Agile L&D – How to Stay Ahead in the Modern World?

The business environment and skills required in the workplace are changing faster than ever. Often, it’s the learning and development teams in organisations that are tasked to keep the organisation’s capability up to date. Unfortunately, we often see such inertia in the learning and development function that responding to changes in the business – let alone doing it rapidly – seems a mission impossible. To constantly deliver value to the business, L&D needs to become agile. To help you start your agile journey, here are three building blocks for agile L&D.

Be smart in building your learning technology stack

Nowadays, technology is something that you cannot escape if you want to run an effective L&D function. However, you shouldn’t just blindly buy up technology to keep up with the latest fads. Naturally, you should always work out your own specific goals, and then find suitable technology, rather than buying tech first and then figuring out what you can and cannot do with it. However, to remain an agile L&D function, you should also look to make sure that the technology you get today can still be useful tomorrow. Here are a few things to look out for.

  • Interoperability. Can the technology be integrated with other systems, that perhaps don’t even exist yet, to pass crucial data and information? Some vendors may integrate only with their own products or their partners’ – or not at all. Don’t paint yourself into a corner by locking yourself to a particular vendor.
  • User experience. Don’t buy into technology that doesn’t have a great user experience. If it doesn’t exist yet, it’s unlikely to magically arrive later on. Professional teams and providers understand that not having a great UX is not an option.
  • Evidence-based learning methods. Business and the world around is changing. However, learning is not. We still learn the same way as before, and the mission of technology is to find the ways to amplify that experience. Thus, you should carefully evaluate the pedagogical expertise of your vendors and the research they’ve put into their products. There’s a lot of false information out there being sold as a good way to learn (learning styles are a good example).

Agile L&D is data-driven and proactive

If you’re still doing training needs analysis or assessment once a year or bi-annually, you’re already lagging behind. Responding to real-time business problems through learning interventions requires real-time data. At any point in time, you should be able to grasp the organisational competency and skills level without conducting additional assessment. This naturally requires capabilities for collecting data, and conducting data-driven training needs analysis. But it’s also about the mindset.

On the mindset level, you need to face the fact that you can no longer plan a year ahead. Of course, long-term strategy remains important, but it’s unlikely that the learning interventions you plan today would be as effective a year from now. So it’s about getting into the heat of the moment, operating within the business rather than from the outside. Proactively assessing and spotting skills gaps through learning analytics as well as rapidly evaluating the impact of your interventions should be standard practice.

Designing learning at the speed of business

Another area where agile L&D can really shine is learning design. Traditionally, you would identify a learning need, develop activities, programs or materials, fine-tune them, then roll them out and hope that people take up on them. The process can easily take several months, but the learning is always needed yesterday. Additionally, there’s always uncertainty whether the end product will be “liked” or taken up on by the employees. The level of uncertainty combined with long development times is a combination simply too slow and inflexible to support a modern business.

Agile L&D practitioners, on the other hand, are comfortable with “beta-versions”. They roll out activities and learning experiences rapidly, constantly collecting data, assessing, iterating and refining. They also switch old instructional design methods to design thinking and service design. Thus, they are able to design and deliver much more impactful learning experiences more rapidly. By setting their focus on the people and how to help them perform better, agile L&D practitioners enable themselves to work at the speed of the business and provide value with their learning interventions.

Final words

Overall, learning and development as a function is facing a challenge. Business leaders are often not confident in the function’s ability to deliver. We have to adopt new technologies, use them smartly, make decisions based on data instead of guesses and learn to operate at the speed of the business, serving business goals rather than “learning objectives”. To actually manage this, more agile L&D approaches are definitely needed and have proven to be valuable. Naturally, change is always difficult and painful. But it may help to stay agile even when adopting agile: take small steps and learn and improve as you go. While the three building blocks presented only scratch the surface, they do provide a good starting point for building the L&D function of the future on. And if you need help, you can always contact us and we can coach your L&D towards more agility.

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Branding Corporate Learning – 3 Quick Tips for Success

Employees nowadays expect more and more personalised company-provided learning experiences. They want activities that are tailored to them, rather than just access to no-name depositories of non-integrated content. This is where branding can play a big part. By branding your corporate learning, you can communicate and showcase to your learners that you value them. Furthermore, a good corporate learning brand can also improve engagement. So, here are three quick tips on how you can create a learning brand for your organisation.

