Learning and development is demonstrably more effective when it puts learners at the center. Learner-centric learning delivers greater engagement, relevance and personalization. But often L&D has been too burdened with the management of learners, leaving it unable to concentrate on the experience of learning. So, how can we shift the focus away from administration and focus on the key ingredient: the learner?
Make learning engaging
L&D has increasingly turned to elearning to address the problem of learner engagement and motivation with some success. Better learning design and more open learning strategies have been employed to give the learner greater control.
Elearning harnesses the power of multimedia. Flat, text-heavy, learning is transformed by powerful images, animations, and real-life video making the content and the message more memorable. The customization of this multi-media content helps reflect the context in which the employees will use what they have learned.
Content that reflects the working environment offers a greater degree of veracity and credibility to L&D. Scenarios and stories that are realistic, relevant, and mimic the situations in which employees are likely to find themselves in helping them learn how to respond when confronted by real events in the workplace.
Gamification makes learning a challenge, motivating employees to learn by their actions. In a gaming environment, learners discover and apply learning for themselves. Gamification also recognizes the importance of online games as an activity that many learners engage in. It’s a familiar environment.
A system of digital badges can be introduced to record and recognize levels of achievement. These badges also have a currency outside the course and can be accepted as part of employees’ regular performance reviews and career progression.
Increasing L&D’s reach
These learner-focused features can then be delivered across platforms and devices so that employees can easily access information on the job, where they need it: at the desk, on the road, out of the office.
Rather than pushing information at employees, you’re allowing them to access just it when they need it. Making learning more accessible means that it’s not just a one-off event that happens every year or 6 months, but instead becomes an incremental and continuous process.
Change L&D’s focus
The use of digital programs and the increased access they offer are only the starting point. Increasingly there’s a realization that we need to go further to deliver learning at the point of need and in a manner that reflects the expectations and experience of modern learners. This means stepping away from the traditional top-down approach to L&D and recognizing the influence of social media and the multiplicity of ways we now search for and access the information we need when we need it.
The focus for L&D should shift from managing to enabling learners. This means affording learners greater control over and more input into their own development. L&D has to provide resources and support on a continuous basis, rather than focus on episodic training events. In terms of outcomes, the emphasis for learning shifts away from certification towards performance. L&D needs to move closer to the working arena and into the workflow.
Deliver on learners’ expectations
In a fast-paced, shifting working environment that characterizes much of modern business experience, there is a greater demand for training. But that learning must be continuous and agile to support employees when they need it, as they perform.
We also need learning that recognizes and reflects the actuality of the way learners access, interact with, and use information today. Consider the way social media, search engines and wikis have delivered unparalleled access to information delivered in a wide variety of formats.
When your employees have all that information accessible on a mobile device, even an engaging elearning course seems not to fit the bill. Yet, even if L&D can’t compete with the volume of resources freely available to learners, it can still provide a valuable role in steering learners towards resources that are relevant and effective. L&D offers an authoritative voice amongst the noise and offers its experience as quality control with recommendations and feedback.
Essentially time-pressed modern learners are looking for information that will help them fill a gap in their knowledge quickly. That information should be easy to locate, digest and implement.
Microlearning is about the provision of resources. Instead of wading through a course to find a nugget of information, that information is broken down into chunks that are searchable, downloadable and available in a variety of formats across devices.
Microlearning also involves the re-use and repurposing of existing content. So, you can break down your courses into smaller, more manageable chunks. You can also quickly add to the repository of resources by updating them without creating a new course.
A microlearning platform allows employees to create their own learning resources that can be shared with others, making better use of the knowledge and experience that already exists within the organization.
Free access to these microlearning resources facilitates the personalization of learning, making it more relevant to learners. If individual learners can access what they need when they need it, L&D is really delivering on learner demand.
The personalization of learning also recognizes where learners are and where they need to get to. Making resources widely accessible allows employees to build their own learner pathways. Instead of placing all learners at the same point on the same track, learning paths acknowledge where individual learners are in terms of knowledge and experience and allow them to chart their own course to where they need to be. And the pathways are flexible, allowing learners to branch off as their career develops and opportunities arise.
Support learners in work: Chatbots
Microlearning and personalization help provide learners with the information they need in the context in which they need it. But greater learner autonomy doesn’t mean the end of L&D’s role. Instead, it requires a strategic shift to move training closer to the workflow and to supporting on-the-job performance.
L&D can adopt the role of enabler, providing resources, systems and processes that deliver vital learning at the point of need. In this, they can make use of AI-powered systems that can be used to mentor learners.
Chatbots, for example, could be deployed to help learners navigate to and surface the information they need. Chatbots can act as a virtual mentor for new hires as they move through the onboarding process. For more experienced employees they can act as a personal assistant delivering notifications, reminders and recommendations. And all the time the chatbot is learning through those interactions so the information it’s delivering is more nuanced, targeted and personalized.
Introduce an LXP
If L&D is to move away from the management of learning and focus more clearly on the process and experience of learning, the introduction of a Learning Experience Platform (LXP) can help.
Taking a leaf in its UX design from social media the LXP focuses not only on what’s needed but how it’s accessed and delivered. LXP accepts a range of content in varying formats: a blog, a weblink, a short video, as well as the more familiar PDF file or elearning course. These resources are chunked, so they can be easily reused, repurposed and bundled together to suit individual learners and their learning paths.
An LXP is a collaborative and social platform that offers learners options and choices. Learners can interrogate the system precisely for what they need to know. LXPs provide Google-grade search engines and chatbots to allow learners to find just what they need when they need it.
In the LXP environment, learning becomes a dialogue and more effective for it. LXPs allow learners to have their own learning profile and to connect with other learners and collaborate with colleagues.
The benefit for L&D and the learner
Placing learners at the center of their learning makes it more effective and relevant. More targeted, contextualized learning aids performance and efficiency. It becomes part of the working environment and is tested and evaluated against real learner demands rather than vague learning outcomes.
Focussing more on learner needs brings L&D’s role into sharper relief. It highlights L&D’s experience in training and allows it to deliver more targeted intervention with better knowledge of what’s working and what isn’t.
A switch to an LXP as a means of delivering and managing learning makes L&D more flexible and helps remove the artificial divide between learning and working. Learning becomes more closely aligned with performance.
With a learner-focused strategy, L&D raises its profile within the organization and the learner becomes the real beneficiary in a learner-focused workplace learning culture.