So, you’ve got your eye on your next big technology investment. It checks all the boxes, and from afar, it looks like the silver bullet that’s going to elevate how your organization learns. But what’s your plan for how to use it? In other words, what will people actually be learning?
When it comes to creating effective digital learning experiences, technology plays a key role, but so does content. Here are three ways to rethink content strategy to maximize the potential of your learning technology:
Organize Your Content Architecture in Terms of Journeys, not Events
Technology enables a cadence of learning that you can’t achieve in person. In a self-paced learning environment, the “classroom” can be anywhere — and anytime — you want it to be. But that doesn’t mean learning has to feel like a classroom experience. Event-based learning can feel comfortable and familiar but is opposed to how the brain actually learns. Learning something new takes time, which is why it makes more sense to conceive of learning as a journey. We need to be designing journeys, not events.
Think about how frequently you interact with your smartphone. How long is your average session? How many times do you use it in a week? If you’re looking for the optimal structure for a learning program, look no further than learners’ digital consumption habits. Instead of event-based learning, think of your training in terms of a journey to competency, and map your content architecture to meet the highs and lows of that journey.
Think bigger, too. Your digital experience doesn’t need to be a three-hour course or a one-day training. Consider the context of your content, the timeliness of when your content arrives and when the learning moment becomes the performance moment. Building your content around learning journeys not only promotes learning retention; it also helps pivot your organization to embrace a culture of learning. Leverage your technology to support the journey of learning, not just to dump information on a quarterly or yearly basis. This approach is a critical opportunity to transform your content strategy.
Focus on the Experience, not the Functionality
When you’re working with technology, it’s easy to become caught up in features and functionality. However, when all the focus is on the technology, it becomes a pitfall in your design approach that leads your thinking instead of enabling it. Resist the temptation to let your technology lead the way.
Meaningfully use that discussion board feature or those links to social media. Avoid the trivialities of gamification that aren’t grounded in what motivates people. Just because the leaderboard function is there does not mean there is a compelling use for it every time. Don’t be afraid to develop a content guide for the different functionalities of your technology. Start with a list of “dos” and “don’ts,” and grow from there.
If there’s something that the technology cannot do, look elsewhere. Vet the features and functionalities that you want to use against the experience you are trying to create. The goal is not to make sure people use your platform but to provide them with an effective experience to help them reach their goals. Don’t be a slave to your technology; always make sure the experience, not the tool, leads the way.
Craft Digital-first Experiences
Most e-learning courses follow the same structure — clicking forward through a linear sequence of slides to completion — because they were borne of the “digitalization” era of e-learning, when converting legacy PowerPoint presentations into e-learning courses was all the rage. This approach has been the hallmark of digital learning for decades and is hardly an exemplar for a modern digital learning experience.
The digital landscape has changed tremendously since then, and as new and interesting experiences emerge, we need to question those old ways of learning. The conventional approach to e-learning may have been an efficient model in the past, but this experience is usually under-whelming, not to mention ineffective.
When leveraging learning technology, take the opportunity to reimagine your content in a digital landscape. Resist the temptation to port legacy materials from static learning events (e.g., PowerPoint presentations and reference binders) and replicate the same learning experience. Yes, microlearning is the (controversial) mantra these days, but it means more than taking legacy materials and cutting them in half. Today’s learner is accustomed to modern digital experiences — the kind you find on consumer apps. Pave new roads that move in that direction. Harness your technology to achieve an experience that you couldn’t achieve offline. Then, you’ll be working with a digital-first mentality — one whose time has come.
Modern learning technologies help you create modern digital experiences, but make sure you put as much thought into your content strategy as you do into the technology. A well-designed content strategy can make all the difference in helping your technology succeed and in providing powerful learning experiences designed for today’s learner.