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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How to Optimise Learning Experiences? 3 Advanced Methods

How to optimise learning experiences cover

How to Optimise Learning Experiences? 3 Advanced Methods

Good and effective learning is not just about the content. Rather, it’s the sum of content, user experience and fit-to-purpose that defines the success of a learning experience. Nowadays, as we develop digital learning experiences, we need to pay increasing attention to how everything works. Frankly, there’s a lot of factors to take into consideration. Luckily, the prevalence of digital and web-based tools brings us the capability to optimise learning like never before. Therefore, we summed up three different methods for optimising learning experiences.

1. Using A/B testing to discover the best design or content

If you’ve ever done digital marketing, or UX design, you’re probably familiar with A/B testing. The underlying idea of A/B testing is to try out two versions of a piece of content or design, and measure the response. To optimise a learning experience, we could for instance measure:

  • Whether a text element or video conveys the required information faster
  • Which typeface/colour scheme/structure creates the most positive response
  • Task performance after using immersive simulations vs. a conventional e-learning module
  • Ease of use of navigation and user flow between two different design versions

By comparing different options with each other in live use, we can get a lot of data. This enables us to optimise the learning experience and get a little closer to the best solution. However, while A/B testing is a good tool, use it wisely. You should always make sure you’re only testing one variable at a time. Otherwise, you can’t be certain of the contributing factors.

2. Using web analytics to optimise the learning experience

Just like with A/B testing, if you’ve been involved with marketing, you’re likely familiar with web analytics. Nowadays, as a lot of the learning platforms out there are in fact “websites”, we can leverage web analytics to understand how a particular platform is being used.

The most famous web analytics tool is probably Google Analytics. But it’s not really about the tool itself, but rather how to use the data it collects. Some traditional web analytics data that can be used to optimise learning experiences include:

  • Device information. How many of the learners are using mobile? What about tablets? Desktop?
  • Bounce rates. How many learners don’t go beyond the first page? Where do they exit?
  • Time of usage. When are learners engaging on the platform? Are they learning during the workday or on their free time?
  • Frequency. How many times have your learners visited your platform? Are they coming back?

All of these data points, and many more, help us to further optimise the learning experience. While these types of web analytics are handy, you may also consider xAPI compatible platforms and analytics. The advantage of xAPI is that whereas e.g. Google’s data is largely anonymised, xAPI lets you drill down to the level of individual learners, and all their interactions within the platform.

3. Using heatmaps and user recordings to understand the flow of the learning experience

A handy new tool in the analytics space is the “heatmap”. While these tools collect largely similar type of data to web analytics, they go slightly further. With these types of heatmaps and user recordings, we can find out for instance:

  • The scrolling behaviour of our learners
  • Mouse movements / taps / clicks
  • The “flow” within the page or learning activity

This type of information helps us to further address problem areas, as we’ll know exactly where the learners tend to pause (perhaps there’s an unclear explanation?), where they progress to (does it happen linearly or as intended?) and how they flow through the activity. For instance, you might find out that only 25% of the learners reach the piece of content you spent a lot of time on. In such case, you might want to rework the activity.

Final words

Learning design as a process is becoming much more agile. We can no longer justify developing large amounts of content or designing in a specific way without validating the assumptions with data. By working to optimise learning experiences, we ensure that learners receive the right resources in the right way, which greatly contributes to their learning success. While the above are great methods and tools for optimisation, you can do quite well even with more traditional means, e.g. surveys or focus groups. In the end, it’s all about getting the right data and letting it guide your decisions.

If you’d like to explore more agile or learner-centric ways of designing workplace learning, feel free to drop us a note. Let’s optimise your learning experiences together!

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Branding Your Corporate Learning – 3 Quick Tips for Success

Branding corporate learning - how to create a corporate learning brand

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?

How to deliver personalised learning experiences?

