The concept of just-in-time manufacturing, where goods are produced to meet customer demand exactly — in time, quality and quantity — has been with us since the 1970s. Today, we live in an age of instant gratification. We tend to consume products and services on the go, in the moment of need.

People of all ages have become used to the immediate accessibility of all types of goods and services and being able to tailor them based on their preferences. It’s unsurprising that they also expect this of their learning.

What does this shift in behaviors and expectations mean for the learning provider? How can they restructure their content and make the best use of the tech available to them?

As a guiding principle, providers are aiming to create a just right, just enough, just-in-time learning experience.

Let’s explore how learning providers can approach this new learning environment:

  1. Put the Learner First

The learner and the learner’s context need to be a focus from the start. It’s about really understanding the learner’s needs, the skills they may want to develop and the information they will be looking to acquire. This helps you ensure that you create the right engagement from day one. But there is a challenge here: The learner will likely not know their knowledge gap or skill gap until they are faced with the situation. As a learning provider, it’s your job to anticipate where the skills gaps will be, and then build the right content to fill them. The best way to do this is to immerse yourself in the sector, industry and type of jobs your learner will be doing and identify the skills required to perform them. Take time to get into the shoes of your target learner and understand where and when they might need to stop and learn new skills. One way to determine the challenges they’re likely to face is to provide a self-assessment tool prior to the training.

  1. Create a Learning Journey in the Time You Have Available

Think about the way you will bring the learning journey to life over the time span you have available. In the just-in-time world, it would be safe to assume that your learner will have restricted time available. So how can you create the most relevant learning experience that will still stimulate learning and integrate some worthwhile practice?

As a rule, for any learning journey, over any time span, providers need to ensure their content includes a start, an end and three or four clear objectives and learning outcomes that the learner will relate to.

Let’s consider this scenario: if a learner wants to learn about giving feedback, what is the best learning journey? What are the key topics that need to be covered? Let’s say you decide on the following pieces of content:

    1. How to prepare for giving feedback.
    2. Top five tips to give feedback.
    3. Practicing giving feedback.

Three options to build the above content might be:

    • You could create one video for each part — this will be the most flexible option.
    • You could create one video that covers all three parts.
    • You could create a video for parts one and two, then invite your learner to send in a video of themselves practicing feedback.

Make Content Accessible, Searchable and Engaging

Learners undoubtedly have different ways of searching for the same piece of information or content. That makes searchability one of the top challenges learning leaders are facing today.

It probably won’t matter what platform or medium is used to deliver the content: it’s all about pulling together the right information that is just enough for the learner. The content will need to be short, concise and practical so the learner can immediately apply it. For example, if we consider our learner who wishes to give feedback to one of their peers and wants some tips, a short video or blog that explains the top five tips will be ideal for them.

  1. Create Learning Pathways

Creating learning pathways is all about enriching the learning experience by offering learning on complementary topics, including further learning options. To continue with my example of a learner looking for tips on providing feedback, the learning pathway could expose them to new, related topics such as communication, leadership, presenting or handling difficult conversations.

However, the very nature of just-in-time learning means that your learner will be time-poor, so you will need to encourage them to continue with their learning on related topics by pointing out the value of new learning options to them. You can do this by creating an obvious link between the feedback topic and, for example, communication. You need to show your learner that there are more pieces to the feedback puzzle than are immediately apparent.

Your role as a learning provider is to show the options and the way a learner can keep on adding new learning and skills on top of their initial need. Technology can help us with this.

  1. How To Use Tech

Technology is increasingly embedded in the way learning is consumed and distributed. Learning providers must spend time choosing the right technology to support their learners. It’s vital that the technology you use captures information from your learners the moment they access the platform, as early as onboarding.

For a learning provider to be able to recommend a personalized course or series of short sessions, you will need to know your learners’ level of knowledge for a specific topic and what skills they wish to acquire. The more accurate information you have, the better you will be able to recommend a course to your learners.

You will also need to make your content easily searchable and tag it in such a way that it can be matched with your learner input, so work closely with your tech team to align the back end of your platform with your front end.

In the same way that Netflix gives recommendations based on previous selections or highlights what other viewers have selected, you might consider using artificial intelligence (AI) to support personalized learning pathways for your learners.

  1. Embed Learning

Learning is one thing — applying the learning is another! We must always keep in mind that the end game is about embedding the learning, making it stick and ultimately changing a behavior.

We know that people learn best when they can connect the learning to their own work. It’s about putting information in the learner’s context, to help develop the right confidence to apply it and not forget it. It’s particularly important to include activities that embed learning for a just-in-time session, as these learners are increasingly time-poor.

With that in mind, what are the follow-up actions you need to do as a learning provider to help embed the learning for your learners? What can you build to facilitate learning and application after each just-in-time session? This is where technology can come to the rescue: sending regular tips, reminders and messages to your learner, or sending short quizzes over a several-week period.

Hopefully, this brief guide will help you create a just right, just enough, just-in-time experience for your learners.