Hitting the Refresh on Computer-Based Education

By Pippa Pomeroy
June 1, 2016
A woman is typing on a computer

Training is an essential part of any job. While it may be easy to recall some sort of required education in our pasts, there’s one part that’s a bit harder: remembering what we actually learned.

When thousands of workers are involved, some teaching can’t always be done one-on-one. Like many big companies, Walmart has used computer-based learning modules to impart certain information for some time. While the knowledge is essential, the style of these lessons hasn’t always been so noteworthy.  

So we decided to change that.

Knowing that we wanted our refreshed online training courses – called Pathways – to impart not just the basics for our associates, but also advanced skills that would help them succeed down the road, we set out to invest more in the delivery method so that the education would stick. Part of that was the package – animation, video-game-style interaction and trivia – and another was the human component: getting our own associates to help advise on the substance of what really matters.

More than 300 associates at all levels from courtesy desk through market manager participated in nearly 30 brainstorming sessions over the past year – from what I understand, the most input we’ve ever asked for from our workforce.

The Pathways program launched to our associates in February, and it provides a deliberate career path for both full and part-time associates, from opening-level positions to large-scale operational leadership positions. While time will tell if this investment is truly paying off in terms of better preparing our associates for the future, we’ve gotten some good feedback so far. Anne Carniglia, who works in our photo lab at a Walmart in Lynnwood, Washington, said it felt like something she’s able to do rather than something she has to do.

“A lot of the videos you can see they’re taking place in a store,” she said. “They are real, genuine, everyday scenarios. They feel more like I’m being talked to, rather than talked down to.”

Marvin Dessources, an unloader and stocker at another store in Mesa, Arizona, got the chance to inject his upbeat personality into the videos as an on-screen character. He says occasionally associates at other stores recognize him from the training sessions and share their feedback.

“Not everyone learns the same,” he said. “Pathways, I feel, teaches individuals in ways that they really pick up and retain the information. … If you’ve got the motivation, you can pretty much do anything, but this is definitely a great stepping stone.”