1. Invest in your visual design

Visual design is incredibly important. Familiar designs not only create a feeling of safety, but they also help us to associate to a brand. Thus, investing in your visual design across the board is incredibly important. For instance, all your online learning platforms should carry the colours and signs of your brand. And no, just changing a logo on a platform is not enough, but rather you should look into a variety of things. Here are a few visual design pointers to consider when branding corporate learning.

  • Using consistent fonts throughout all text elements
  • Sticking to the brand colour template in everything. The colour palette should be wide enough to not make everything look the same, but also constricted enough to avoid creating a blur.
  • Using pictures of your organisation, people and locations instead of stock photos. If you don’t have any, get a photographer come over for a half-day, it won’t set you back much!
  • Using your logos, icons and company sigils consistently and holistically

2. Make it about the people and culture

There are two common denominators for great learning brands: people and culture. Whatever corporate learning you do, it should always be about the people. By helping them succeed and go forward, you’re creating value and building brand equity. Likewise, learning requires culture. Not only should you focus on building a learning culture, but your corporate learning brand should embed your company’s culture – otherwise it may seem distant, or at worst, pretentious. Furthermore, creating a feeling of social presence and togetherness helps not only in learning, but also adding to the company culture. Here are a few good practices to consider.

  • Give your people a voice – let them become active creators instead of passive participants
  • Highlight the successes of your people and let them become your brand ambassadors
  • Embed company values as well as cultural artefacts, “inside jokes” etc. in your learning experiences – don’t be afraid to have a little fun!

3. Communicate purpose

Like Simon Sinek says, start with the why. Communicating purpose is one of the most important, however often overlooked part of learning. Often, we just assume that our employees understand why they should engage in learning. But in reality, that’s not always the case. When branding corporate learning, you need to focus on making the case to your people. Why should they engage with your learning experiences? How does it help them in their jobs, careers or personal lives? Why is detrimental to the success of the company? If you answer these kind of questions well and upfront, you’re likely to see a higher uptake with your learning brand. Some practical things organisations have undertaken.

  • Short videos by senior leadership to communicate the importance of any particular training
  • Testimonials from employees who have participated before and benefitted from it
  • Clearly communicated, personalised goal posts, e.g. “this training will prepare your for a promotion” or “by learning this, you enable a lateral move to another team”.

Final words

There’s great value in creating a good corporate learning brand. A great brand promotes culture, creates a shared sense of purpose and enables people to take ownership of their learning. Like most good brands nowadays, the focus is not on the “product” but the people and how the brand aligns with the goals of the the individual. So, put your people first, be consistent, communicate well and deliver on your brand promises and you’re up for good things. And if you need help along the way, don’t hesitate to shoot us a message. We’re happy to help.

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How to Deliver Personalised Learning Experiences?

We have moved on to an era of personalization. One size no longer fits all (well, it never did…) and we’ve realized that. In our daily lives, everything is getting more and more personalized. And that’s increasingly the direction in the sphere of professional and corporate learning as well. While people are struggling with corporate training due to the lack of relevance and meaningfulness, they have also got access to many consumer grade learning services that offer highly personalised experiences. Having seen the greener pastures, people are nowadays looking to receive similar personalised opportunities in the workplace as well.

This naturally has become a challenge for corporate L&D teams as well, as delivering personalised learning experiences requires more effort than the one size fits all – approach. However, it’s not just a burden, as investing the effort required generally results in higher learner engagement and better results.

So, how should we go about all this? Here are a few fundamental concepts to consider for delivering effective personalised learning.

Personalised learning experiences should give control to the learners

Traditionally, corporate training and learning follows a top-down approach. There’s often a single, highly linear way of progressing through a course. Furthermore, there’s a tendency to pack simply too much content into learning activities to ensure there’s something for everyone. But none of this really works.

Rather, the learner should have much higher control on the what, how, when and where of the learning experience. Content should be personalised based on data, while providing omnichannel access to it. Furthermore, learning experiences should be “unrestricted” and non-linear, enabling employees to fill their knowledge gaps as they need.

Now, let’s look at a few important things in more detail and how to implement them.  

Let everyone learn at their own speed

We all learn slightly differently. As our experiences and prior exposure to topics varies by a lot, different individuals require different times to master a particular topic. While providing some kind of a time framework for learning progress is probably required, you shouldn’t control it too much. Let learners progress at speeds they are comfortable with, and provide them with the support they may need. After all, all jobs are different too and everyone doesn’t have the same time to commit to learning.

