Extinction Alert! Sit-and-listen, information-driven, lecture-focused learning programs are marked endangered. While this format may seem efficient for content facilitators, the results do not meet the modern learner’s expectations for an experience that matters. Information is ubiquitous. Your learners are looking for a transformation.
The New Value Proposition
If you read news articles about financial markets or baseball recaps, you’ve likely read the work of a bot. There is literally so much information to process, reputable news outlets are turning to smart software to write data centric stories freeing up human writers for assignments requiring contextualization and critical thinking. Learning and Development thought leaders believe info based training, like compliance or how-to’s, will follow suit. We’ll need our human instructional designers to focus upon behavior change learning designs — because value lies with the transformation.
Let’s say I’m interested in learning more about WordPress. I ask Google about my options:
- Explore the WordPress documentation site
- Browse YouTube tutorials
- Take a Udemy course
- Join the WordPress 101 community to network, take courses, earn badges
- Pay for Lynda.com access
- And there are lots and lots and lots of individuals and consultants offering online courses for purchase
That’s just page 1 search results. There’s an overwhelming number of options. So what differentiates one from another?
[Pause and think about this for a moment…]
Was your first instinct cost? Well, cost is likely to be a factor – but a secondary one.
As a learner consumer, I’m looking for the opportunity that addresses the transformation I seek. A level of mastery that will get me from where I am to where I want to be. I already know how to set up and manage a basic WordPress site so my needs are more specialized and advanced. The learning opportunity that presents a solution to my gap is the one that will flag my attention. Yes, cost will be a factor. But my immediate need and the reputation of the source will compel me to invest my own hard earned cash because I so value the end result.
The new value proposition is change. It’s solving a problem. It’s developing new skills. It’s maturing those skills as well as successfully applying them. It’s the efficiencies that result from adopting new ways of doing things. It’s all the benefits of the “new me” after sustained new behaviors from what you have taught me. It’s the transformation.
And transformation is not happening in endangered list learning.
Learning Must Transform
How can you pull your programs back from extinction (aka: irrelevance)?
- Content Strategy: Map out your priority topics fully aware of who will need what when. Align those topics with the real-world problems your learners want to resolve. Get a bead not only on learning gaps, but on the ideal future your learners are leaning toward so you can be their vehicle getting there.
- Learner Personas: Likely your marketing team has developed buyer personas to help them strategize how to promote programs and services to your market segments. Do likewise. Understand the learner segments you are serving so you can prepare learning experiences that they will invest in — because you understand the transformation they seek.
- Full Cycle Learning Design: Your programs should not be one-off info dumps. Instead, craft learning objectives that answer these questions: As a result of this session, what transformation in the learner will take place? And then, How will my learning plan facilitate that (so I can measure it)? Next, utilize instructional design to address the full learning cycle – which by the way only begins with your education session.
- Reinforcement: Research shows that sustained new behaviors chiefly arise when we invest in post-training follow up. Rob Brinkerhoff found that focusing primarily on learning design, development and delivery results in about an 85% failure to transfer training to practice. But, when the same resources are re-allocated to emphasize post-training follow-up (job aids, resources, microLearning touch points, coaching, etc.), 85% of the learners sustained new behaviors. Reinforcement leads to transformation!
- Learning Pathways: If you want your programs to remain relevant, to provide value, to attract learners because of the transformation you offer, to develop relationships with those learners over time building trust and consumer loyalty — abandon event based learning. (GASP!) You may have events. Please do! But cease with the one-offs that leave learners hanging. Put all of your learning and communication channels to work coordinating multiple touch points in and between your events (both in person and online) for the greatest return on your investment, and your learner’s.
Same-old will not endure. Enfold these key shifts to evolve your education strategy and stay off the endangered learning list.