Why We Need Design Thinking in Corporate Learning

Design thinking in corporate learning

Why We Need Design Thinking in Corporate Learning

Unless you’ve been living in a basement for the past few years, chances are you’ve heard of design thinking. While the term has become a buzzword, and all sorts of vendors have spawned to offer services within the space – some more ambiguous than others – the underlying ideas and concepts are something an L&D professional should not ignore. We though we’d explore those ideas and concepts, and give you our thoughts on where we see the value. So, let’s look at why we should use design thinking in corporate learning.

Design thinking (the way we see it)

To avoid unnecessary buzzword sprees, we’ll skip the text book definitions. (If you’re totally new to design thinking, Google is your friend!) Perhaps worth mentioning is that design thinking is often defined as a process, but we don’t think that always does enough justice to it. There’s a danger of oversimplifying things and too rigid processes are not something that necessarily benefit design work.

That being said, the core ideas and concepts that make the process valuable are its big emphasis on discovery, research and user involvement. These are followed by ideation, experimentation, learning from mistakes and iterating. If you’re planning to put the methods into practice, it’s good to understand what these might look like from an L&D’s viewpoint.

Why is design thinking important in corporate learning?

Fundamentally, there are no learning problems in businesses. All of it is first and foremost business problems. Sometimes, though, learning might be a valid solution. Furthermore, big challenge in corporate learning is rarely the knowledge delivery and acquisition, but learning transfer, i.e. whether people apply the newly learnt in practice. Keeping these in mind, let’s look at the different design thinking concepts and why they can provide value.

Firstly, proper discovery is really important. As mentioned, all the problems are business problems and learning is a solution to only some of them. If we bypass proper discovery and blindly offer learning whenever someone asks for it, we are not doing any good. Furthermore, discovery is important for the learning design phase too. If you want to have people apply the learning, it has to be easy. Hence, it’s critical to understand the context of the learners. Even good content will go to deff ears if you don’t understand the context.

Secondly, ideation as an open process should be something to go through, even if at small scale. A set time for open exploration enables L&D to look beyond their own immediate scope of work and identify potential solutions that are not necessarily about learning. This helps you get closer to what the people actually need, rather than blindly providing what you think they need.

Finally, experimentation is one thing that you shouldn’t neglect either. Small pilots, test runs and demos let you collect data and validate assumptions before moving onto large scale implementation. But whether you’re doing small or large, it’s important to continuously learn about how people engage with whatever it is that you’ve provided them with. Too often L&D are in a hurry to roll out a solution, but stop the work once the solutions is out. Great solutions are the products of usually multiple iterations, that are made based on previous mistakes and learning.

Final comments

Overall, design thinking as a method or a process is something that any L&D professional should be aware of. However, the key takeaway from it shouldn’t necessarily be any rigid process itself. Rather, we should aim to understand what makes these kind of methods a near necessity in building the workplace learning of the future. Also, understanding the philosophy of why it’s imperative to spend time on discovery, engaging with the users or constantly learning and iterating is important. Ultimately, L&D is about helping people succeed at their jobs and the business to perform better. Taking a design thinking angle to it might help to better address those issues.

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Whiteboard Animations in Corporate Learning – Why Use Them?

Whiteboard animations in corporate learning

Using Whiteboard Animations in Corporate Learning

Video has become a popular format when it comes to corporate learning. Of course, not all topics lend themselves well to a video, so you should always keep in mind using mediums that are fit-for-purpose. However, there’s still a lot of use cases. Due to the challenges in making traditional training videos, animations have grown in popularity – ourselves being heavy users as well. While we’ve written about using animations in digital learning before, this time we wanted talk about a particular type. Whiteboard animations are perhaps the stripped down version of conventional animations. However, they’re still effective and highly suitable for corporate learning use.

What’s a whiteboard animation?

The term refers to a type of animation that is generally quite minimalistic. Colour is scarce, and generally used for highlighting things. Also, the props, characters and layouts are generally quite simple. These factors help to create visuals that are less cluttered and focus on the key message. As an example, take a look at the animation video below.