Stop pushing, focus on pulling

Mandatory is a dreadful word. Psychologically, making learning mandatory is not necessarily a good option. Unless the learning is truly great, and matches the needs and context of the employees perfectly, it’s likely that the employees feel you’re wasting their time. Hence, the learners don’t really learn and the L&D doesn’t get results.

Instead of ‘pushing’ content, organisations should focus on ‘pulling’ the learners to it. By making relevant resources available and known through data analytics, machine learning and recommendations, you’re putting the initiative on the learner. Thus, the uptake is of higher quality, due to the existing intrinsic motivation for the topic. By enabling choice, learning tends to also become more self-regulated, autonomous and continuous. It’s no longer a nuisance, but rather a meaningful medium of support for both the short and long term goals of the employees.

Align learning with employees’ objectives

Like previously mentioned, most of corporate learning fails because of lack of relevance. Employees don’t see the value in the training or realistic ways of implementing it at the workplace. Thus, there can be value in letting employees set their own learning objectives. Setting personal learning goals fosters ownership and responsibility. Furthermore, it also enables multiple definitions of success, instead of just the one “defined by the corporate”. After all, we learn for different reasons as well. Some are learning to climb the career ladder, some to enable lateral moves and some just to stay competent and up-to-date.

As you let the employees set their own objectives, you can also offer them personalised learning paths. People with different goals probably need different types of content and resources to tap into.

How does technology help in delivering personalised learning experiences?

While you can do a lot of the above even without technology, it certainly helps. Different learning technologies help to streamline the whole personalised learning experience delivery process. Advanced data capabilities available today help to ensure that the approach remains scalable, and minimal manual intervention is needed.

The leading platforms out there provide capabilities for curating personalised learning paths. They also provide ways of collecting learning data on an individual level. Connecting this with performance data gives an unparalleled picture of the individual’s learning and resulting effects in performance.

Final words

Personalised learning is not just a gimmick, but rather a topic requiring careful explorations. It not only helps to satisfy the demands of employees, but ultimately has the power to bring corporate learning activities to a whole new level of relevance and context, and consequently, results. So, start looking at your workforce as individuals with varying needs, rather than as grey mass represented by numbers on an excel file. And if you need help in that, or just someone to kick you in the right direction, we can help. Just contact us here.

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How to Use Chatbots in Corporate Learning?

In today’s efficiency-driven business environment, organisations are looking to automate whatever functions they can. Consequently, corporate learning and development teams also face similar pressure to do more with less. Hence, we’ve seen a surge in both AI technologies and robotic process automation (RPA). One particular technology that has become highly popular is the chatbot. While chatbots don’t have to be artificially intelligent, most of them are. Powered by machine learning functions, these bots have the capability to learn from all interactions and refine their output accordingly.

But what are chatbots in corporate learning good for? Here are 3 ideas for delivering better learning experiences with the help of our virtual friends.

Using chatbots to reduce administrative workload

To enable effective learning, it’s important that an organization has a good learning support infrastructure in place. From answering learners’ queries about topics to technical assistance with digital learning platforms, there’s a lot to take care of. Often, these functions are neglected or are not capable of handling queries rapidly enough.

Bring in the bots. A corporate learning chatbot is a great way to handle most of this workload. A trained chatbot can easily answer most of the queries your learners come up with. Furthermore, it can also help on things like finding and locating learning content from within company systems and learning portals. It can also help to learners to enrol in relevant activities to them by presenting data-driven recommendations.

Using chatbots for onboarding and HR-related queries

Similar to the previously mentioned functions, organisations can also use corporate learning chatbots for onboarding and HR related purposes. Traditionally, onboarding is a process where organisations dump all the information they can assemble on their new employees. A lot of it might be totally irrelevant, and most of it will definitely be forgotten by the time the onboarding is over. So, how about delivering slightly smarter onboarding with a bot?

Instead of the usual information dumping, which results in a cognitive overload, a chatbot could deliver this information much more seamlessly – and at the point of need. Whenever a new employee encounters a problem, they could simply consult the chatbot. Whether it’s HR policies, compensation and benefits or even simpler questions like where the office water cooler is located, the bot can answer it all. Quite frankly, this type of virtual personal assistant could be of use to everyone, not just the new joiners!

