Learner-Centric Design – Deliver Engaging Learning Experiences

Traditionally, corporate learning has been a rather top-down function: the company defines the right knowledge, benchmarks and learning goal posts. However, in today’s environment, a top-down approach doesn’t meet the requirements of the modern learner. Corporate learners today expect companies to provide personalised and tailored opportunities catering to their specific professional needs. Furthermore, with the current pace of change, a top-down approach is too slow to respond to the constantly evolving needs of the daily business. Moving to a more learner-centric design approach comes with multiple benefits: increased engagement, more self-directedness and cognitive presence. But most importantly, companies can cater to the unique learning needs of their employees and help them to succeed in their jobs. Here are a few cornerstone steps you can take to understand your learners better and provide activities with learner-centric design.

1. Know your learner

The first initial point of failure for learning initiatives is relevance. It’s easy to take a one-size-fits-all approach and roll out of-the-shelf learning activities across the organisation. This leads to overlaps, inefficiency and motivation slump when learners need to complete topics they already know or that are not relevant to their jobs. Thus it’s important to understand who your learners are. Where do they work and what’s their role and seniority? What’s their previous learning history in different subject matter areas? How do they prefer to learn and what are the most effective delivery methods for them?

This type of information is not hard to collect. There’s a lot of easy tools for collecting information, feedback and employee input. Hopefully, you have most of this kind of information recorded in your information systems. Ideally, you are also leveraging learning data to understand your employees better (with e.g. xAPI).

2. Personalise learning activities

Once you have got to know your learner, you should start personalising the learning activities. To excel with learner-centric design, you should also explore different modalities. Some learners may prefer video based content, whereas others require a more collaborative learning activities. Naturally, the most effective method of instruction may vary by the topic. Once you’ve grasped the modalities, you should start personalising for different skill levels and existing competencies. By branching your learning content, you enable competent individuals to skip through certain segments and provide more rudimentary materials to the beginners. You can use historical learning data or pre-activity assessments to map out the existing skill level and competence of the employee and guide them to a “bespoke” batch of learning activities accordingly. This enables them to get learning material of the right difficulty, in the right format, at the right time.

3. Enable self-direction and develop shared commitments to learning

Even with highly personalised learning and great programs, it would be foolish to believe that we can cater to all the learning needs of our employees. There will always be a lot of topics which they would like to learn more about – and you shouldn’t restrict them. Instead of confining the learning to corporate uploaded content in an LMS, let the learners take control and ownership of their own learning. Encourage them to venture out of the traditional space (e.g. the LMS), to look for resources online or subject-matter experts within the organisation. And recognise them for it.

Furthermore, encourage them to share their findings or subject matter with others in the organisation. Social learning helps the employees to update their skills at the speed of the business, something that a top-down approach simply cannot answer to. By shifting to a learner-centric process, where the employees can learn from each other instead of just the trainers, you are developing a shared commitment in learning. The employees grow to understand that their participation and activity matters in making the learning successful. In fact, the employees form a core part of the learning process. They help in sourcing and curating content and engaging and guiding other learners.

4. Use constant feedback for learner-centric design

The final thing we need to acknowledge to be successful in learner-centric design is that no product is perfect at launch. No matter how much analytics we run or how well we know our learners, content always needs iteration. Hence, it’s important to establish a strong culture of feedback across the learning activities – in both ways. Naturally, you’re guiding the learners and their progress with personalised feedback. However, it’s equally important that you’re also collecting feedback from them. This helps you point out and define areas of improvement at both activity and content level. When learning content becomes redundant, the people who apply it in their daily jobs are the first to notice. When the delivery method of a program is not optimal, the learner is the one who suffers first.

To take it further, you can also use feedback to move to a more pragmatic needs-based approach to training needs analysis. Let the learners have a say on defining the needs and learning activities to be provided. This helps to get them the content they truly need, resulting in a natural increase in engagement.

If you’d like to get started with more learner-centric design approaches in your organisations, we can help you in providing personalised content. We can also help you onboard tools for social learning to develop that shared commitment in your workforce. Just contact us

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