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

Learning Experience Platforms and LMS differences

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 Fundamentals of Great Learning Experience Design

Learning Experience Design

3 Fundamentals of Great Learning Experience Design

Organisations all around face a similar problem: traditional type of eLearning doesn’t really gather interest. Top-down, instructor-centric or content-centric courses don’t really promote engagement, let alone providing actual resources for people to improve their performance. To respond to these challenges, organisations are starting to look for ways to do things better. One area that learning professionals should understand to a great extent is User Experience Design (UXD). While applying the UX practices in the context of instructional design, we’ve come up with something called Learning Experience Design (LXD). While you can call it whatever you wish, we think here are 3 valuable cornerstones of LX that you should keep in mind.

1. LX Design focuses on the learner

The success of corporate learning doesn’t come from merely making information available. Rather, it comes from helping employees adopt new behaviours that enhance performance. Thus, the focus of learning experience design must also be on the learner.

You cannot expect all learners to reach the goal in the same way. The learners also have varying amounts of unique experience and prior context. Hence you should always aim to personalise the learning.

When done at scale, it may sometimes be handy to use tools like learner personas. Personas are highly detailed prototypes or models of learners. These profiles help LX design teams to create experiences that engage and appeal to different types of end users.

2. Usability and sensory experience is important

While understanding what kind of learning is required is incredibly important, it alone is not enough. Rather, it’s imperative that we also understand how the learning is used. The content, platforms and tools we use must all provide good usability. That means that they serve the intended purpose well and help the learners achieve their goals rather than hinder them.

However, the aesthetics are also vital. LX design also focuses on delivering visually pleasing, multi-sensory experiences. This can go as far as defining the tone of instruction, in addition to common elements like visual design of the learning materials or the aesthetics of a learning platform.

3. Learning experience design is never ready

Finally, a worthwhile thing to note about learning experience design is that it’s never ready. Rather, it’s all about constant collection of feedback and data, early testing of ideas, validating them and refining the approach accordingly. Learning content analytics provide a great way of doing this rapidly, seamlessly and at scale.

Especially in workplace learning, it’s important that we constantly observe our learners’ behaviours in the workplace. By understanding what happens in that application phase, we can design the learning experiences to be even better. To do this, LX designers should involve themselves deeply with the business. Likewise, they should be using comprehensive measures to collect data about the learning experiences they provide.

These fundamentals may seem slightly abstract, but overall they provide good guidelines and focal points on learning experience design. As we go along, these concepts will become more and more important. Disregarding the learning experience and simply making information available simply doesn’t work in terms of learning. If you’d like to give LX design a try, but not quite sure how to put it into practice, we can help you create design practices that fit your organisation. Just contact us here.

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Online Learning Accessibility – Practical Tips for Inclusivity

Online learning accessibility

Online Learning Accessibility – Practical Tips for Inclusivity

If there’s a single universal fact about learning, it’s that there’s not a one-size fits all approach to it. Learners come in various shapes and sizes, each with different profiles and personal traits. Yet, as learning professionals, we should strive to provide each of them an equal opportunity to learning experiences. We should recognise that people learn differently – to some it may seem more difficult than others – and design learning accordingly. To facilitate that in the digital space, here are a few quick tips on improving your online learning accessibility.

Online Learning Accessibility Guidelines

For starters, for learning professionals who wish to remain inclusive, there are two general frameworks that you should be aware of. The first is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) which should provide useful even for technology developers. The second important framework is the Universal Design for Learning (UDL). At times, these might feel dated, but there are a lot of good information there. As is common with learning difficulties in general, it’s hard to understand them without practical examples. These frameworks help in that.

For now, let’s focus a bit more on the 3-fold division of the UDL and what it should mean in practice.

Online learning accessibility tip #1: Provide multiple means of representation

Providing multiple means of representation means to give learner different ways of acquiring knowledge and engaging with the learning materials. While nowadays video is one of the more prevalent formats in corporate learning, it may not be suited for everyone. Moreover, whole lot of traditional learning materials come in text format (handbooks, manuals etc.) – again not suitable for everyone. To really provide all your learners with an equal opportunity to succeed, you should strive to provide the resources in as diverse set of formats as possible, e.g. audio, visual, text.