Using chatbots in workflow learning

While the other two use cases concern primarily administrative functions, bots do have applications in the actual learning as well. Currently, a lot of the traditional type of corporate learning is becoming obsolete. Without the capability to demonstrate performance improvements, employers are less and less willing to lend their employees to sit through hours or even days of learning activities. Thus, learning is increasingly going into the workflow and that’s where chatbots are at their natural habitat.

Generally speaking, the most effective learning experiences are those where you can apply the newly learnt immediately. With just-in-time learning happening in the flow of work, that’s a natural occurrence. We query information rapidly, get information and execute. Hence, the memory effect generated is a much more significant one. Furthermore, this is a naturally occurring behaviour already. Without dedicated learning chatbots, we would do the same with our mobile phones on platforms like Google, Youtube or Quora.

However, the competitive advantage of the learning chatbot in workflow learning is the ability to deliver curated and highly contextual answers. When you do a google search, you’ll get millions of hits. But a company chatbot is able to tell you a specific way that the particular task should be executed. The answers may of course be included in your formal learning materials, but the problem is that employees can’t generally access them seamlessly enough. This type of chatbot-powered performance support resource is unmatched in accuracy, speed, scalability and user experience.

Final words

Overall, chatbots are a great tool to support many different functions in corporate learning. Firstly, the performance improvement possibilities and improved efficiency alone are compelling, but the bots are also a powerful source of data. For instance, analysing the interactions between your bot and employees could provide valuable input for a truly data-driven training needs analysis.

However, the best thing about chatbots is that they are flexible. Generally, chatbots can be implemented on any platform, as you’ll just need to feed them data. This makes them a low-entry-barrier addition even if you’re running expensive legacy learning systems. If you’d like to explore the possibilities chatbots or other digital learning solutions offer, we are happy to arrange a discussion. Just contact us here.

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Learning Experience Platforms (LXP) vs LMSs – What’s the Difference?

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a new product category emerge in the HR technology market. With the predicament that learning management systems (LMS) have not been very successful in delivering learning impact, the Learning Experience Platforms (LXP) have emerged to fill a need. However, from corporate L&D’s point of view, these two categories might seem very similar (an interesting observation on that later!). To clear some of the ambiguity, we decided to write up our own view on the differences between the two. We’ll also tie those differences back to potential use cases, depending on the state of your L&D ecosystem.

What is a learning experience platform?

First, however, let’s quickly define what the term means. In our book, LXPs constitute personalised open online environments with the capability to aggregate resources across a variety of sources to facilitate both formal and informal learning. They are also social platforms, leveraging on the employees’ intrinsic motivation and autonomous learning rather than a top-down “push” approach.

How are LXPs different from LMSs?

Although all the definitions of the product categories are slightly ambiguous, there are a few distinguishable key characteristics with the two.

LXP

  • Employee-driven
  • Open system, can accommodate outside resources
  • Personalised, adaptive learning paths powered by recommendation algorithms and AI
  • Enable participation and contribution by employees
  • Often enables curation-focused content strategy

LMS

  • Administration-driven
  • Closed system, difficulties in accommodating outside content
  • Defined, often linear and limited learning paths
  • Managed by the L&D, with little freedom for users to share their own knowledge and expertise
  • Often requires design-heave content strategy

Whereas the real appealing use cases of LMS may be limited to compliance training, LXPs enable a more holistic approach. These platform providers often invest heavily into user experience, which nowadays can be a detrimental factor in adoption. Furthermore, the platforms are much more learner-centric, focusing on the employee’s individual needs and learning requirements. This type of personalisation often helps to engage the users beyond the scope of mandatory training. Finally, LXPs also enable more curation (rather than design) focused approach to content, which enables L&D teams to do more with less.

Are LXPs going to replace LMSs?

Yes and no. While the problems of traditional (low engagement, difficult to manage) LMS systems are clear, they are still going to be around for a while. However, the advent of the LX platforms should be a wake-up call for many professionals. User experience, personalisation and learner-centricity are things that you can’t just brush off. These are, in fact, things that you should require even from your LMS providers.

However, LXPs don’t always allow for crucial things such instructors/trainers/coaches tracking, managing and assessing employees. At the moment, the offering for situations requiring complex set of business rules (certifications, expirations) is not quite there yet (although some companies are coming up with good solutions). Furthermore, as learning is going more into the workflow, it’s questionable whether these types of systems are the best to be deployed at such level.

