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Focusing on the Learner Experience, Not Courses

L&D professionals are often still order-takers. Employees don’t know how to do something, so organizations use training as a Band-Aid to fix it all. Training solutions offered are often eLearning modules that don’t consider what happens before and after taking the course and don’t provide performance support that would allow the learner to retrieve content at the moment of need. L&D creates a world that doesn’t resemble learners’ everyday lives.

Meaning, if we want to learn something new, we often use YouTube. Let’s say you want to learn how to change the tube in your bicycle tire. We watch a video on YouTube; we try it out. We fail initially because we missed a step. We watch another video, or read up on the topic to see the step-by-step instructions. We try again. We improved our performance but are still not 100% able to finish the job.

We watch another video, pause, and rewind and hit play again for the parts that are a bit tougher to master. And voila, we are able to change the tube in our tire. When we have to repeat this task a couple months down the road, there is a pretty good chance we will have to look up the steps again, because we’ve only mastered this once and haven’t had a chance to repeat the task for a longer period of time.

Our learners are in the exact same boat. Unless they do a task every day, they need learning experiences that they can draw from to improve their performances. Here’s how to create learning experiences that mimic how people teach themselves in real life.

Map out a learner journey.

Instead of building out eLearning courses that learners access once, focus on the learner experience and map out what the learner journey looks like. Think of an onboarding program, for example; the journey doesn’t start the day new hires enter through your front door. It starts the moment they apply for a job. What knowledge can you transfer early on about your organization that will make a difference once new hires are sitting at their desk? Think along the lines of culture and values. You wouldn’t create an eLearning module to tell your applicants about who you are as a company.

Instead, interweave your culture and your values into the overall process through a short video message, email writing, or telephone greetings. Once candidates are hired, you might reiterate your values through a fun exercise such as speed dating (getting a chance to talk to one person from every department in a span of 60 minutes) or an arts and crafts activity (building something that represents the organization’s values). Creating learning experiences that stick helps ensure your values will be remembered more easily.

Create a learning experience for complex topics.

For topics that go deeper, such as the software that your staff is using, leverage different resources that learners can access at the moment of need. Instead of simply giving learners five simulations in which they can practice certain steps in a safe environment, create multiple resources. You could use a short video to explain certain steps at a high level.

Then, learners watch their buddy go through the same steps when they are on the phone with a client. Next, they use a flowchart to follow the steps in a sandbox before they use the software for the first time on a live call. And, of course, they always have the flowchart available, should they need it. On top of that, learners will start creating their own resources by simply asking their peers, writing down notes, and sharing tips and tricks. Try to capture these valuable inputs in a central location such as your intranet or Slack or Microsoft Teams channels.

L&D has to move away from the traditional course mindset toward experiences. Before starting a new project, take the time to think through the touchpoints the learner has with a particular topic and tie it into the workflow instead of taking them away from work and the task at hand.

About the Authors

Bianca Baumann

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