Adults Play A Big Part In Kids Developing Empathy Early, Study Says

Experts are still not agreed on when exactly kids develop the all-too-important quality of empathy, but a new study has suggested that adults have quite a large impact on children exhibiting this ability early in life.

More specifically, attentive adults engaged with kids in social situations can help youngsters demonstrate this quality earlier than the age of four, which is when previous studies say children start to show empathy. Being able to empathise, understanding others’ emotions and perspective, is key for socialising.

Developmental psychologist Elia Psouni and her colleagues assessed if children showed empathy in its simplest form, by determining if the kids could comprehend that another person has a false belief about something because they lack information.

The research team at Lund University in Sweden asked children aged 33-to-54 months old what would happen next in a story that had been interrupted.

They were looking to see if the participants would predict that the story’s main character would make a ‘wrong move’ because they had a false belief.

The researchers were also seeing if kids were better at doing this when with an adult who was busy with another activity, or an attentive adult engaged in the story, too.

The character in the story, Maxi, was playing outdoors and then decided to go inside to play with his toy plane. Unbeknownst to Maxi, his dad moved the plane while he was outside.

The kids were then asked where Maxi would look for the plane. Usually children younger than four would answer that Maxi would look for the plane where it actually is, even though Maxi doesn’t know that his father moved it.

However, even some of the youngest kids in this study correctly predicted that Maxi would look for the plane in its old location – when they took the test while with an engaged adult.

“Many children correctly detected and told us about Maxi’s false belief, i.e. that Maxi would look for the plane where he actually left it,” Psouni told Science Daily.

“Surprisingly, these children did not remember the story as a whole better than other children, but specifically noticed and mentioned the fact that daddy moved the toy when Maxi was not there, indicating that they paid closer attention to this particular feature of the story.”

This study shows how kids can understand the perspectives of others younger than experts previously believed.

Kids who answered the question about Maxi while on their own failed at making the correct prediction as often as their peers who took the test but with an unengaged adult, showing how important an adult’s attention is, not just their presence.

“Being in the same room as the child is not enough. It is the active engagement of the adult together with the child that makes the difference,” Psouni explained. What do you think of the study’s findings?


ILT To Blended Or Online Training Transformation

5 Examples Of ILT To Blended Or Fully Online Training

Even though blended training offers significant advantages over ILT training, its impact is highly dependent on how you arrive at the “right blend”. This depends on several factors, the top 2 of which are:

  1. The nature of the content, and whether it is amenable to be delivered in a blended training or fully online training format.
  2. If there is a need for an instructor intervention to meet the learning mandate.

At EI Design, our approach focuses on identifying which key aspects of a facilitated session must be retained, and which ones will offer a better impact if they are moved to an online delivery. Thereby, the training delivery would map to:

  • Model 1
    A significant component of face-to-face, ILT training, and a small component of online training.
  • Model 2
    An even mix of face-to-face, ILT training, and online training.
  • Model 3
    Significant online learning with short and focused face-to-face, ILT training.

Before identifying the success factors to handle this transformation effectively, let’s look at the definition and benefits of a blended training approach.

What Is A Blended Training Approach?

Blended training, or hybrid training, is a combination of different learning techniques offering the best from both Instructor-Led Training (ILT) and online training (eLearning or mLearning).

The conversion of ILT training to blended or fully online training has seen a steady increase in the last few years. The factors triggering the growing rate of adoption and conversion of Instructor-Led Training, or ILTs, into blended or online training are 2:

  1. The organization’s need to use the same budget to reach out to a wider audience in a shorter time and with a consistent message.
  2. The learner’s demand for self-paced learning that is available on the device of their choice and can be taken on the go.

What Are The Key Gains You Will See As You Move To Blended Training Or Fully Online Training From The Existing ILT-Based Approach?

As we have noted, the triggers for adopting blended training or fully online training are linked to the changing learner and organizational needs. As an extension, there are several benefits to learners as well as businesses, as shown below:

Benefits For The Learners

  1. Provides a better control to the learner. They can learn at their own pace (rather than the pace set by the instructor of the peer group).
  2. They have access to online resources even if they missed the ILT sessions.
  3. They can use the accessible online resources to refer to, even after the ILT program is over.
  4. The online platforms used to provide blended training offer collaboration features that learners can continue to use (with instructors as well as other learners) even after the session is over.
  5. Research confirms that the impact of blended training is higher as compared to ILT sessions on account of higher retention levels.

Benefits For The Organizations

  1. Organizations can reach a wider audience in a shorter time.
  2. Furthermore, the conversion of ILT training to blended training or online training shortens the seat time of the training. (For instance, a 4-day face-to-face workshop can now be converted to a 4-hour online training and a 1-day workshop).
  3. In blended training, instructors can use online assessments and have a sense of the impact in a much shorter time.
  4. Instructors can continue to offer learning nuggets even after the facilitated session is over, as the connection with the learner can persist with online resources.
  5. The online components of blended training can offer more engaging learning strategies like microlearning, learning paths, gamification, social learning, and so on. A combination of these approaches ensures that the learning is sticky and continues to post the facilitated session.

How Can You Determine When Should You Opt For Fully Online Or Blended Training?

Assessing if fully online or a hybrid training is the right answer depends on several aspects. The key aspects are:

  • Nature of the current ILT training program: Can the same impact be achieved with an alternative training delivery format?
  • How will learners respond: Are they ready for a fully online format or would they prefer a hybrid or blended approach?
  • Are the technology support aspects in place to manage the blended training format?
  • Are the required support systems for instructors in place to enable them to manage a blended training format?

To understand this better, let us look at some of the typical corporate training needs that will come up for the transition.

