the traditional top-down lecture model. Instructors who are seeking new ways to engage students and maintain focus can take advantage of technology that makes give-and-take in the classroom simple. It’s a great way to liven up the discussion and ensure better knowledge retention through effective engagement.