Quick, easy and consequently, cheap! Yet much nicer than slide decks or documents.

Why whiteboard animations in particular?

Naturally, the simplistic style of these animations and its constraints are not ideal for every kind of narrative. In our experience, whiteboards are generally a good option for abstract concepts and training topics (think soft skills, leadership, strategy), as well as delivering conceptual knowledge. If your training topic is more hands-on, other types of animation might help you to replicate those operating environments better.

In addition to the above, the benefits we as a power-user see in whiteboard animations go along the following lines:

  • Very fast to make – learning professionals are always under pressure to put out more content. To give you an idea of the time required, the animation above was made from start to finish during a lunch break.
  • No technical skills required – there’s a lot of good animation tools out there, that enable people with no significant technical skills to animate videos like these.
  • More engaging than slides or documents – Quick and easy to consume for the learner. The medium also forces the “trainer” to focus on what’s really relevant, as screen real estate is limited. Remember, less is more!
  • Easy way to visualise concepts – enabling visual cues could help your learners to learn more effectively.
  • Cheap! – in the end it’s all about the money, right? Thanks to the speed of production, these types of animations end up being quite affordable! Also, we’ve found that this medium often works quite well even without voice-overs, which is one of the biggest single cost items in producing training videos.

Final words

If you are a corporate learning professional that wants to move away from slides and documents, but struggles with the time required for producing better content, whiteboard animations could be a good addition to your toolbox. There’s a whole bunch of great tools out there. We at Learning Crafters really love Vyond and their comprehensive suite of tools. It’s rare that we find a need we can’t fulfil with their tools . But depending on your budget, there are a lot of offerings out there. And if you don’t have the manpower resources to design animations in-house just yet, we might be able to help with that. Just drop us a note here.

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Onboarding On-demand – Can We Train New Hires in a Smarter Way?

Onboarding on demand

Onboarding On-demand – Can We Train New Hires in a Smarter Way?

Onboarding is something that all organisations do, yet we’ve seen fairly little innovation in the general handling of it. While many organisations have started incorporating team-building and social experiences to their onboarding processes, the actual training part of it remains relatively untouched. Often, companies still sit their new employees through a large number of training sessions or eLearning modules in a very short amount of time. Naturally, learning retention is low, and most of the training is probably just wasting time. Could we do it a bit smarter though? Let’s play around with an idea of onboarding on demand.

The problems with most onboarding programs

In general, there are different problems that reappear regardless of the organisation. Here are a few of them:

  • Too much training in too little time
  • One-size-fits-all approach
  • Content is irrelevant
  • Content has relevance, but is rarely used on the day-to-day

First of all, trying to train people on a lot of things in a short amount of time simply doesn’t work. You’ll just give your new hires a cognitive overload which will cause them to retain even less. Secondly, onboarding programs may be quite uniform, but the jobs are widely different. That’s an interesting disparity there. Thirdly, a lot of the content on onboarding programs is actually not even relevant, and thus people forget it very quickly. Finally, there’s content that has relevance, but that is rarely applicable on the day-to-day jobs. If you can’t apply what you’ve learnt, chances are you’ll forget it.

How could onboarding on demand solve these problems?

So, what if we took a wholly different approach to onboarding. An approach where the focus is on helping to new hires succeed at their jobs and get quick wins, rather than trying desperately to make sure that they’re “ready” before they start working. Here’s what that could look like in practice:

  1. Instead of front-loading training, shift the focus to performance support resources on demand. This way, new hires can learn on the job and as they encounter problems, they have a resource base to tap into to gain confidence and identify solutions. By doing it this way, they have a chance to immediately apply the things they learn. This increases learning retention for the long term.
  2. Deliver personalised resources. The first 90 days of a newly hired engineer are likely very different from that of a new salesman. People should have access to learning resources that are designed or curated with their context in mind. This helps them to learn the right way of doing things, instead of being responsible for figuring out how to apply abstract concepts to a particular problem.
  3. Learn what’s really relevant through analytics, switch to formal delivery if needed. If you ask subject matter experts, everything is always “must know”. But in reality, most of it isn’t. Learning analytics can help you in identifying the most accessed on-demand resources. If there’s high use for a particular resource, maybe it could be meaningful to design a formal learning experience around that topic.
  4. Don’t bother learners with things they don’t use frequently. Forget trying to hammer some internal procedures (e.g. how to apply for leave, how to call in sick etc.) into employees heads on day 1. Instead, deliver a pool of easily searchable information where employees can find how to do those things. You’ll save a lot of time.