I have added 5 examples that showcase how we handled the transition of an ILT program to blended training for these 5 corporate pieces of training. Given the dynamics, a different blend or a fully online training approach was used in each situation.

1. Induction And Onboarding Training

This program should certainly be a blended program. Although, you can determine the increased weightage on online training by looking at your ability to manage the roll-out. For instance, organizations with a high geographical spread and staggered intake of employees would find a higher online component to be beneficial. Similarly, for the senior management or executive training, a blend of coaching and mentoring is crucial and can be achieved as an add-on to the online training.

  • Example
    For our own induction and onboarding training, we transitioned from a fully ILT-based format to a blended training format.
  • Online component
    The online format features microlearning media pieces (largely videos) and guided exploration through very simple and intuitive interactivities.
  • The facilitated component
    The entire learning journey is divided into multiple stages. Once each stage is over, there are supporting facilitated sessions. These focus on recap, reinforcement, and interactions with peers and seniors.

2. Tools Or Application Software Training

This can be converted to a fully online training. After this, learners can practice on the actual tool. Optionally, you could offer the practice sessions with an instructor support.

  • Example
    We have used a combination of approaches shown here, depending on the complexity of the application and the availability of a trainer to support the program.
  • Online component
    The online component typically uses a “Teach, Try, and Test” model to show the key aspects of the software.
  • The facilitated component
    Post the online training, learners can move to a practice on the actual tool. Alternatively, the practice session can be moderated by a trainer and post the practice session, there can be another online assessment.

3. Compliance Training

This too can be converted to a fully online training. You can opt to increase the impact by adding Performance Support Tools or PSTs, post the online training. These PSTs can be used to reinforce the primary message and provide the required nudge to learners towards the desired behavioral change.

  • Example
    For our internal compliance training on Information Security, we opted for a fully online approach.
  • Online component (for primary training)
    We created an online course on Information Security.
  • Performance Support (to trigger the required behavioral change)
    However, we felt that the online course may not be sufficient to meet the compliance mandate. So, we added a Performance Support Tool or PST that is offered 60-90 days post the formal training. This has a list of factors to watch out for and reinforces the primary learning.

4. Professional Skills Enhancement Training

This can be handled through a blended approach with a significant percentage of learning assets made available as online resources. It can be enhanced through social or collaborative learning and must have a provision for coaching and mentoring.

  • Example
    In this case, although a major part of the training (on Financial Literacy for athletes) was classroom-based, we digitized the classroom delivery experience through an app which enabled the facilitator to track classes, as well as share participant guides and handouts online.
  • Online component
    All the resources (ILT decks, presenter and participant guides, and handouts for classroom activities) were made available online.
  • The facilitated component
    The trainer would use the app to access the resources on their tablet and manage the session (within the same class or virtually).

5. Soft Skills Training

This, too, can be handled through a blended approach that provides a significant percentage of training through online resources.

  • Example
    In this case, we recorded the trainer sessions (on Project Management) and used them to create an online version of the training.
  • Online component
    Rather than a simplistic approach of the trainer talking and the supporting PowerPoint slides appearing in another window, we opted for an interactive video-based format to bring the material to life.
  • The facilitated component
    The focus of the facilitated sessions shifted to supporting workshops with experts and peers focusing on the application of the learning, problem-solving, real-life situations, best practices, and so on.

As you would note, the process of conversion of ILT material to blended training or fully online training can be applied to most of your training needs. However, you need to review several key factors as you begin the process of transformation.

  • These include what the nature of the content is and if the same or better impact can be created with the new training format.
  • Additionally, you need to evaluate the organizational and learner readiness for such a transition to a new format.

With all these cues, you will have the right perspective to opt or not to opt for a fully online or blended approach.

If you have any specific queries, do contact me at




Read More:

Kids Are Not Better At Technology Than Adults

Image result for if students leave school less curious

The term “digital immigrants” and “digital natives” is almost as annoying as the fights are about the terminology.  These terms are often credited to Marc Prensky, and from when I have had the opportunity to have heard him speak, he doesn’t believe that kids have an innate ability to use technology over adults.

They have not known a world with anything different.  It made sense to me when I thought of my parents who came to Canada as immigrants. They knew one life and then thrust themselves into another. Where growing up in Canada, I have not known anything but what it is like to live in that country.

It doesn’t mean that one group has the ability over another, but their past experiences do shape a lot of what their future looks like. Although my parents were immigrants to Canada, I saw them as less traditional than many people who lived here their entire life.

So then why do we continue to say things like, “Kids are sooooo much better with technology than adults are”?  Yes, many kids have never known anything BUT a world with iPhones and YouTube, but the same adults have lived in that world the same amount of time kids have, and sometimes, even more.

Add the years of experience in other parts of life; there is no reason that kids should be better at technology than adults.The difference between kids that are deemed better than adults with technology is not some innate ability; it is their willingness to push buttons. To see what happens. To act on their curiosity.

That’s it.

I was working with a group recently and showing them how to “embed” media from different sites.  Since the “embed” button is in different places on all sites, I gave them a strategy for finding it, no matter where they go.  I told them, “Press buttons until you find it.” That’s it. Nothing is going to break unless you push the “break computer” button (still looking for it).

So instead of saying, “Those kids are so much better than technology than I am”, why not say, “Those kids are so much more willing to push the buttons and act on their curiosity than I am.”

If you think about it, which statement seems to be truer?Yes, things are not going to work right away.  Yes, you might even mess some things up. But that willingness to look and overcome adversity, with technology and in life, are skills that we should not only encourage in our students but embody ourselves.

George Couros



I am a learner, educator, and Innovative Teaching, Learning, and Leadership consultant. I am also the author of “The Innovator’s Mindset”. I believe we need to inspire our kids to follow their passions, while letting them inspire us to do the same.

You can contact me at