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January 19, 2007

Using Technology to Teach Soft Skills

I have just recently started using the new version of Adobe’s Captivate software and noticed that it contains a great branching feature and some tools to help create learning events for soft skills.Branching_1  Examples of soft skills are negotiation skills, leadership, and customer service. These are skills that are essential for success but are typically not procedural and do not have a “hands on component.” A soft skill is basically “a non-sequential guideline that must be adapted to a specific situation.”

For example, sometimes leadership requires the person to take charge and not wait for input for others and sometimes leadership requires building consensus. It depends on the situation.

It used to be thought that soft skills could not be taught using e-learning or technology. I disagree. Technology has a great opportunity to demonstrate the desired skills and to allow the learner to practice those skills in a safe environment. You can immerse the person in the situation and allow them to practice over and over again until they master the soft skill. Better to rehearse a leadership skill in a branching simulation that with an actual project team. Having said that, the online component of teaching soft skills can only be part of the overall training…at some point the person actually has to lead a team to completely understand how to be a leader. But an online soft skills program can shorten the learning curve.

A great way to present soft skills in a learning environment is to first provide a model of the desired skill in use. For many soft skills, a short video is an excellent method. Videos are great at showing body language, facial expressions and for conveying emotions. Next, present a checklist of what behaviors are expected when applying a particular soft skill. This can be as simple as a listing: make eye contact, paraphrase to show understanding…etc. Finally, provide the learner an opportunity to apply those skills with direct and appropriate feedback. The feedback mechanism is a powerful tool.

You can also create “expert” guides that can assist the learner when he or she is stuck in a particular situation. Also remember that you need to create scenarios or role plays that are similar to the context in which the learner is applying the skill. A great deal of learning seems to occur outside of the context in which it is to applied. This doesn’t work.  Make the learning situation as similar to the actual work situation as possible.

We’ve create soft skills training for team meetings, working with clients, cross-selling products and a variety of other subject areas and have found that e-learning provides a great foundation for future learning and helps to reduce the over all time to competence.

Karl Kapp is the Assistant Director of Bloomsburg University’s Institute for Interactive Technologies and a professor of instructional technology. His own blog called Kapp Notes.

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Comments

Silke Fleischer

Hi Karl, Thank you for writing about Adobe Captivate. It's always exciting to see when users find new uses for the product I work on. Could you please post some softskills examples you have created with Adobe Captivate?
Have fun with Adobe Captivate!
Silke

Karl Kapp

Sillke,

Thanks for the note, I do like the new features, most of what we have done is "behind the fire wall" stuff but I will see if I can make some "generic" and then post a like for everyone to see.

Karl

Michael Xavier

I am very impressed with what had to share. I am from Malaysia and the issue at hand has always been...INTERNALIZING THE TRAINING. Karl's method with Adobe Captivate might just be the answer. Very keen to learn more.
Mike

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thanks a lot

Karl  Bittner

Hi Karl,

I think many soft skills trainers work with Government and Corporate customers. Although there are a plethora of software solutions like Captivate or GoTo Meting, these programs are not H323 or SIP compliant to the best of my knowledge. They cannot reach into the thousands of confernce rooms and VTCs that have Polycom, Sony, Tandberg and other Video Conferencing Systems. Our eSummit program bridges the gap between the conference room and the laptops.
www.globalvideonetworx.com

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Thank you for providing the perspective. I just read a part of the article, so I don't know much what to say. Good luck for the new member!
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Thanks for the note, I do like the new features, most of what we have done is "behind the fire wall" stuff but I will see if I can make some "generic" and then post a like for everyone to see.

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For example, sometimes leadership requires the person to take charge and not wait for input for others and sometimes leadership requires building consensus. It depends on the situation.

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Videos are great at showing body language, facial expressions and for conveying emotions.

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