Real-world application of online training: 6 reasons employees aren’t putting theory into practice

Why employees are unable to put their knowledge into practice - eFront

Online training is supposed to make you better at your job. So why are there so many workers with impressive online training track records that can’t put their skills into action in the workplace? Here are 6 reasons why your employees are unable to put theory into practice.

6 reasons employees are unable to put theory into practice

Traditional education systems seem designed to help people pass exams. We end up with crisp, important-looking certificates and no way to apply what we’ve learned. Because this is how we were taught, many eLearning professionals develop their online training courses much the same way.

This might be effective for compliance licensing, but it’s useless when your staff is in a compromising situation. Real application in online training is the key. Make sure they not only know the rules, principles and theories, but that they also know how to use them. Before you can solve the problem, you need to identify it. Here are 6 barriers to the practical real-world application of lessons learned in online training.

1. The online training course isn’t learner-centered

Before designing an online training course, it helps to know who you’re designing it for and why. What’s the end result of your planning, development and implementation?

Your goals will affect the way you structure your online training course. Many trainers focus on ‘sharing’ their knowledge, but they don’t think about how their corporate learners will use it. Put the corporate learner at the center of your online training course. That way, you can design it in a way that makes sense to them.

For example, listing the dangers of faulty equipment shows off your memory. But your corporate learners are more interested in troubleshooting. It’s not enough to know what could go wrong if they use broken machinery. They need to know how to identify and repair those faults in a practical context.

Give them the opportunity to choose online training activities that align with their needs and preferences. This may be in the form of personalized online training paths, eLearning course catalogs or microlearning libraries that allow them to seek knowledge on their own.

2. Not enough elaboration

Along the same lines, a trainer might give them a series of ‘office commandments’ that they can cram and recite. But this rote learning doesn’t tell them why they shouldn’t break those rules. Or why they were imposed in the first place.

To promote real-world application in online training, you need to go into the background. Why were those rules created? Who designed them? What happens if you don’t follow them? How can you encourage colleagues to toe the line? Teach them these lessons via case studies, online training simulations, and real-world scenarios.

You can incorporate role play as a way to build empathy. Colleagues learn to see their work through a co-worker’s eyes. Take a problem-solving approach so that your employees can start to recognize, develop and exercise their conflict resolution muscles.

3. There are no demonstrations

Case studies and contextual scenarios are fine. But they throw your corporate learners in deep water, since in an online training course, there’s no teacher that can show them what to do.

Before you ask your corporate learners to pick a character and dive into role-playing games, give them a practical example. This can be in the form of demonstrative videos or live webinars. Then you can give them the opportunity for hands-on learning.

Why employees are unable to put their knowledge into practice - eFront

4. Lack of knowledge structuring

Knowledge structuring is a skill based on synthesis. It teaches you how to analyze theoretical principles and make connections between seemingly unrelated things. It’s a crucial career skill, and it’s one few people learn.

Some of us have it intrinsically. But just like any skill, it can be learned. You can train this ‘muscle’ in a light way through word-and-image association games, crosswords, etc. They’re popular on mobile phones, so build some into your course.

It will seem like a study break, but they’re actually learning something important. Once they’re familiar with these linking games, you can apply the principle to more corporate samples. These include mind maps, flow charts, and so on.

5. Lack of hands-on online training activities

Experience is often the best teacher when trying to impart real-world application in online training. Employees learn from their mistakes by doing, which prevents them from repeating them in the workplace.

Online training simulations, branching scenarios, serious games, and other hands-on activities help them build experiential knowledge. They can put their skills into action to solve problems, handle customer service issues, and overcome on-the-job obstacles. All without real-world risks. They can also identify areas for improvement that employees need to work on to boost their performance.

6. Employees simply don’t understand the training content

One simple explanation for why employees are unable to put theory into practice is because they don’t fully understand the topic. They might understand certain aspects of the course and can even see how it ties into their job duties. But if you want to facilitate real-world application in online training, make sure your employees fully comprehend the topic.

Break the content into easily digestible chunks, and offer employees continual online training. For example, bite-sized online training simulations or tutorials that reinforce knowledge and refresh their memory. These online training resources also help fill in the gaps, so that employees can repeat and review topics they’re struggling with, without having to ‘lose face’ with their peers or feel as though they’re being judged.

Lastly, assess employees on a fixed basis to ensure they’re absorbing the information and apply it practically.


Sitting behind the computer or smartphone screen, cramming by rote and passing quizzes, isn’t proof of effective online training. Your corporate learners need the ability to turn their ‘classroom learning’ into skills they can use in their jobs.

Lack of real-world application in online training can be caused by courses that aren’t learner-centered and have too little explanation. You have to go past merely stating principles. Include video demos, case studies, contextual practice, and training simulations. Train your corporate learners in knowledge structuring so they can learn to make mental associations. It’s the best way to apply theory to the real world.

What better way to enhance real-world application in online training than emphasizing the real-world value of your online training course? Discover ways to emphasize the real-world benefits and applications of your corporate eLearning course.

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