Corporate Online Training With Debbie Newton

debbie newton 2

Mike McAllen speaks with Debbie Newton about online training for corporations, pharmaceutical sales, leadership development, sales effectiveness and of course sales training. For the full scoop listen to the podcast or read the below transcripts.


Mike McAllen: Welcome back to Meetings Podcast. This is Mike McAllen with Grass Shack Events and Media and today, we have Debbie Newton, President of ID & C Consulting which is actually instructional design and curriculum consulting.

Hi, Debbie.

Debbie Newton: Hi, Michael.

Mike McAllen: Welcome back to the show again.

Debbie Newton: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Mike McAllen: Whoa, got a frog in my throat. Let’s talk a little bit about online training. Do you do a lot of online training?

Debbie Newton: I am starting to see more requests for online training. I’m actually really glad you brought up the topic of online training. It’s definitely a hot topic right now in the pharmaceutical industry and I really feel like there are a few things that need to be said about it.

First off, as far as instructional designers go and my background in instructional design, I would say what I have is a pure instructional design degree and what I mean by that is in the last probably five to eight years, I started to see degrees that are coming out, that are called instructional technology and what they’re mainly focusing on is teaching people how to use the software to create online learning which is off – I mean that’s fantastic because there’s a lot of – you know, there’s a lot of good software out there that you can use that’s pretty easy and can get used – some of your topics and content online rather quickly.

However, what I’m also seeing is a gap in what these instructional technologists are able to do. They really – now, by no means am I saying this is everyone [laughs]. But I am starting to see a trend that they’re able to just do the programming and I’m not seeing the pure instructional design behind it, not good instructional design. Therefore, their – the types of training that I’m seeing out there that are online are not that effective and not that good.

So getting good online training can be a little more difficult than you would imagine.

Mike McAllen: So do you think that has to do a lot with like the economy these days and people looking for cheaper ways of doing – you know, or cost effective – I shouldn’t say cheaper. Cost effective ways of doing training so they’re going online and not doing more live or, you know, in person.

Debbie Newton: Well, certainly people are looking to online training to be cost effective. There’s no doubt about that and it can be. I mean when you factor in how many people you’re bringing into a home office, airfares, meals, all of that. Online training can be extremely cost effective. One of the things that people need to think about though before they just automatically choose online learning is again, back to, you know, the process that I had mentioned to you on our first podcast which is you really have to identify the needs and gaps from [Inaudible] [0:03:10] first and create your learning objectives around those. You may find when you go to determine the appropriate instructional strategy, that online training isn’t appropriate. When appropriate though – and let me give you some examples of when online training works very effectively.

When you have information that is extremely knowledge-based, online training is very effective. So strictly sort of facts, information on how something works, anatomy, physiology, those types of things where it’s heavy content, that can be extremely effective online learning because you can incorporate some really great matching games or, you know, multiple choice questions that lend themselves well to that type of information.

Now, on the flip side, if it’s more of a selling skills program where you really want to be practicing verbalization, it doesn’t tend to be as effective. Does that make sense?

Mike McAllen: Yes, totally. Totally, because you have to have the interaction.

Debbie Newton: Exactly. You’re looking for more of the interaction and, you know, there are a lot of new things that are happening with the online world that are allowing for some interaction. For instance, there’s a tool that you can actually record your self responding to, let’s say, a question or objection that a physician might have or someone you’re selling something to might have. And you can record your self and play your self back. So at least, you’re hearing it. However, you’re not getting that true, live interaction. But we are making strides in that world.

Mike McAllen: So like in the virtual world kind of stuff?

Debbie Newton: Exactly.

Mike McAllen: I think about like the Second Life and those places where you actually have a physical presence.

Debbie Newton: Yes. Now see, with the Second Life, you can begin to – if you are on there with someone else, you can begin an interaction. What we haven’t got to yet though is how do you in a learning situation – what if they’re interacting and their interaction is incorrect? Now, what we’re doing is breeding learning that’s not in the right way. So how would you get in there to correct something? Which is sort of the teacher presence and a classroom instruction.