Final words

Naturally, some of the initial training given to employees can be mandated by law, e.g. compliance training. In those areas, it might be difficult to make radical changes in the training approaches. However, a large part of the training that isn’t mandated by law isn’t always really necessary, and that’s where on demand onboarding could save you significant amounts of time and productivity all the while helping people learn better.

This could also provide a way of replacing traditional training with more meaningful experiences, like team building and getting to know new colleagues, without increasing the overall time spent on onboarding. If you’d like to design onboarding programs that really add value, we’d be happy to share some experiences. Just drop us a note.

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Interleaved Learning – Improve Results by Mixing It Up

Interleaved learning can improve results

Interleaved Learning – Improve Results by Mixing It Up

Do you still remember the time you were in school? Chances are that the teachers probably offered you study advice. One particular piece of advise when it came to studying that we recall was “take one subject or topic at a time”. While the intentions were definitely good, it seems likely that it wasn’t necessary the best advice to give. In fact, studies have shown that learning methods that leverage on the opposite – learning a few different things simultaneously – can produce even better results. One of such methods is interleaved learning, and that’s what we’ll look into here.

What is interleaved learning?

Interleaved learning is a method in which one mixes up different topics or forms of practice to facilitate learning. The method is also occasionally referred to as mixed practice or varied practice. Instead of completing one things before moving onto the next one, the learner switches between materials. And that’s where the secret of the method is.

In simple terms, this method of learning works because of the “switching”. The human brain and its cognitive mechanisms such as contextual interference are behind this effect. In practical terms, this means that the increased interference in doing a task forces the learner to use multiple different processing strategies for the topic. This in turn leads to higher learning retention. Interleaved learning also forces the learners to identify the right strategies for tackling a particular problem from their long-term memory, rather than applying the thing they just learned about.

How could we use the method in corporate learning?

In addition to help our personal lives, the method could also be beneficial in corporate learning. Most corporate learning programs often take quite a conventional approach. Usually you’ll have a module on a particular topic, followed by questions (assessment). This type of assessment is certainly not formative enough to really assess learning. It’s more likely that you’ll just be testing short term recall. So, what if we just changed the way we do those questions? Instead of having a small set for particular module, what if we had a big one for a group of modules? This would force the learners to apply the knowledge, instead of just regurgitating it.

Another possible approach could be changing the way we structure learning materials. Normally, you have your “courses” that have a very specific and focused subject matter. But what if we abolished the structure of courses and started working within the framework of topics? Instead of studying a particular course on e.g. how to deliver presentations, the learner could be prompted with various types of not necessarily related materials under the wider umbrella of communication skills. This is similar in philosophy to the resource-based learning strategies that a growing number of organisations are employing.

However, a thing to note when planning interleaved learning is that the topics should never be too similar (so you need to identify right strategies and apply knowledge) nor too unrelated. For instance, pairing up communication training materials with something for technical skills is unlikely to have the desired effect. However, pairing up communication with leadership could work a lot better.

Key takeaways

Interleaved learning is an interesting phenomenon, and certainly good to know about. L&D professionals and learning designers can use the technique to facilitate better and lasting learning. However, even if you’re not a learning designer, the method might be beneficial to incorporate in your own educational endeavours.

Whether you implement it personally or on an organisational level, there’s one thing to note. Interleaved learning is not easy. It feels more difficult, because it is. But that’s exactly why it’s so effective. It forces us to spark those neuron connections and apply knowledge on a wide level. So, don’t be discouraged if you don’t see immediate, quick wins with the method. Rather, focus on the long term, as that’s where the effect tends to really start to show.

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How to Enable Self-directed Learning in the Workplace?