To put online learning accessibility into practice, you might consider the following easy implementations:

  • Providing text transcripts of videos or multimedia
  • Embedding subtitles on videos
  • For long text content, enabling the possibility of listening to an audio version (easy, free and quick to do with text-to-speech tools)

Online learning accessibility tip #2: Provide multiple means of expression

While it’s important to provide equal access to information, it’s equally important to facilitate equal assessment! Wherever there’s learning, there’s usually some type of assessment involved. While in general you should consider more formative assessment methods, these principles apply across the board. Firstly, it’s important to provide varied means of assessment: simple text-based multiple choice questions might be limiting for many. Secondly, it’s important to enable activities different from “final exams” where the learners can use their strengths to demonstrate their learning.

To facilitate online learning accessibility for assessment, here’s a few easy things you can do:

  • Instead of text-based quizzes, incorporate more visual methods like drag-and-drops, flashcards and simulations.
  • Enable users to demonstrate their knowledge in various forms: writing, audio/video recordings or through their daily tasks.
  • Try to provide alternatives to “exam-based” assessment, such as journals, reflections and portfolios.

Online learning accessibility tip #3: Provide multiple means of engagement

While there are countless formats for learning content, engagement isn’t only limited to that. Rather, in terms of accessibility, engagement refers more to the ways of finding, accessing and consuming learning resources. You should promote autonomy and individual choice by letting your audience engage with learning when it best suits them. Group activities can also help to increase engagement. Whichever deliver formats you choose, always strive for high-context and relevant experiences.

Here are a few easy to implement tips on providing multiple means of engagement:

  • Use omnichannel learning to provide a unified experience and increased ease of access across different platforms
  • Use social learning and group activities to build social presence and consequently increase engagement
  • Create a safe learning environment and a modern learning culture where learners don’t fear making mistakes
  • Provide access to instructor even in case of online learning experiences for personalised guidance and assistance

Overall, we should pay much more attention to inclusivity and accessibility in both offline and online learning. Ultimately, it’s really all about finding ways to help our talent reach their full potential the fastest and providing various of ways of getting there.

If you wish to provide better corporate digital learning experiences or need a helping hand in developing or auditing your online learning accessibility, we are happy to give you a hand. Just drop us a note here.

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From Transactions to Learning Journeys – Tips for Great Learning Experiences

Learning journeys - better learning experiences

From Transactions to Learning Journeys – Tips for Great Learning Experiences

While learning happens in many ways, places and times, something we can all agree on that it’s not a singular event. Rather, learning happens over time. However, in the realm of corporate learning, we often resort to one-time events (training session, eLearning course). Employees go through these “transactions” and soon forget most of the learning. In business, time is naturally of the essence and that creates a pressure to get the learning over with fast. After all, when people are learning, they are generally not producing immediate revenue. However, the lack of time should be no excuse to resort to this type of one-off thinking. When putting in a little bit of effort, you can actually provide your employees with much better learning experiences by changing the way you deliver learning and here’s how to do it. Here are tips on going from “learning events” to learning journeys.

Understand your learners’ needs

When designing learning experiences, it’s imperative that you spend time on understanding your audience. Mapping out the learning journey is a good way to get things started. By listing all the various touch points and changing needs, thoughts and feelings of your people, you can get a better understanding on what the optimal set of activities might look like. You can also employ methods such as learner-centric design to ensure personalisation.

Also, you should note that when you run out of content, the learning doesn’t end. A very natural way of reinforcing learning is through performance support: employees consuming job aids and quick knowledge snacks to support their tasks. Thus, you should design the learning journeys with performance support components.

High frequency and high context win

Naturally, the aim of moving to learning journeys is to introduce more frequent touch points. This follows the principles of spaced learning, where increased retention is derived through recurring exposure. As the frequency increases, the bite size must naturally decrease. While learning resources should be concise and to-the-point – just like in microlearning – they should also be of high contextual value. Don’t deliver resources that the learners don’t need, and be careful about it. Use feedback and analytics to help in determining whether you’re delivering the optimal type of resources.

When it comes to technology, mobile learning tends to lend itself quite well for this sort of high frequency, high context delivery. Rather than trying to activate new behaviours, you’re utilising the existing ways of quickly consuming content.