Mike McAllen: Right. Right, right.

Debbie Newton: But again, we’re making strides.

Mike McAllen: Right, right. So what’s the – what are some positive like – positive things about the online is that – talk a little bit more about the positive aspects of it.

Debbie Newton: Well, definitely cost effectiveness. The other thing that online learning can be used for effectively, I think, is as pre-work and people forget this. They think you have to – the whole kit and caboodle. Well, if you do a small online learning and this can be as – you know, it can be cheaply done. This is something else to remember. A full blown online interactive program can be extremely expensive.

Now, if it has a long shelf life, that’s great. However, let’s say you’re running a training program on a new product. You’re getting ready to launch it and at the meeting which ties into the production world here, you want to be really practicing all the new aspects of the drug, the benefits, the features, all of that stuff at the meeting but you only have, which we’re always tasked with, an hour to two hours.

Mike McAllen: Right.

Debbie Newton: So, you know, what can you do within that two hours that’s going to make it effective? Well, obviously, there’s usually a lot of information that has to be learned before they could begin their role plays. Well, use a cheaply inexpensive made online learning to do the pre-work or you can download the information to your learners prior to the meeting and allow the meeting structure, that two hours, to focus on the interaction in the role play.

So thereby, you’re getting sort of that – you know, you’re giving them a platform before they come in to that meeting. And some of the things that, you know, can be used, there’s a program out there called Brainshark which allows you to call into a phone number and record your voice along PowerPoint slides. Very easy to use. You know, there are some other programs out there too that are – you know, through Adobe that are very easy to use as well. They’re more of a PowerPoint-based that you can do internally right there at your desk, at your office.

Mike McAllen: So do a lot of this have then that – the online ones, do they have that option that you’re going to have an annual meeting or a bi-annual meeting of some sort or, you know, is that part of it?

Debbie Newton: I think a lot of people are still looking at online learning as a – is like a one time stop. You know, like, we need an online learning for this particular topic. You know, so I think if we started to look a little outside the box like the situation I just mentioned, you know, maybe you do something at a smaller scale and use it for pre-work or to download some of the information that you need to do. I think we would begin to see more online learning incorporated into our current curriculums because, you know, even with the advancements in online learning, the core and I would say the portion of a curriculum within the pharmaceutical industry, at least, is still classroom-based, is classroom instruction and I would say that even across the many industries.

Mike McAllen: Yes. They haven’t adopted this stuff.

Debbie Newton: And the stuff that they are adopting, you know, based on what I was talking about earlier where you end up with just sort of a program or not a true pure instructional designer working behind it end up being bad and people don’t like them and then they end up – you know, “Why did we just spend, you know, $200,000, $300,000 on this program and no one is doing it? And no one got anything out of it.” So, you know, that’s really unfortunate. That is – seems to be occurring and yet, I’ve seen some extremely well-done online learning.

Mike McAllen: So the people that are coming out of school with the instructional technology degrees are – they’re more apt to do …

Debbie Newton: The programming …

Mike McAllen: Pushing …

Debbie Newton: Yes. And really finding they’re cutting back on the pure instructional design theory like adult learning and how people learn and I mean, they get a little bit of it but compared to the degree that I went through, it’s – you know, it’s about a quarter of what I went through.

Mike McAllen: Interesting, interesting. Okay. Well, thank you again, Debra, Debbie, sorry. I didn’t mean to call you Debra. Debbie.

Debbie Newton: That’s okay.


Debbie Newton: Yes, there are several Debra Newtons within the pharmaceutical industry. There are three of us so I’m trying to separate my self as Debbie and I’m allowing my other colleagues to be Debra. [laughs]

Mike McAllen: [laughs] That’s good. That’s good. Alright. Well, thank you again. And I look forward to talking to you again about …

Debbie Newton: Alright.

Mike McAllen: … more of the training.

Debbie Newton: Thank you, Michael.

Mike McAllen: Okay. Talk to you soon.

Debbie Newton: Bye.

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Photo credit : Mike Schinkel

Brought to you by Grass Shack Events & Media
Copyright 2009 MeetingsPodcast

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