Self-directed learning in the workplace

How to Enable Self-directed Learning in the Workplace?

Imagine an organisation where employees would proactively learn the things they need to perform and take charge of upskilling themselves for the future. Sounds like every L&D professional’s dream, doesn’t it? In fact, more and more organisations are exploring for ways to achieve some of that, even if with limited scope. On one hand, we’ve realised that the traditional organisation of L&D activities is not agile enough to respond to the rapidly transforming business environment. On the other hand, there’s also a lot of of talk about 21st century employees having to take charge of their own learning and development. This type of self-directed learning is certainly not a new thing for individuals. However, organisations still have a fair bit to learn in facilitating it.

So, let’s explore self-directed workplace learning in a bit more detail. Here are a few key pieces we think need to be in place for this individual-led approach to be successful.

Organisations need to allow time for learning

This may sound overly self-evident, but in fact is a fundamental consideration. While an added benefit of self-directed learning is the flexibility it provides, organisations can’t expect their employees to learn on their own time. Some employees of course likely will do that, but a large part of them won’t. Thus, it’s important to make it clear that learning is part of the work of every employee, and to allow time within the “office hours” for it. If the whole organisation doesn’t support the approach and promote a self-learning culture, the impact will be very limited.

Managers’ commitment is crucial in facilitating self-directed learning

One of the key stakeholders in enabling a self-directed workplace learning culture are the managers. As previously mentioned, the managers need to firstly commit to the fact that their employees will be spending some of their time learning. But that’s not quite enough. The managers need to also take an active approach in following up with the learners who are having difficulties or are not engaging. They should also take an active role in identifying challenges and guiding people towards the right resources. Some employees will likely require more elaborate coaching on what self-directed learning is, and how they should be going about it. After all, the approach doesn’t necessarily come naturally for everyone.

Organisations should offer employees resources and tools

One key part of a feasible self-directer learning strategy is the resources and tools that employees can use. Sure, Google, YouTube and similar platforms exist. However, expecting employees to search for information, assess its value and relevance is likely too much to ask. Especially if you’re only beginning the journey and people are not used to self-directed learning. Thus, it’s important to offer employees resources and tools to take charge of their own learning. These can be a variety of things. Many organisations nowadays choose to curate learning resources, rather than designing everything from scratch. With this, employees get access to material that has been already vetted, and they no longer need to spend time evaluating it.

Increasingly many organisations also offer their employees collaborative and social platforms, where employees can interact with each other. These can provide a valuable informal learning resource. Often, it might make more sense to just ask someone, rather than find videos or other material on how to complete a particular task.

Never try to force people to learn, but encourage them

Finally, this one is a major issue we regularly notice with organisations who attempt to execute self-directed learning. For some reason, organisations expect that they can become self-directed, while they still “direct” people by forcing learning. For instance, this can be requiring employees to complete learning activities, set deadlines or impose other kinds of rules. This is what many L&D departments are used to, but it simply doesn’t work if you want to develop a self-directed learning culture. We cannot force people to learn.

However, that doesn’t remove the importance of encouraging employees to learn. In fact, some studies indicate considerable performance improvements pertaining to self-directed learning. But only in cases where the learning is voluntary. As we’ve mentioned before, organisations should make their absolute best efforts in promoting that culture and committing to it. People won’t take up on it unless they see their superiors and the people around them showing commitment to it.

Final words

All in all, building a self-directed workplace learning culture is by no means easy. It requires L&D to relinquish some control and accept the fact that everything cannot be strictly administered. For many organisations, this sort of change likely represents total cultural transformation. However, if you want to become a truly agile and effective organisation, we see this as a necessary step along the way. If you’d like to explore ways of facilitating self-directed learning in your organisation, don’t hesitate to drop us a note. We can’t promise quick wins or guaranteed success, but we can certainly help you learn about what might work and what might not.