Use data to constantly refine your learning journeys

Finally, a journey-based learning approach really calls for an increased use of data. Since you have vastly more touch points than before, you’ll also be able to collect a lot more learning data. You should use this data to constantly improve the learning experiences. You can analyse what kind of resources or content are working and what are not. Current and future skill gaps become a lot easier to identify as well. Overall, good analytics help you in going back to the first phase – understanding your learners. The better the understanding, the better the learning experiences.

Ultimately, moving from one-off events (transactions) into more comprehensive learning journeys can even help you to save time. With constant, quality exposure you can achieve remarkable improvements in retention and results.

Are you looking to deliver great digital learning experiences but don’t quite know where to start? We can help you in developing a future proof learning strategy. Just start the discussion here.

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Omnichannel Learning – Steps Towards Unified Experiences

Omnichannel learning experiences - unified and seamless

Omnichannel Learning – Steps Towards Unified Experiences

The concept of omnichannel comes from the retail sector, where retailers are striving to provide a seamless, unified and personalised shopping experience across different channels, such as online, mobile and physical stores. Organisations who fail to utilise some of the individual channels or integrate them seamlessly seem to be struggling in business because of low customer engagement. While omnichannel is not much of a buzzword in the learning and development space, we should adopt the same ideology. After all, learning engagement as well as tracking learning across different channels is a challenge for many organisations. Here’s how we could move towards an omnichannel learning approach to tackle these problems.

Omnichannel learning starts with cross-platform functionality

We live in the era of learning apps. For almost every need, there’s an app. On top of that, you have your corporate LXP (or LMS) systems, learning portals, intranets and co-working platforms. The problem is that often these systems are don’t communicate very well with each other. Your learner may complete a learning activity in a dedicated application, but doesn’t in any way reflect in the content that e.g. your LMS might push to him/her. Running multiple platforms easily results in an incredible amount of duplicate work and activities. Furthermore, it tends to hide information in silos and the confines of the platform.

The aim of successful omnichannel learning is to abolish the boundaries of individual platforms. While running a single learning platform for all the learning needs would be ideal from a systems management standpoint, it’s often a non-feasible reality. Hence, when you’re looking at “yet another app” to solve your learning challenges, you should pay attention to the interoperability possibilities with your existing infrastructure. An important aspect of that is the Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) the systems can use to fetch and receive information from each other.

Omnichannel learning should aim for a unified user experience

Another omnichannel feature that may be equally challenging to create is a unified user experience across platforms. If we use a retail analogy, the aim is not only for the mobile app to match the design of the responsive website/web application, but the physical environment (the retail stores) to match it as well. A seamless transition between online and offline will be key to deliver a great user experience and sustain engagement. Interestingly, the online to offline is a particular challenge in learning as well (more on that later).

This area of omnichannel learning is the one where running multiple platforms usually kills the game. However, with a bit of effort on visual- and functional design, we can do quite a lot. Naturally, visual design, colour schemes etc. should match across platforms, as it is a low effort – high return type of situation. In terms of functionality, you’re better off if your applications follow similar logic in terms of accessing and consuming learning. Furthermore, you shouldn’t unreasonably restrict functionalities on mobile platforms, otherwise you may lose a lot of engagement.

How do we collect uniform learning data from all the different channels – even offline?

To, first of all, understand and further develop omnichannel learning experiences, we need comprehensive learning data. As we want to eliminate unnecessary overlaps in delivery, we need to grasp how the different channels work together. While each app or learning tool may very well have its own analytics, they don’t necessarily help the bigger picture. Furthermore, a major challenge is bringing offline (face-to-face) into the mix and collecting data from them. Thus, we need a unified framework of recording all different learning activities, whether mobile, online or classroom-based.

Luckily, we already have the technological answer for the problem – The Experience API (xAPI). The xAPI specification enables us to track and collect uniform data from all learning activities, even offline and pass them onto a single locker of data for analysis. It helps not only in learning analytics, but also enables better understanding of content engagement and learner-centric design.

What about content development for omnichannel?

