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Back to School: Taking Your e-Discovery Training to the Next Level

Peter Fogarty

Backpacks. Books. Sharpened Number 2 pencils. It’s the first week of September and students and teachers all over the world are embarking on the start of a new school year.

While returning to classes can provoke emotions varying from excited anticipation to utter dread, few ever question the value of a good education. So why is it that across industries worldwide (including e-discovery), training and development initiatives are often afterthoughts rather than fundamental to organizational success?

To truly maximize your results in an industry like e-discovery where technical proficiency is of utmost importance, it’s essential to find training opportunities that empower you to do work at the highest level.

So as the school year gets underway, there’s no better time for us to share four key considerations for taking your or your team’s performance to the next level:

1. Information transfer does not equal learning.

It’s common and unfortunate that many corporate training programs (e-discovery-related and otherwise) are nothing more than information transfer sessions. This approach assumes that if facts and details are told or written in an organized fashion, learners who hear or read those details will experience positive learning outcomes. But this method just doesn’t work—that type of training doesn’t “stick.”

So what does work? Harnessing the way humans have been learning since before the dawn of civilization: learning by doing. Decades of research has proven this approach effective, including a recent study by the University of Chicago on the importance of hands-on learning in understanding scientific concepts. To quote from their findings:

Brain scans showed that students who took a hands-on approach to learning had activation in sensory and motor-related parts of the brain when they later thought about concepts such as angular momentum and torque. Activation of these brain areas was associated with better quiz performance by college physics students who participated in the research.

In simple terms, doing things produces more effective brain activity than just hearing or reading about them. Just as learning to throw a ball is much easier if it’s in your hand, if you want to truly understand e-discovery and related practices, you need a way to experience and practice it in a real-world setting.

Take your training to the next level: Hands-on labs are one way to get a better understanding of e-discovery workflows. At Relativity Fest, for example, we create a live training environment where attendees can practice a variety of real-world workflow challenges.

2. Not everyone learns the same way or at the same pace.

For years, many education professionals (and their students) have embraced the theory that training needs to be tailored toward “learning styles”—for example, the idea that some of us are visual learners and others prefer auditory learning. However, research shows that the concept of learning styles is actually closer to myth than truth. That doesn’t mean everyone learns the same way–it’s just that the differences in our backgrounds, skill levels, and educational goals have a far greater impact than these vaguely defined “styles.”

Novices learn differently than experts. Students faced with distractions that compete for their attention learn differently than those for whom learning is their primary focus.

With that in mind, it’s critical to choose a learning option and format that commensurate with your skills and goals—and preferably one where the educator takes their learners’ background into consideration.

Take your training to the next level: Check out the refreshed Relativity Training Center. We designed it to provide multi-modal learning experiences (in-person, virtual, self-paced, etc.) and make it easy for you to drill into specific topics to build your skills and knowledge at the pace and depth that’s right for you.

3. Meet your learners where they are.

As noted above, learners often figuratively begin in different “places.” But as organizations in e-discovery and other industries are well aware, the evolution of global- and mobile-based workforces now requires learning to occur in a wide range of literal places.

While there’s no universal solution for remote learners, there are two key points to keep in mind when pursuing an effective remote training program. First, the program should look at creative ways to truly engage the remote audience. Watching a recording of an in-person class doesn’t work as well as being incorporated into the fabric of activities in real-time.

Second, the course should take advantage of advances in technology that have made virtual training more effective and cost-efficient than ever before. Trainings offered via applications like WebEx Training Center, Adobe Connect, and others can be game changers. Take the time to research your remote training options, so you can find one that takes advantage of these tools.

Take your training to the next level: We recently launched a new Relativity Legal Hold virtual training class via Adobe Connect. Starting in late September, these classes will combine online instruction (with direct interaction with instructors and classmates), participatory activities, and the chance to get hands-on in a dedicated Relativity environment. Additionally,

4. Use stories and context to promote retention.

We already mentioned the power of hands-on learning to stimulate the brain in learning contexts. But what does the brain really love? Stories.

There’s nothing wrong with training that combines precise technical details and demonstrations with aesthetically pleasing visual elements. But without context, scenarios, and emotion there will always be something lacking.

Writing on behalf of the Association for Talent Development, blogger Doug Stevenson explains it this way: “…when you tell a story and make a point, you make an emotional connection. When you make an emotional connection, you and your story are memorable.”

This isn’t just conjecture—it’s brain science. John Medina is a developmental molecular biologist whose best-selling book Brain Rules also tackles the subject:

When the brain detects an emotionally charged event, the amygdala releases dopamine into the system. Because dopamine greatly aids memory and information processing, you could say it creates a Post It note that reads, ‘Remember this.’

Anyone who’s spent much time in the world of e-discovery knows how it feels to be confronted with a challenging project or request, and has experienced the highs and lows of things going right and things going … not so right. Find a training that incorporates these types of real-world stories, and your brain will thank you.

Take your training to the next level: With cognitive science lighting the way, we’ve decided to embrace stories when designing our new training offerings for end users and administrators that we’re launching this fall. New sessions like Relativity 101, Admin Essentials I, and Admin Essentials II immerse learners in the world of reviewers, analysts, and investigators working through real-world e-discovery challenges to provide the context that’s often missing in technical training.

Don’t get held back—using the tips above, you can graduate to the next level of e-discovery proficiency. And if you’d like more information on Relativity’s training offerings or how we can help you achieve your learning goals, just raise your hand and we’ll be happy to help.


Peter Fogarty is an instructional design lead on Relativity’s education team, focused on developing and delivering educational materials for Relativity users, including in-person trainings, webinars, and interactive tutorials.