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4 Ways to Use Scaffolding in Corporate Learning

Instructional scaffolding in workplace learning

4 Ways to Use Scaffolding in Corporate Learning

Instructional scaffolding is a set of techniques used to support learners in their learning process. The goal is to enhance learning and aid the learners in achieving mastery of the topic in question. While the techniques are nothing new, they remain highly relevant. In particular, transformational learning initiatives, whereby organisations introduce new work practices, tasks or strategies can benefit a lot from well-designed scaffolding. If we use a toddler analogy, the process is similar to learning to walk. Initially, you’ll have the parent holding up the kid, gradually giving more “responsibility” to the child, and ultimately letting go altogether.

So, let’s explore instructional scaffolding in the context of workplace learning. Here are 4 techniques that tend to work well in our experience.

1. Tap into and connect with learners’ prior knowledge

A big component of adult learning is learning through building on prior knowledge and experiences. Hence, it’s important that you let the learners see the big picture; how the learning relates to other things. Thus, you should aim to make connections with the employees’ current skills, professional experience and prior learning.

2. Break up content into digestible chunks

To enhance the effect of the previous point and help learners activate their prior knowledge, you should consider breaking up your content. Smaller chunks, or microlearning activities, that build on each other tend to work well. But instead of just chunking up content and delivering it the same way as before, the “consumption” of these activities should be spread over time in a spaced learning approach to enable the learners to build up their knowledge gradually.

3. Give the learners time and opportunities to talk

People need time to process new information and make sense of whatever they have been learning. Peer discussions enable the learners to articulate their own understanding, synthesise information and learn about different points of view. Guided discussions also provide a good platform for sharing personal experiences, tips and best practices that might help other learners. With different social learning technologies, you can facilitate these types of learning discussions in a digital way.

4. Give the learners time and opportunities to practice

Finally, a critical piece in scaffolding is to enable sufficient amounts of practice. When learning new things at the workplace, the challenge is often not in the learning itself, but transferring that learning back to the workplace. But if you allow people to practice, they can build up their confidence doing things in a new way before being exposed to “live” situations. Hence, you should always aim to incorporate practice time in learning activities. That might be role play in small groups, digital simulations or many other types of activities. However, the important factor underlying them all is providing a safe environment to make mistakes.

Final words

Scaffolding techniques have proven to be quite powerful and should be a part of every learning professional’s toolbox. In workplace learning, scaffolding can help employees to learn more effectively and increase learning transfer. However, as a process, it shouldn’t continue forever. Just like with the toddler learning to walk, you need to figure out when to let go completely and let them do things on their own. Similarly, when learners reach a certain level of proficiency, they no longer need or even want you to hold them up.

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Fighting the Forgetting Curve – Fact-based Lessons on Retention

Fighting the forgetting curve - how to make learning stick?

Fighting the Forgetting Curve – How to Make Learning Stick?

If you’re in L&D, chances are that you have heard of the forgetting curve effect. This means that people forget things over time at a diminishing rate. This tends to be a consideration for workplace L&D, as if people don’t even retain what they’re learning, it’s going to be difficult to apply it. While there are a lot of numbers being thrown around as facts (e.g. people forget 70% of what they learn in classroom training within 3 months), the reality is much more complex than that. Thus, we decided to embark on an exploration into the forgetting curve and what makes learning stick. Here are a few fact-based lessons that as an L&D professional you should be aware of.

You cannot generalise the forgetting curve

The first fact, and also an important one, is that we cannot generalise. Educational and cognitive scientists have done a considerable amount of research into the topic. While you could even argue that the methodology of these studies doesn’t really represent the nuances of workplace learning, the findings are nevertheless clear. There’s not a single formula to forgetting. Meta-research results show that the rates of forgetting in these pieces of research have been “all over the place” to put it mildly. The amount of learning retained is heavily influences by several factors, e.g. learning methods, motivation etc.

So, as a takeaway, there are no rules of thumb (such as people forget x% in y days) to the forgetting curve. Parties who claim so have generally either been very selective with their research, or are not familiar with it overall.

What kind of factors affect learning retention?

Like mentioned, learning retention is influenced by several factors. Here are a few of them that are particularly applicable to workplace learning. But don’t consider this list as an exhaustive one!