Thus, the LXP often doesn’t yet replace the LMS but rather works in conjunction with it, e.g. by pulling internal content to the platform and passing on data. Some vendors are adding more LMS like features to their products (which is sometimes ironic, as the data capabilities of these platforms have often been far better than those of LMSs) to overcome the need to run multiple systems. For organisations who are making their first learning technology investments, it might actually make sense to look at some of the LXP providers who also deliver the required features for administering e.g. traditional classroom training activities.

Final thoughts

Overall, the direction of the market is clear. All the vendors have recognised the needs for more open systems and better user experiences. The inertia and the need to integrate with legacy systems will slow down some of the bigger players, whereas totally new entrants are able to develop truly innovative solutions from scratch. Besides the technology aspect, the marketing and sales departments of pretty much every vendor out there have taken up on the language. Unfortunately, we also see many companies who over-promise a fair bit (e.g. by introducing a barebone LMS with modernised UX as an “LXP”). Thus, a potential buyer needs to be careful when evaluating the different offering. So, vet the technologies carefully, and don’t buy all the promises of better tomorrow at face value.

If you think you need help vetting or selecting learning technologies, we are happy to help. Our experience with technology vendors enables us to cut through the clutter and find what works for your organisation. Just contact us here.

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3 Quick Tips on Facilitating Discovery Learning

Professional learning is more important than ever, thanks to the speed of change in the business environment. However, simple delivery and recall of facts and information is not enough. Rather, it’s how we and our employees use information to solve problems within our environment that matters. To encourage a more problem-solving approach to professional L&D, discovery learning might be worth looking into. Here are 3 quick tips on how to incorporate discovery-based elements in your learning design.

1. Steer away from the mundane multiple choice assessment

Most of traditional eLearning is the same. You start with a deck of material and end with a multiple choice quiz meant to test your learning. While a battery of multiple choice questions doesn’t actually even fill that purpose, and you should consider more formative assessment methods, organisations use them as they are the cheapest evaluation method. For learning purposes, a simple change to a discovery learning approach, e.g. open-ended questions can go a long way. Instead of spoon-feeding information and asking mundane questions just for the sake of asking them, use that time wisely. Open-ended questions activate thinking and self-reflection. Furthermore, solving something oneself leaves a more lasting memory trace than simply ‘choosing the right answer’.

You can also add some flavour into these types of questions by introducing social elements and turning the thing into a discussion. Social tools are also beneficial in bringing out those real-world experiences, which further facilitates cognitive processes and assigning meaning to the content. And don’t worry, as an evaluator, you don’t have to manually read everything either. Rather, some of the more advanced tools out there deploy semantic and keyword analysis to determine the “value” of the answers.

2. Discovery learning is moving from known to the unknown

We all are more comfortable with things we are familiar with. The same goes for learning. When designing learning experiences, you should aim to identify the already familiar concepts and ideas and start with them. From there on, you can then gradually introduce more advanced or difficult topics. Serving a baseline of information before inviting the learners solve problems and practice on their own helps to alleviate some of the pressure. However, it’s important that you always create and maintain a safe environment for the learners to discover, practice and make mistakes.

Technology can also assist in the process. For instance, you can use adaptive learning to offer the right content at the right time (whether in terms of difficulty, etc.). Recommendation engines and platforms using them can also prove handy in making more of the ‘unknown’ available.

3. Creating feedback systems is vital for discovery learning to work

Naturally, discovery learning relies on involvement, engagement and participation. As a method, it’s not nearly as “standardised” as some of the other methods, allowing for people to achieve the desired outcomes in their own personal way. For such a system to work, it’s vital that you create good feedback processes to support the learning experience.

Good methods of integrating continuous feedback can vary depending on the need. For instance, collaborative learning and peer-to-peer activities provide a feedback network without adding to the workload of the L&D team. You should also consider digital coaching and the possibilities it brings for 1-on-1 feedback. If coaching is too resource intensive, instructor-led facilitation might be a good alternative for providing the required support.

All in all, a discovery learning approach not only helps to create a lasting learning impact, but also prepares the learners for the future. In a world where critical thinking, problem solving and creativity are some of the most sought after skills, you’re hitting two birds with one stone! And if you think you need help in future proofing your learning strategy, we’re happy to help and discuss potential methods in more detail. Just contact us here.

