What do modern learners – an audience accustomed to accessing readily available information online – need from training experiences to ensure successful learning outcomes? The accelerated adoption of technology has changed the way we process information, but what does this mean for training development? These are the types of questions instructional designers are considering since the increased use of eLearning and digital technology to deliver training.
Learning and development (L&D) leaders are right to consider how technology can help or hinder learning outcomes, and what is needed to improve the learning experience to improve training development initiatives. As instructional designers, we are always concerned with the learner’s experience. Outcomes for the learner are the benchmark for success. During development, we consider whether the L&D methods used create optimal conditions to enable the learner to acquire needed skills to perform the tasks necessary to meet business objectives.
This means a couple of things for modern training methods enabled by technology in the workplace. First, we know that although technology has changed what learners expect from training, and has provided more delivery options than ever, the way people process information has not changed. For example, although some have argued that shortened attention spans have fundamentally changed learning, we know from experience and measured outcomes that to learn, learners must be engaged and attentive, information must be contextualized and there must be an opportunity to practice and integrate lessons learned.
In short, how we learn hasn’t changed. Even as we use technology to deliver learning, our learners still need learning to be social, contextual and experience based to be effective. So, what does that mean for L&D leaders and instructional designers as we consider best practices for learning in the workplace using technology? It means a few things.
Here are the three most important things to remember when designing learning experiences for a technology-savvy audience:
- Motivate learners by contextualizing information. Holding your learners’ attention is nothing without motivation. If learners can identify how the training will benefit them, how it will make their jobs easier, how it can have a positive impact, and how it can help them be more successful in their roles, they are more likely to give the training their full attention and successfully learn new skills. Therefore, training content should include why the learning is important with real-life scenarios.
- Ensure engagement with social and interactive elements. Most people tune out when presented with long lectures, uninterrupted presentations and monotonous blocks of text. In those situations, learning can become a passive process. To make learning active and engaging, add interactivity through opportunities to participate. When people think they may be called on to answer questions or to share their feedback, they may be more likely to tune in. Similarly, when people are asked to participate in asynchronous activities that include simulated modules based on real-life scenarios, they are more likely to stay engaged as they work their way through the course.
- Design your content delivery for a user-centric experience. How? One way is to provide more digital training options to allow for self-directed study. You can also cut down long presentations, break up unbroken blocks of text and reduce any needless bells and whistles that might distract and overload attention. Use good user experience (UX) design and principles to direct your learners visually, give them ample opportunities to reflect and process information and focus their attention by prioritizing information.
We must design training and development to be accessible, flexible and engaging to meet the needs of the next generation of learners and the distributed workforce. Although technology is changing the learning delivery, it hasn’t changed how people learn and like to acquire new information. Therefore, the best training design will be focused on creating a learner-centric experience based on the fundamental knowledge of how people learn: contextually, socially and through engagement.