Posted on 9th March, 2017 by Raoul Dewhurst
You come to work, sit down, turn on your computer, get some coffee, exchange various platitudes and greetings with those on the same coffee circuit as you… Depending on the age of your computer, it may be ready and waiting for you when you get back. Or installing updates. Or just displaying an ever-turning circle which you stare at as you sip your coffee. Does that sound anything like your morning routine? The point is that for most people, their work day is fairly predictable. So in amongst the business and routine, where do people get the time to look for information, and when they do, where do they look for it? Understanding this is the key to implementing effective on-the-job learning.
Most people would agree that a simplistic elearning programme given as a part of a training cycle or induction course is about as useful as a rubber spanner. Simplistic programmes don’t work for a number of reasons: learners not retaining information; too much information; lack of direct relevance; or the feeling you’ve just wasted an hour of your life you’ll never get back to name a few. Most important of all though is the fact that you’re getting the information at a different time to when you actually need it.
Social learning in the workplace
According to Learning and Development (L&D) advisors Towards Maturity’s 2016 Learning Benchmark Report, 60% of employees find out more through their own research than they do through formal courses. Ideally, when you get stuck or have a question there would be an easy way, in the moment, to find a quick tutorial so you can pass the hurdle and carry on – a bit like Googling how to sort out some annoying formatting issue in Word. This would deliver a timely, relevant and to-the-point piece of information (I use ‘information’ as it would only be ‘learning’ if someone remembers it. This is only really ever achieved by practice and repetition).
Microlearning makes learning easier
The reason getting information in small, timely chunks works better than formal elearning courses is twofold. When you come across a problem you need to solve:
- you generally only need a little specific information on the problem you are working on
- you need to access that information immediately
The vast majority of organisations want to do more to make learning more available and relevant to daily tasks – as reported by Towards Maturity, 93% of L&D professionals want to integrate learning and work, while 95% want to respond faster to the speed of business.
Whether you are creating courses for ‘just-in-time’ learning or as part of a structured course, people need to be able to find and access knowledge easily. It needs to fit into their day with as little deviation as possible. The mistake we see a lot of organisations make is to launch learning using an unwieldy and unintuitive Learning Management System (LMS). The majority of LMSs are hard to navigate and very difficult to search for relevant information, plus they aren’t the place most people go to for ‘just-in-time’ information.
Don’t bury your learning assets
So why separate the learning content from any other material and resources in your business? Even if it is necessary to run a course from an LMS for tracking and administration purposes, it is advisable to link to the course through a portal or intranet page that the learner already knows well. The other issue we see is useful information being buried deep inside long elearning courses.
So you can see the problem – if you want some information to solve a problem, you need to find it hidden in an elearning course, which in turn is buried in an LMS. While there are different needs for information throughout the business, such as compliance, process change or solving an immediate real-world problem, there are certain things you can do to improve the learner experience and fit the learning seamlessly into the workflow:
1) Understand the way people work
- Slip the information/learning into their day with the least possible disruption.
- Don’t send the learner to a training site that is seen as separate from their normal working environment.
- Find a way to link to your courses through a familiar software interface – or at least an intuitive one!
2) Make the learning short, sharp and frequent
- People generally have short attention spans, which means that long courses don’t work well.
- Use micro-challenges, where you encourage people to do their own research. This will get people in the habit of looking through any resources you have.
- Don’t hide useful information in long courses.
3) Curate content
- Use information that is already out there.
- Tag the content to make it easily searchable.
- Allow departments to choose the content they want to be available to them.
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Raoul Dewhurst is a Lead Designer at LEO Learning.