“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." (Thomas Edison)
Over time, we L&D professionals accumulate significant amounts of legacy content. We know this content needs periodic updating. The updating process may initially seem like a drag. But it can also be seen as an opportunity to update the material to deliver the engaging training or high-impact eLearning experiences our customers are seeking.
We can take advantage of the requirement to update legacy or outdated eLearning content to convert the format so as to help change learner behaviour and make the training far more effective, efficient and engaging.
We must still keep in mind that we are asking our learners to devote their valuable time to our courses, so modern techniques should only be used when and to the extent that they are actually adding value to the learning process. If I want to know how to bake a cake, I want a recipe, not a cooking game!
“Engagement” is a word much used in teaching. But really it is just about convincing our learners that it is worth their time for them to keep listening. They need to have learning that will justify the time they are devoting to it. Our learners are not 6 years old and they don’t want to be treated as if they were. Adults are generally equipped with what I have heard called a “bullsh*t detector”. They know when their time is being wasted on a meaningless activity and they resent it.
Today’s learners are looking for training that will:
- Sync with their lifestyle and be available within their workflow
- Be easily accessible and packaged to address their learning need or to help them clear a challenge
- Fit in with a workday that is complicated by the many distractions learners face which make it difficult for them to devote time to learning.
Some options to help achieve this may be:
- Convert eLearning content to deliver Mobile Learning that allows learners to pick it up on the go, between breaks/meetings, and even during their commute. This should include both formal learning and just-in-time learning aids.
- Convert lengthy text-based or graphic-intensive content into Microlearning nuggets, including emotionally compelling multimedia to stimulate learner engagement. Online learners can access each module, absorb the information, and assimilate the data before moving forward. The series of Microlearning nuggets can also be threaded into Personalized Learning paths to provide more relevant content to each learner profile.
Traditional approaches have relied heavily on quizzes to foster learner retention. While stand-alone True/False (T/F) questions, multiple choice (MC) assessments, and fill-in-the-blanks tests are still valuable teaching aids, today’s learners are looking for eLearning content well beyond those approaches.
Some ways to update content and improve retention could include:
- Use of Scenario Based Leaning - for example, instead of simply porting legacy T/F or MC assessments into online web pages, consider framing learning objectives as learner-relatable scenarios. Applying T/F or MC quizzes to those scenarios helps deliver a more engaging context that aids learning and retention.
- Micro Challenges that help them validate their learning. Learners can also use the formative feedback to review/practice and achieve higher retention.
- Multimedia can help your online learners connect emotionally with the material, for example by making them laugh feel sympathy for the eLearning character and hence with the subject matter.
- Gamification techniques may seem like one way of a good way of making content more interactive. However, I would advise considerable caution here. Whilst you can leverage existing learning assets such as lecture notes, workbooks, policies, procedure manuals, and study guides to gamify eLearning courses and deliver training experiences, this is often not a good use of your learners’ time. Consider if this is the most effective way to deliver the material.
Improving Learning Application to the workplace
The objective of training is to ensure that the learning transfers into measurable behavioural changes in the workplace. While using a passive format, legacy training materials may help “teach” learners a new concept but do not guarantee that learners can successfully apply what they’ve learned to their work environments.
Improving Learning Transference could include:
- Offering content in a series of Microlearning nuggets to offer a learning journey that has a combination of Learn, Practice, Apply, and Test. This will enable learners understand how to apply the acquired learning on the job.
- Producing contextual, dynamic content that will deliver interactivity and create a higher, broader, and more engaging eLearning experience that supports multi-device delivery. This gives learners the control to learn, practice on the device of their choice, review, and increase the probability of application on the job.
- Using Branching Simulations to enhance decision-making capabilities among learners. Existing eLearning content, such as case studies and scenarios could be converted into interactive decision-making experiences based on past work situations or potential future interactions employees are likely to encounter.
- Moving to more interactive eLearning content, such as experiential learning, for example using Storytorials (Story Based Learning) with workplace relevant characters and situations to drive the message. This approach can be a very effective way to bring in behavioural change and can be augmented with Video Based Learning for a higher impact.
- xAPI can help to bring learning to the coalface
Drawing up an action plan
- Focus first on the goal. The course content and all activities must support that goal.
- Create a detailed inventory of legacy content.
- Assess what is relevant and what should be discarded.
- Decide on standards such as backgrounds, colour schemes, font, pitch, etc. for titles, headings, and sub-headings and naming conventions for files, images, screens, assessments, tests, and quizzes.
- Make technology decisions early in the process. Your choice of technology may help maximize the amount of legacy content salvaged and shorten conversion time.
- Identify shortcomings and deficiencies in existing content and quantify what’s required to fill the gaps.
- Plan the conversion carefully. Consider delivery options, including Mobile, Responsive design, Microlearning, and bandwidth limiters (video, graphic-intensive).
- Think about design features: Legacy courses might have mouse-click elements that are no longer relevant on mobile devices. Mouse-hover events may still be relevant on laptops and desktops, but not on smartphones.
- Create a wireframe (a blueprint of the upgraded course) and conduct a target user group testing to validate your assumptions.
The result should be more engaged learners and effective training that creates sticky learning and facilitates application on the job.