  • The type of learning materials
  • Learning methods
  • Prior knowledge and experience of the learner
  • Difficulty of assessment
  • Context of learning
  • Learning support and feedback

Interesting and engaging learning materials tend to be less “forgettable”. The more relevant the particular topic or concept, the more likely the person is to retain and learn that information. The more support and feedback the learners have, the more seamless the process of learning should turn out to be.

How to make learning stick? How to keep people from forgetting learning?

To fight the forgetting curve, we need to make learning stick. Situations and contexts vary wildly, so this is not an exact science. There’s no single right or wrong way of doing it. However, here are some guidelines on what kinf of things tend to stick based on research findings that also match what we’ve learned over the course of our own work in workplace learning.

Less sticky, more forgettable

  • Information and knowledge that has very little personal relevance
  • Abstract knowledge that is not conceptualised or related to practice

More sticky, less forgettable

  • Personally relevant information and knowledge
  • Emotionally salient material that “stands out” or evokes a reaction
  • Decision making information

Overall, we could summarise what works in single word: meaningful. For workplace learning to stick and fight the forgetting curve, it should be meaningful. Learning that resonates, is relevant and important to the people in their personal and professional contexts. Just throwing information at people without them wanting or needing it doesn’t result in very much anything (other than forgetting!).

Another key method in reducing the chances of forgetting learning is spaced learning. Research shows that long-term retention can be significantly increased with spaced repetition, where learners are exposed to the material over time, and practice and test themselves on more than just a single occasion. While organisation may often neglect the concept of spaced repetition due to the time investment in designing such, it could greatly benefit workplace learning. And with the right learning technology tools, it’s a lot easier to build such learning activities.

Final words

All in all, much of the discussion out there about the forgetting curve is false. However, people still do forget, that’s certain, and the impact may be significant. If people don’t retain knowledge, they can’t apply it and L&D loses all its value in a heartbeat. By sticking to fact-based and evidence-informed practices and models, workplace learning professional can ensure better retention. And it’s no rocket science. Meaningful learning delivered in a pedagogically meaningful format (e.g. spaced learning) can already get you quite far. After reading this piece, hopefully looking into further research about learning retention and still feeling unsure, feel free to drop us a note. We can help you build learning delivery with a big emphasis on meaningful.

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Compliance Training – Is There a Smarter Way to Do It?

Smarter ways to do compliance training

Compliance Training – Is There a Smarter Way to Do It?

With increasing regulation and complexity, compliance training is something that many companies must conduct. While the intention of regulators and compliance enforcers may be good, the practice needs improvement. The usual ways of doing the training don’t produce value beyond ticking a few boxes. Employees generally dislike it, and real learning is a rare occurrence – it’s just a matter of getting it over with in the least amount of time possible!

But does this work? Sure, as long as you get to your “completions” and “passes”, you can show that you’ve covered your own behind. But wouldn’t there be value in educating people in a proactive way, that perhaps could reduce risky behaviour in the first place? Or if that sounds alien, how about not having to force employees sit through the same material year after year? Let’s explore two small things we could do to make compliance training work just a little bit better.

Proving knowledge through mastery vs. a few correctly guessed questions

Arguably, the usual ways of conducting compliance training have very little actual learning value. The compliance training just acts as a tool to shift blame; you’ve “trained” the individual, so you can wash your hands off. Yet, the actual risks are of committing harmful acts are not necessarily materially reduced and do still realise. And as an organisation you’ll be on the hook – both financially and reputationally. Wouldn’t it make sense to be bit more proactive and try to reduce risky behaviours through learning in the first place?

Another problem is that the way compliance training is often assessed is quite limited. You’ll have your course, followed by a test that pulls its questions from a larger question bank. So even with a 100% score, there’s still a lot that they could potentially not know. Additionally, it’s perhaps worth realising that many learners just skip through the material and guess answers until getting a passing mark.

So, what if the learners actually learned the concepts and proved it through a mastery-based approach? In a mastery-based approach, you’re essentially testing everything, from multiple angles and at different points in time. Learners reach mastery when they can consistently answer correctly and confidently, without guessing or cheating, which can be detected by algorithms. At that point, you can also be fairly confident that they’ve learned what they had to.