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Why You Should Forget Learning Styles

Sometimes the field of education and learning – fuelled by the businesses behind it – may take unwanted turns that end up having long lasting consequences. When it comes to learning as a science, there’s quite a bit of information out there. Most of its good; research- and evidence-based information about learning that we as corporate learning professionals can leverage. However, occasionally you end up with the bad apple. One of the most profound bad apples in the learning space within the past years is the concept of learning styles.

Now we are all familiar with the theorem. People have different preferences for learning (e.g. visual, verbal etc.) and by catering to those, we can improve learning results. Sounds logical doesn’t it? It may, yes. Unfortunately, the idea is totally false (if you don’t take our word for it, here’s a rather recent well-written piece).

Learning styles and preferences have been researched extensively over the past decades. No reputable and well-designed research has been able to prove that there’s a positive correlation between catering to one’s learning style preferences and learning results. In simple terms: “learning styles” don’t work. As a matter of fact, they don’t even exist.

Or actually, they do for some entities, and that’s a problem. Several organisations have adopted the concept of learning styles. They’ve developed big businesses on “assessing your learning style” and then catering to those self-reported preferences. The approach has not been proven to work in a properly designed and repeatable review. Yet, it’s easy to sell and make money with, because we intuitively buy into the idea. It sounds logical, and it also helps to shift the blame to something else (“oh it wasn’t really the right style of learning for me, that’s why it didn’t work…”).

What should organisations do then?

Corporate learning & development is a field that tends to easily pursue fads, as long as they’re presented by a perceived authority. Compared to the education field, there may not be qualified educational and pedagogical experts even working within the function. And if there are, they might have been even taught myths like learning styles as a “truth” over the course of their formal education (e.g. qualification on instructional design or training). Whatever the case, you will be wasting a lot of resources in assessments and design efforts that won’t pay off if you take up on this myth.

Thus, you should be very cautious if you hear someone in your organisation talking about learning styles. Furthermore, hearing that from a vendor or a service provider should be a major red flag. It does strongly indicate that they haven’t really done their research. Or alternatively, they’re knowingly selling falsehoods. If you want to make an impact with your learning, you should focus on evidence-based methods. Looking into cognitive science in learning and its findings on e.g. multi-modality may also prove helpful. But the important thing is to forget the learning styles nonsense right away.

If you’d like to discuss learning strategies with real impact, feel free to contact us. We advise organisations on organisational learning and help to transform L&D into the digital age. You can contact us here.

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How to Use MOOCs in Workplace Learning?

Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, have been a major driving force in the online education market development. These offerings have enables unparalleled access to education for many. More and more providers of this type of online education are emerging every day. Overall, the market is so huge. There doesn’t seem to be a learning topic that you wouldn’t find a MOOC for. While these learning offerings come with their own challenges, it seems reasonable for professional organisations to at least explore possible use cases. So, this article will detail how to make the most out of using MOOCs in workplace learning. But first, let’s look at some of the challenges.

Challenges with MOOCs

In the context of corporate learning, MOOCs present a few challenges that hinder their implementation and impact.

  • MOOCs are one-size-fits-all rather than personalised experiences
  • They alone don’t address specific, contextual business problems
  • The style of learning is mostly formal and long-form

Now, these challenges are real and they may seem dreadful. However, we can solve, at least to an extent, all of them. Let’s take a closer look.

How to personalise MOOC learning experiences?

MOOCs initially started out as a medium for universities to transfer their offering online. Universities, by default, teach us abstract thinking, concepts and wider skill sets through standardised curriculums. The learning is a lengthy process (many years), and there’s fairly little personalisation within the chosen study topics and course offerings. In organisations, however, people (and the business!) demand faster and more relevant learning. For both, personalisation of learning is very important. While it might be unlikely that the MOOC provider lets you re-engineer their content, there are still a few things that you can do.

For instance, you could address the relevance problem by using your internal learning platform to collect data and recommend relevant MOOCs based on that. E.g. by completing some internal training on UX design, you can give your learners the option to take up a MOOC on the subject, in case they develop an interest for the topic and wish to know more. Another way to personalise could be based on perceived difficulty. For instance, you could require employees to complete specific learning paths or jump on the career ladder before offering them particular MOOCs. This will also help you on the cost side, since providing everything for everyone is just unfeasible for the business.

How to make MOOCs relevant to the business?

