The buzz around microlearning, social learning, personalization and other training trends has opened up to opportunities to rethink our approach to curriculum design. The good news is the core principles of learning design remain solid among new technologies affecting our learners. Even while delving into how we can make our curriculum more marketable, we don’t have to dismiss what we know to be true and effective.

I see a marketable curriculum as sharing a core with our basic design approach. Good design is focused on how learners learn and is driven by what the learner needs to be successful at their assigned tasks and roles. Marketable learning content drives our design to focus on:

How relevant the content we design is to the common issues that our learners face. This drives us to move the power in many cases from the subject matter expert to the learner. We ask our customers to pick and choose what content to focus on versus what content we can move to reference sections of their curriculum.

Marketable curriculum design puts as much weight on motivating the learner during the learning process as it does on teaching critical thinking skills or knowledge acquisition. For a marketable design, this encourages our designers to incorporate more short video or animation pieces. In fact, now 85 percent of companies are expected to create more video content in 2015 than in 2013. Costs of production continue to go down and our learners are used to experiencing context versus reading or viewing text-driven narratives.

Non-linear versus linear design. Many of the models we are accustomed to tend to drive toward a linear curriculum – Content 101, then build on that. We assume the lowest common denominator for our learners as we move from basic to mastery level content.

For a more marketable curriculum design, this changes. Using technology, we provide a choice to our learners. A baseline course might introduce learners to multiple topics and enable branching choices. Learners are able to refresh knowledge and go to deeper dives that are aligned with their competency and experience.

Event to campaign-based learning. We shift resources from a longer, deeper, one-time training event such as onboarding to a curriculum that is based on smaller multiple touches. Using technology, we grow the touch points with the learner. Mobile technology, as well as reinforcement techniques, is used to spread the seat time over a longer period of time.

Much like in marketing campaigns we don’t try to get the customer to buy on the first interaction. To use marketing metaphors, we go from a customer buying event to a customer journey. This has become very popular as companies see the value of marketing automation. We don’t believe training should be far behind.

Chunking and segmentation of our curriculum must change. If we assume greater learner autonomy, the ease of video and animation type training, as well as engines that can manage reinforcement and personalization, are signs that we’re entering a new era in design. Microlearning is an adaptation to better serve learners and achieve business goals. A typical hour course can now be shortened and chunked up to a 5-8 minute modules. Additional time can be now spent on creating short 5-minute reinforcement pieces with multiple touch points across a learner journey.

For example:

  • The transformation of the onboarding process. Our customers are shortening the time in initial classes or online education. More and more of the onboarding becomes a series of multiple touch points.
  • We are witness to more brand ambassador programs. Recent research has shown a closing gap between the marketing and training functions in organizations. We believe there is a role to play in adapting curriculum for those employees who are becoming brand ambassadors. Much like in the world of marketing, we segment our learners not just by role, but also the alignment they have with our brand and mission. Investing in our ambassadors scales the reach of the training organization and serves as a bridge to other parts of the company.

We don’t believe wisdom in this areas lies within marketing or learning. We see a good opportunity to transform our vision for learning to be a stronger narrative, one that is campaign based. We strive to go deeper than our marketing counterparts and impact real work behavior. We can become a vital component of driving change in our organization.

This is not about how to market ourselves in an organization. We believe training and learning in an organization needs to produce content that is marketable.  How it is consumed and championed offers a better narrative than completion rates and level 1 or 2 assessments. Our barriers are not technology or learner acceptance, that train is out of the station and we need to jump on board.