You can have the best learning platform out there, but does it contain enough of the right content to meet learners’ insatiable appetite for new information?
“People are hungry and voracious for information that is going to get them down a career path or just teach them to be better people, both personally and in the workplace,” says Carol Leaman, CEO of Axonify. To satisfy that need for its clients, Axonify recently launched the Content Exchange, an online learning library of content from BizLibrary and other partners on over 7,000 topics including compliance, cybersecurity, safety and sales.
“More content was needed than their clients could produce in house,” says Dean Pichee, founder and CEO of BizLibrary. As a result, BizLibrary’s short (four to seven minutes) videos and eSentire and Mohr Retail’s SCORM modules on cybersecurity and retail are now available on Axonify’s “employee knowledge platform.” The partnership, Pichee says, is like mixing Axonify’s peanut butter and BizLibrary’s chocolate to create a peanut butter cup. (Feeding the beast, indeed!) The platform will track which topics and modules are most popular and then use machine learning to recommend content to specific companies and learners.
Aligning Content to Business Outcomes
Traditionally, Leaman says, training organizations have created far more content than is really needed in an attempt to cover all their bases. This approach is inefficient and also means that “much of the important stuff gets watered down or lost,” and employees don’t retain what they need to know for their jobs. Axonify recommends taking the opposite approach: Begin by identifying desired business outcomes. Then, determine what behaviors employees need to demonstrate to accomplish those goals, identify what they need to learn and create specific content accordingly.
Using this approach, Leaman says, Axonify clients have seen “substantially more” sales and safety incidents reduced by as much as 54 percent.
Pichee agrees that alignment is critical and adds that offering curated content on demand – available to employees throughout the work day, whenever they need it – is important as well. He also recommends tagging content and allowing employees to rate and comment on it to help learners find what they need.
The Science Behind the Content Exchange
Leaman recommends basing delivery on three cognitive concepts “that are proven to drive memory and retention in the brain faster than any other way of training.” First is retrieval practice, which is a fancy way of saying that Axonify’s platform asks learners questions. Retrieving information from memory helps to “solidify the neural pathway” and is better at supporting retention than “simply telling somebody a piece of information and hoping they remember it.”
The second concept is spaced repetition. Not only should you ask learners questions, but you should ask them repeatedly and space those repetitions based on past performance. When learners can answer a question correctly three times in a row, Leaman says, they will retain the information longer more than 90 percent of the time.
“We think the science is pretty clear,” Pichee says. “Short video-based content spaced over time and then reinforced in the days and weeks following that lesson is really the best learning experience.” Our cognitive ability is limited; with longer content or learning experiences, we experience cognitive overload and are unable to retain as much information.
Finally, using confidence-based assessments can improve mastery. Immediately after asking learners a question, ask them how confident they are in their answer (high, medium or low). Leaman says overconfident learners (those who say they are highly confident but answer the questions incorrectly) “tend to be risk-takers” and make mistakes in the workplace. However, as they continue taking confidence-based assessments, they start paying better attention to the content and answering questions more correctly.
“Doubters,” on the other hand, are learners who have high knowledge, with a high accuracy rate but low confidence. These learners, Leaman says, “tend not to act in the workplace. They hang back … because they don’t want to be wrong.” Over time, however, they begin to see that they actually know what they’re doing, and the confidence-based assessments build their confidence levels. This group of learners “moves into what we call mastery, which is high knowledge, high confidence,” and this group will help organizations achieve their business goals.
By combining what we know about how our brains learn and retain information with technology to curate and deliver content, learning leaders can improve employee performance and help their organizations achieve business success.