Another problem, also related to personalisation, is that MOOCs don’t address specific business problems – the very thing modern L&D should do. In organisations, we are not learning for the sake of learning per se. Rather, we are trying to solve business problems by evoking behavioural change initiated by learning. On this mission, another level of personalisation of learning is required. Just delivering information and knowledge (what MOOCs do quite well) really falls short in providing the context and practical applications by which to apply the newly learnt in the workplace. Your people can learn all they want, but if they don’t bring that back to the workplace and change their behaviours, your corporate learning is a waste of money.

So, how do we solve this? This does require a bit of design efforts. However, a good goal would be to view MOOCs as resources to tap into, and then design an organisational learning approach for making sure the learnt gets transferred to the workplace. It’s important to bridge the gap between the “abstract” level of learning and what the organisation needs. Often, this is just communication. Hence, you should make clear why a particular MOOC is offered and how the learning outcomes from that are intended to support the business. Further, you should always be specific in outlining the expectations after the fact. Finally, the real results can be evaluated with learning analytics, comparing learning results to performance data.

Refrain from using MOOCs where they don’t work

As mentioned, MOOCs mostly represent a long-form, formal approach to learning. And in that capacity, they work quite well. However, you shouldn’t rely on them for most of the other needs. According to the 70:20:10 framework, only a small part of workplace learning takes place formally. Even though some MOOCs do incorporate social elements, that ‘social’ is not contextual to your organisation. While that ‘social’ certainly helps to facilitate the learning process, you’re not transferring knowledge within your own organisation by offering MOOCs. Hence, for internal knowledge transfer, mentoring and coaching, you should look for other alternatives.

Moreover, MOOCs are not experiential either. Rather, they are quite the opposite – learning often abstract concepts at a distance, without exposure to a practical environment. As learning is increasingly moving into the flow of work, this “70” becomes perhaps the most crucial thing to get right. That type of workflow learning is much more about just-in-time, on-demand performance support rather than traditional long-form education.

Final words

Overall, MOOCs are a great addition to the workplace learning mix. They enable us to offer high quality content on topics that we cannot justify designing learning experiences for ourselves. As MOOCs are often certified by accredited institutions, offering them can also provide an incentive for your staff to stay with you, as they’re also adding to their own personal learning portfolio. Nowadays, some more sophisticated internal learning platforms also enable you to curate, offer and recommend MOOCs within your own system, which helps you to provide the learning where it is needed.

Fundamentally, the use of MOOCs is similar to designing any other kind of learning. It’s about finding the ways and developing a strategy for using the available resources where they best fit. And remember, if you need help with that, or with your learning strategy overall, we are here to help. Just contact us.

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4 Tips for Modern Instructional Design

Similar to corporate learning, instructional design (ID) is a field that is undergoing a bit of a transformation. While corporates are shifting their efforts into workflow learning and performance impact, instructional designers will see their roles shift as well. This shift is multi-faceted and will require practitioners to learn new skills, adopt new methods and expand their overall role in the organisation. To provide some guidance, here are 4 tips for modern instructional design that you should look into.

1. There are no more fixed models or approaches

Instructional design is a field full of frameworks and models (e.g. Gagne’s nine stages, ADDIE, etc.). However, it’s the overuse of these types of models and frameworks that has pushed the ID practitioners so far away from the business. The problems are multifaceted. On one hand, these models don’t really work with the speed of the business. On the other hand, they produce very boring and homogeneous type of learning. Design is never absolute, but always relative. Thus, instead of pushing subject matter through different dated models, modern instructional designers should focus on solving the business problems at the speed of the business through iterative development and practical problem solving.

2. Instructional Design’s focus is no longer just on materials

A bad system kills good material – and vice versa. If instructional designers want to produce impactful learning experiences, they can no longer focus on just the material. Even the best and most beautifully designed material will never work if it has to be accessed through a system with bad user experience. Hence, ID practitioners have to start working on a higher level, focusing on the learning experience as a whole. User experience is no longer a nice-to-have, but it’s perhaps the most important thing. Additionally, the profession will likely incorporate more and more elements of service design into its normal workflow.

3. IDs should start with the end in mind, not the design

As important as design is, it should never be the starting point. As corporate learning becomes increasingly performance-focused, the goal of the ID work will be to evoke the needed behavioural change in the organisation, not just convey knowledge. We often see unnecessary complexity just because the designer had discovered “a new cool thing” that they felt compelled to incorporate everywhere. No one today has time for that. To really understand the behaviours in the organisation and how to deliver performance impact, instructional designers will be required to align much more closely within the business. ID practitioners have to be ready to deliver solutions also outside of the traditional scope of their jobs- After all, training is rarely the right answer to a business problem. Perhaps one day the ID team will even share the same KPIs as the operations!