In practice, such an approach doesn’t have to be a burdensome one either. By switching some of the focus from content to testing and instant feedback, you can keep the time investment required also in check. Furthermore, the learners can keep developing their mastery in short bursts over time, instead of having to spend a lot of time at once. Consequently, this also improves the learning results.

Enabling employees to test out of material

Even if you don’t buy the value of a more proactive approach just yet, you’ll probably agree that the time spent on compliance training is time away from productive work. Naturally, we’ll want to keep that time to a minimum.

As mentioned, we often tend to build compliance training in a way in which learners go through material and then test themselves. However, this kind of approach wastes a lot of time. It doesn’t really take into account learners’ existing knowledge, and forces them through mundane tasks. Consequently, the learners will look for ways to minimise their time investment, and start skipping through. Hence, it’s easy for updates and revisions go unnoticed, no one simply engages.

So, at the very least, it would probably make sense to do this the other way around. Why not test the learners before letting them into the material? If they score high enough, exempt them from the compliance training altogether – they already know the stuff. This saves their time – time which makes you money.

Final words

All in all, the usual ways of doing compliance training are not particularly smart. If we want to see real learning impact, we have to move away from the prevalent tick-the-box culture. Different mastery-based approaches or even downright getting practical by eliminating useless training could be steps towards the better. If you’d like to explore those steps further and find better ways of doing things, feel free to initiate a discussion with us. We rarely do anything related to compliance training for the sheer lack of imagination and ambition the field pertains, but we do entertain interesting ideas.

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Kaufman’s Learning Evaluation Model – Quick Overview

Kaufman's Learning Evaluation Model

Kaufman’s Learning Evaluation Model – Quick Overview

The field of corporate learning has a lot of different frameworks for evaluation. While not all of them are good or even necessary, some frameworks still provide good points of consideration and models for organising information. For instance, last week, we took a look at the Success Case Method which works best on capturing qualitative insights. This week, we decided to take a quick look at Kaufman’s learning evaluation model, and see if it still provides valid contributions.

Kaufman’s Learning Evaluation Model briefly explained

Instead of providing an entirely new framework, Kaufman’s model aims to improve the commonly used Kirkpatrick’s 4 levels. The allegedly improved version introduces some additional consideration by seemingly dividing Kirkpatrick level 1 into two and adding a fifth level. The levels and the respective questions and considerations for modern L&D professionals go as following:

  1. Input – what kind of resources and learning materials do we have at our disposal that we can use to support the learning experience?
  2. Process – how’s the delivery of the learning experience? Is it accepted? How are people responding to it?
  3. Micro level results – Did the learner or the learning group acquire the knowledge? Did they apply it on their jobs?
  4. Macro level results – Did performance improve due to this learning and application of new in the workplace? What kind of benefits arose from the learning on an organisational level?
  5. Mega level impact – What kind of impact did the learning have on society or larger external stakeholder groups?

Reflection on the Kaufman model

As the original author proposed the model as an improvement over Kirkpatrick’s, we’ll make the comparison accordingly. The separation of input and process might be a good one to make. Nowadays, we have access to vast pools of digital resources both in the public domain and sitting in corporate information systems. There are a lot of situations where organisations could leverage on a lot of this information and resources. For instance, curation-based learning content strategies might make more sense for some organisations. Hence, the introduction of inputs as a separate consideration might be a helpful change to some on the framework level.

Reversely, Kaufman also groups Kirkpatrick’s levels 2 and 3 together. While these are just semantic changes, it’s within this section that organisations have their L&D challenges. Often, learning is not the problem, and people may retain the newly learnt quite well. But the problem often comes in application, or learning transfer, as people fail to use these new skills or practices back at their daily jobs. Consequently, that’s something that modern L&D professionals should also focus more on.

Finally, Kaufman’s learning evaluation model introduces the “mega level”, or societal impact. While it may be a valid consideration for a select few, presumably this impact would go hand-in-hand with the business results analysed at the “macro level”. Or if not, we nevertheless encounter the immense difficulty of evaluating impact to external entities.

