Just-in-Time Learning vs Training? We Need BOTH!

As learning professionals, we are always striving – or at least we should be – to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and outcomes of learning solutions.  We read books, blogs, articles and white papers. We attend conferences, seminars, and webinars. We collaborate with colleagues. We watch videos. And sometimes, we end up like a cat with a laser pointer – darting from the next best thing to the next even better best thing.  t can be exhausting! But with up to five generations of learners in the workplace who collectively represent a myriad of generational differences and learning preferences – there simply is no one-size-fits-all, silver bullet, best approach. So in the debate of just-in-time (JIT) learning vs. formal training – which wins?  Neither. 

Let’s Get Holistic!

Holistic learning sees the parts as a whole. Huh? Ok, let’s try this again. Holistic learning leverages a variety of approaches to ensure that the whole learner—and all their diverse needs—are considered. This can include formal and informal, synchronous and asynchronous, and different modalities. Combined, the approach can significantly enhance retention and application, resulting in maximum effectiveness. So going back to the question of formal training vs. JIT—we need both, because both have a purpose. Both are required for a holistic approach. 

JIT Is Powered by Performance Support

Sometimes, the terms Just-in-Time Learning and Performance Support are used interchangeably. Please don’t do that. You can’t have one without the other. 

Just-in-time learning is an approach to individual or organizational learning and development that promotes need-related training be readily available exactly when and how it is needed by the learner. 

Performance Support refers to the tools and resources that serve as aids to enable learning within the flow of work—or JIT.  According to eLearningindustry.com: They are valuable in helping learners address a specific challenge, need, or improve the application of learning.  Short, focused, and action-oriented, they support formal training and are designed to be available in the learner’s workflow, rather than having to log on to the LMS and secure this specific information.

So to reiterate, JIT relies on performance support tools and resources. Performance Support enables JIT. You can’t have JIT without Performance Support.  

Why We Need Both

While performance support enables JIT, when it comes to JIT and formal training, JIT can actually enhance the effectiveness of formal training. Let’s dive into a couple of examples to help pull it all together. 

Example 1

You take a one-hour eLearning course on How to use Functions in Excel. The course covers VLOOKUP, a handy dandy function that is invaluable for working across different sets of data. A couple of weeks later, you’re working with several spreadsheets, and you need to combine them into one. BINGO! You remember you can use VLOOKUP!  As you start to use it, you’re struggling and need help to remember how to do it. You go back to the learning platform and in the supporting resources for the course, you find a quick 2-minute video that walks you through an example of using VLOOKUP. You go back to your spreadsheets and BAM! Mission accomplished.

In this example, the eLearning was formal training. You needed that formal training to build your foundational knowledge of Excel functions. When you couldn’t quite remember how to execute the VLOOKUP, the short video served as the performance support tool to enable the just-in-time learning, which allowed you to apply the knowledge from the formal training.   

Example 2

To impress out-of-town guests, you take an online cooking class that teaches you how to make an entire gourmet meal, including the dessert. The day has arrived, and you’re in the kitchen furiously crafting the feast and can’t remember exactly how to combine the ingredients for the dessert. You jump on your laptop, pull up the quick reference guide (QRG) for the recipes and re-read just the part of the instructions for the chocolate decadence cheesecake that you couldn’t remember. You execute, and your dessert comes out perfectly. 

In this example, the online cooking class was the formal training you needed for the framework of your meal. The QRG was your performance support tool that enabled your JIT moment in the kitchen—and as a result, not only was your dessert perfect, but you will almost certainly remember how to make the dessert again in the future.  

See how they all work together?

Performance Support Tools (PSTs)

Whenever possible, you should be building PSTs to support formal training and/or just-in-time learning. But keep in mind that these resources need to be super easy to find, access and use.  And they need to be super short and sweet so that learners can get what they need and get back to it! 

Examples of PSTs include:

  • Interactive PDFs
  • Short video clips
  • Interactive infographics
  • eBooks
  • HTML5 flipbooks
  • Animated videos
  • Whiteboard animations
  • Explainer videos
  • Expert videos
  • Recorded webinars
  • Audiobooks and podcasts
  • Parallax learning paths
  • Mobile apps
  • Branching scenarios

We Can Help!

We get it. You want your learning solutions to be comprehensive, engaging, effective and holistic. eLearning Brothers can help you build your formal training, informal learning, and performance support tools to support your employees’ just in time learning needs. We can help you pull it all together and create solutions that build the knowledge and skills – but most importantly – enable employees to apply the knowledge and skills on the job. Reach out to us today. We can’t wait to work with you!