4. Instructional designers need to grasp new tech but not get fixated on it

The technology landscape around instructional design is developing very fast. Over the last decade, we’ve seen tools such as videos, animations, simulations, AR, VR and many more emerge. It’s more important than ever that ID professionals know these tools. These are the mediums your learners have and will get used to as consumers. And you shouldn’t expect them to tone down their expectations for your corporate learning. However, it’s again important not to get carried away with one particular technology. A good example of “getting carried away” would be the slide-based eLearning authoring tools and their prevalence. While they’re good tools, many instructional designers and learning professionals seem to know nothing else. The worrying moment comes when we start measuring learning projects in ‘number of slides’ (oops, that might have already happened…). Once again, it’s thus important to keep the end in mind and select the technology based on that.

Overall, corporate instructional design has to become more integrated with the business – or face extinction. The roles within the function will become broader and perhaps represent more “service design for learning”. On a professional level, there are great opportunities for individuals who get this right. Remember, if you need help in developing these modern instructional design capabilities in your organisation, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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5 Lessons from Cognitive Science for Corporate Learning

Design matters. That’s true for many things, corporate learning being one of them. However, the research foundations of learning design can sometimes seem ambiguous. There’s also a lot of invalid information and “myths” (e.g. “learning styles”) floating around. While there’s a lot of talk about neuroscience, that’s still too new of a field for us to comprehend. Therefore, it might be useful to remind ourselves of the things we already do know. Thus, here are 5 lessons from cognitive science for corporate learning design.

1. Make connections with the learners’ prior experience and knowledge

First of all, it’s important that we enable the brain to form the new connections required for learning. Thus, we should guide the learners into putting the newly learnt into context with what they already know. But it’s also possible to flip that around. With a proper use of learning analytics, we can understand that knowledge and those experiences beforehand, and then design the learning accordingly. These types of personalised learning experiences come naturally with a higher contextual value and effect.

2. Facilitate the whole cycle of learning

The second lesson from cognitive science for corporate learning is that we should always facilitate the full cycle of learning: absorbing information, active testing, reflection and creation. Hence, learning must not be just passive slide decks and multiple choice questions. Rather, we should be encouraging and inviting reflection at all stages. We’d also probably be better off ditching some of the mundane multiple choice trivia questions for something a bit more intellectually stimulating. Finally, we should ensure there are opportunities to ‘create’ and put the newly learnt into practice. With the modern type of learning in the workflow, that already happens more naturally, but not all learning can take place like that.

3. Put your attention on attention

In cognitive science, attention as a cognitive process acts as a prerequisite for everything else. Without attention there can be no perception, learning etc. Thus, it’s important that we gain and hold our learners’ attention, and also help to refocus it where necessary. This is what the discussion about learning engagement is all about. To combat the loss of attention, you should design learning that is interactive and interesting. To achieve that, you could use mediums like animations, interactive videos or simulations and take advantage of methods like storytelling. You should also make sure your learning materials direct the learner adequately on where to focus.

4. Enable social engagement and interaction

However, that one type of engagement is probably not enough. Rather, you should also find ways to incorporate social engagement in your learning design. Discussions, sharing, mimicking and shared experiences are all integral components of the learning process. In a classroom setting, enabling these means shifting the focus from the trainer to the learners. In a digital environment, it means shifting focus from delivered content to co-created information. Overall, there are a lot of tools out there to facilitate this type of interactivity and social presence in learning. Look into it!

5. Engage a maximum number of senses – start with visual

While the notion of learning styles has largely been proven false, there are some things that seem to hold true when it comes to learning design. Research in cognitive science and aligned fields indicates that multi-sensory learning improves efficacy. The more senses you can activate, the better the learning results – roughly speaking. Furthermore, it seems that the visual element is of great significance. Thus, you should look into many more mediums than just conventional classroom instruction or those “eLearning slide decks”. You can start small and gradually make your learning experiences more visual and then go on as far as activating touch and motion with e.g. augmented reality.

Overall, we should pay more attention to cognitive science in corporate learning. By understanding what makes learning work, we already get so much closer to designing great learning experiences. And remember, if you think you might need help in any of this, we’re here for you. Just drop us a note.

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