What’s in it for the L&D professional?

Like with any of the prevalent frameworks or models of evaluating learning at the workplace, it’s important not to take things too seriously. These models do provide a good basis for structuring one’s approach to evaluation, but L&D professionals should still adjust them to fit the context of their particular organisation. It’s also noteworthy that all these models were built on the conception of formal learning. Hence they may fail to address some more informal workplace learning. Regardless, the key takeaway from Kaufman’s learning evaluation model could be the notion of existing resources that can contribute to learning experiences. It’s not always necessary to reinvent the wheel after all!

If you’re looking for new ways of evaluating learning, especially learning transfer or business impact, drop us a note. We’d be happy to help you co-engineer evaluation methods that can actually demonstrate L&D’s value to the business.

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Contextual Learning in Organisations – Why and How?

Contextual learning in organisations - why context matters

Contextual Learning in Organisations – Why and How?

Many organisations, both large and small, often express their challenges in delivering learning content. Due to this need to rapidly put out fires by pushing content to each and every direction, the L&D teams can easily lose sight of perhaps an even more important thing – context. Here’s why context and contextual learning should be much higher up organisations’ priority lists.

Why context matters in corporate learning

Context is incredibly important in workplace learning for multiple reasons. Firstly, a lot of adult learning happens through scaffolding and building on experiences and prior knowledge. If we can’t connect the dots between what is being taught now, and what the people already know, we’re up for some challenges.

Secondly, contextualisation of learning is important for another highly individual reason. While we do learn at workplaces, learning is rarely the end goal of the employees. Rather, they’re learning to position themselves better professionally, move up the career ladder and unlock new opportunities. Learning is just the way of getting there, and the learning done should serve those goals. If it doesn’t, it gets “mentally thrown out” quite easily.

Thirdly, organisations don’t really learn for the sake of learning either. Rather, L&D functions exist to improve and nurture performance. Learning is again only a medium of intervention, and should certainly not be the only solution. Fundamentally, it’s about helping people succeed in their jobs and roles to help the organisation carry out its mission. If we disregard that context, and deliver learning on an abstract level, without addressing the specifics and peculiarities of actually doing it on the job, we’re unlikely to see an impact on performance.

Finally, the big challenge in corporate learning is not in the delivery phase. We can “get people information” just fine. The challenge is in learning transfer. People have to actually retain the knowledge, and then take it back to their jobs and put it into practice. Often, however, we deliver learning on an abstract level and leave it up to the employees to figure out how to put it into practice (and then they don’t). That’s a model deemed to fail.

How can we deliver more contextual learning?

In essence, high context learning requires you to understand your people and organisation. It’s about designing impactful activities that resemble real situations, are applicable to the learners’ jobs and come with opportunities to practice. Therefore, instead of focusing on building content, you should focus on building context. The following activities or questions can get you closer. So, for every learning activity you put out, consider the following.

  • Who is learning this? What do they already know (learning analytics might help here)? How can we relate the activity to what they already know?
  • What are they doing when they’re accessing this learning? How are they accessing it? What do they need?
  • What motivates our learners? How can we align this learning with their aspirations?
  • How does this learning help our people do their jobs better? What kind of barriers might prevent them from applying the learning?
  • How can we build a safe environment to practice the learnt immediately, to ensure that a higher portion of it is retained and transferred in the long term?

As you might see from reading the questions, it’s really about understanding the people. Now, on practical level that might involve use of analytics, interviews or even job shadowing. Also, something important to address (that we even didn’t manage to yet) is the social context. Cultures of teams or business units, influence and power dynamics often come into play especially when introducing transformational learning initiatives.

Final words

Nowadays, we are drowning in content. Learning content libraries and the amount of available resources is greater than ever before. Yet, we have barely started to overcome the old challenges. Learning is still not being retained or applied (or even consumed!) to a great extent. Most of it just seems to go in from one ear and out the other (perhaps ticking a compliance check list item along the way). So, it’s about time to start approaching the problem differently and putting context above content. Less can sometimes be more too.

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