Finally, content development is an important topic in an omnichannel approach to learning. Naturally, all digital content should be fully responsive, so it can be accessed via a browser on all devices and wrapped into mobile applications for native use. Interoperability and accessibility is imperative, as the concept of omnichannel expands the “mobile learning paradigm” of “anytime, anywhere” to “any content, anytime, anywhere”.

Integrating this mode of operation to offline activities is again the biggest challenge. The approach requires a degree of flexibility from the trainers, coaches and mentors. They need to adapt their classroom content to form a natural continuum to the prior (digital) learning experiences. But thanks to xAPI and learning analytics, they nowadays have the power to understand each learner on a very individual level.

Are you delivering seamless and unified learning experiences across different channels? If you want to move away from siloed learning approaches, we can help. Our advisory services cover both technology implementations and strategic learning consulting. Just contact us.

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Extended Enterprise Learning – Expanding Training Beyond Own Employees

Extended enterprise learning - train your partners, customers and stakeholders

Extended Enterprise Learning – Expanding Training Beyond Own Employees

Another trend that we’re seeing in the training business is that all organisations are rapidly getting involved in the training business. The world where we were only responsible for our own employees is no longer there. Rather, organisations are nowadays also training their customers, partners, freelancers, resellers and sometimes even potential competitors! The term coined for these training activities going beyond the scope of employment is called extended enterprise learning.

So, let’s look at what organisations are doing in this space and also how extended enterprise learning may differ from the traditional in-house L&D.

Should you train your partners?

Absolutely, say many organisations. For instance, most technology companies have training programs for their distributors and resellers. Furthermore, all companies are usually a part of some kind of a supply chain. A lot of companies are also working on extending the enterprise learning to the upstream of their supply chain (suppliers, vendors, etc.). Often this is compliance, but it can also be sustainability, operations or other things depending on the level of cooperation. These training activities generally build towards much better collaboration, as the parties will grow mutual understanding and shared goals.

How about training your customers?

So, providing extended enterprise learning to partners definitely makes sense, but how about customers? Moving from the upstream supply chain to the downstream, is there added value in providing learning for your clients?

Well, many organisations seem to think so. Again, technology companies have been spearheading the change and have built extensive and sometimes impressive customer support programs. They’ve understood that their success comes from the success of their customers. And it’s not just customer support. These organisations often offer certificates that the customers pay for to either support their own business or showcase their expertise. There’s a whole new revenue stream for you!

Recently, we’ve seen many traditional companies entering this space. E.g. utilities companies providing learning resources on leading a sustainable life. Or clothing retailers teaching customers about their products in the context of sustainability, social responsibility and social impact.

Can extended enterprise learning help freelancers, contract workers and temporary staff?

The nature of work is shifting dramatically. Contract work and freelancing is becoming more and more common. The gained flexibility seems to be working for both corporates and the individuals. However, due to their temporary nature, these workers don’t often get access to the same learning as the directly employed folks. The reasons could be compliance, security, physical distance or lack of infrastructure. Yet, these workers would need the training like any others.

In many cases, it’s the underlying learning technology that is at fault. “We can’t let outsiders access our corporate LMS” is a phrase we hear all too often. Many companies with that kind of real limitations or in most cases, emotional barriers have found a way to circumvent the problem. They’ve built or taken on a separate platform to deliver training to their extended enterprise learning audience.

How does extended enterprise learning differ from employee training?

Naturally, training new audiences differs in many ways from that of your own employees. The topics, content and approaches may be different. But one of the most important differentiators is motivation. Whereas employees have to tolerate a lacklustre learning experience, or otherwise they might be out of a job, external stakeholders don’t. Your partners or freelancers, let alone customers, are not going to engage in your learning if it’s not perceived as high quality. They have far better ways to spend their time and more important things to do. As such, relying on the biggest false myth of the learning industry – “build it and they will come” – quickly proves to be a futile strategy. Thus, if you really want to practice extended enterprise learning, you need to do it properly.

And that is not to say you can get away with providing poor quality learning experiences to your own employees. That’s going to have its long-term problems too!

Have you tried extended enterprise learning?Would you like to develop new revenue streams by using your organisation’s know-how and expertise? We can help you develop a great learning offering, just contact us.

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