Change Learning and Development to come out stronger

Sometimes, it takes a massive event with enough velocity and force to shift otherwise rock-solid truths. For us, the Australian Learning and Development industry has been steadfast in its purpose and practices over the past twenty plus years. Now may be the time to change Learning and Development to come out stronger.

“We have always done it this way…”

Many in our industry have been consistent in their approach to embracing the status quo of “This is how we design learning, and this is how we deliver learning. This is how we up-skill people, and this is how we manage training requests.” Often, Learning and Development position themselves as a governance role, where learning artefacts need to be vetted and ‘product-ised’ based on a point-in-time understanding of an existing need. In a traditional sense, Learning and Development operates in a linear organisational context with long-term planning cycles that sees learning events or artefacts being rolled out to the masses, usually in generalised cohorts; and therefore, often designed and delivered as a one-size-fits-all solution to an often non-systematic problem.

Why change Learning and Development?

Strip away longevity of what we believe is true and is the norm and we see that the above model, although dated, still works reasonably well in a routine Business As Usual environment – targeting the masses based on content that is generalised in its nature and often driven primarily from a compliance perspective. Yet this model is extremely flawed due to its rigid nature during times of crisis, or due to changing needs of the customers/learners, evolving systems and organically evolving skills gaps of the people involved. Learning isn’t designed to be controlled by a team that governs the design of it, nor is the delivery of it meant to be based on generalisations around those that are encouraged or forced to consume it.

We believe that organic and user-generated digital content has earned a place in learning and performance management in just about the same scale as it has in people’s personal lives by now.

The case for user-generated learning content

Imagine, for example, Joe the forklift driver recognises the need to correct an unsafe practice he has been observing lately, so he records a short video about his experience and outlines the need to change a behaviour or practice. In this instance, you will have an authentic, real-life learning artefact that learners can relate to. Given the nature of this piece of learning is safety and compliance-related, the role of Learning and Development is to validate the accuracy, and determine the best method of tagging the asset, so it’s able to be quickly found and easily consumed by those who need it. Staging the learning event, following a controlled design and development process poses a far greater cost to the business – a cost which consists of time and effort.

Change Learning and Development from one-size-fits-all to user-generated content

Now imagine you can observe that this particular video is replayed 2-3 times at the minute mark 2:55, by 60% of all video viewers. When you check the video sequence, you see that it is about a stock recording task where a few mistakes were made in the past few weeks that have led to order shortfalls in the supply chain. What would you do with that sort of information?

Enter the era of democratised learning ecosystems

This is what we believe is the real power of “just in time, just enough and just for me” digital learning solutions and the ability to meaningfully analyse learning data. In this smart, job-relevant, immediate, inexpensive, integrated view of organisational learning, if we democratise learning design and development, learners can become the creators of truly authentic learning, based on workplace relevant learning artefacts. Moreover, learning and development teams can become learning analysts and learning curators of performance-critical information, and we can build a new learning ecosystem with practices that democratised learning. This system can be far more fluid and flexible, responsive, truly agile, and therefore, more resistant against adverse impacts of change.

How technology supports the change in Learning and Development

Watch Rodney, Beach, Liberate Learning’s Group Managing Director, explain how modern learning technology aids the changed roles of Learning and Development and learners.

Top tips for eLearning instructional design (2020)

Our instructional design team recently put their heads together to reflect on what has worked well over the years when it comes to designing great digital learning content for our client partners, so today, we want to share our top 5 tips for eLearning instructional design with you.

Considering a diverse learner demographic, and often geographically dispersed workforce, we reflected upon our instructional design approach for our digital learning content, and boiled it down to what we believe to be the top 5 tips (not an exclusive list).

Top tips for eLearning instructional design

1. The power of stories

Storytelling is a powerful way to engage the learner and make the content more authentic, sticky and meaningful. Learners may find it hard to remember a string of important, but seemingly disconnected facts, but if you include the same facts or policy in a relevant story with a peppering of empathy, we find it will stick more easily. 

Storytelling is important for top tips for eLearning instructional design

Do: Include a relatable narrative throughout the learning.

Don’t: Get too carried away with an over detailed backstory as a way to connect with the learner.

2. Know your learner

The better you understand, and more importantly, empathise with the learner, the more likely you will hit the right notes when designing their learning experiences. Put yourself in the learners’ shoes, and always consider their context and experience when designing the learning. For example, consider how a shift-working nurse or a retail assistant with sporadic access to a computer (and likely frequent interruptions) could influence the learning experience in a blended or online session.

Do: Ensure your stories and learning experiences directly relate with the learner cohort and think about ways to support their unique or personalised learning situation.

Don’t: Make wrong assumptions about your learners’ demographics or use terms and descriptions that limit the audience’s relevance.

3. Keep it simple and less is more

On-screen texts in eLearning can be tiring if used too much. Remember, a picture can tell a thousand words and timed learning sequences or animations can encapsulate a complex process or concept in simple and easily digestible learning chunks.  

Keep it simple is one of our top tips for eLearning instructional design

Do: Break things up into chunks and use visuals wherever you can – it’s about the right learning at the right time. 

Don’t: Avoid cramming too much information into a program, course, or a given page/screen and avoid paraphrasing policy (training isn’t designed to replace policy).

4. Start with the end in mind

Take the time to complete a thorough analysis upfront – of the learner, organisation and learning objectives/outcomes. Clearly define the outcomes and use them to identify content to include/exclude. In preparation for a Learning Record Store (or big data platform), consider how you would meaningfully measure the outcomes and individual/business success. 

Do: Have a clear vision of what learning success looks like in terms of measurable behaviour changes by the learner, and design from there.

Don’t: Take the easy path and simply create content based on what is handed to you from the stakeholder – as an instructional designer/L&D advisor, you need to advocate for meaningful learning solutions.

5. Make it relevant AND entertaining

Learning experiences should be enjoyable and intrinsically motivating, so the content itself is not considered boring or a corporate obligation. As an instructional designer/L&D advisor, it is our job to design for both engagement of the mind (not just an interaction) and context-relevant information entertainment (that is still meaningful and educational). This does not mean placing non-topic related mini-games into a course to wake people up; what we mean is creating learning content and workplace relevant challenges that stretch the learners’ mind in an entertaining way, immersing them in the learning experience. 

Do: Design learning pieces that make learners go “Wow, I’m really glad I learnt that!”

Don’t: Trivialise the content using gimmicks or create games that don’t bear direct relevance to the learning.

Want to learn more about Liberate Learning?

Read about how we started and what we are passionate about here.