How to tell what you need from a learning platform
Posted on 3rd April, 2018 by Richard Havinga
With so many options, choosing the right learning platform can be a challenge for L&D teams. In the first of a two-part blog, we take a look at how to draw up your requirements effectively.
The process of deciding on a learning platform is often exciting. You’ll probably know broadly what you want to achieve, but you won’t yet be able to articulate a detailed understanding of your requirements. Building a wishlist, scaffolded around your goals and user requirements, is vital when there are thousands of platforms to choose from.
So what’s the best way of getting a clear idea of your learning technology ecosystem requirements, both on an organisational and granular level? From my experience as a Solutions Architect at LEO Learning, there are some key processes organisations can undertake to finalise their requirements and objectives.
Setting out your vision for a learning platform
The best way to reach a clear initial consensus is through visioning and user story mapping workshops. This is a chance to bring together all of your key stakeholders across the business to understand exactly why you need a learning platform and what its overarching goal for existence is.
You might already have an existing learning platform that meets your goals, need to enhance one or more of your current platforms, or utilise several platforms to create a technology ecosystem.
The key aim at this point should be to understand what’s most important to you as a business and what your drivers are. Story mapping creates a visual representation of your platform requirements by telling the stories that describe the users’ journeys through a narrative.
It’s a great tool to break down big stories as you tell them, find holes in your thinking and clarify what your learning platform is going to look like.
One way of looking at the path to the ideal learning platform is to utilise the analogy of boulders, rocks and pebbles:
- Boulders are your overarching goals
- Rocks are smaller activities that you need to achieve to complete those goals
- Pebbles represent smaller tasks that add up to complete activity
You could also think about the process of getting ready on an average morning. The activities associated with your goal – getting ready for work – might be to brush your teeth, take a shower and get dressed.
But there are also numerous underlying activities, or sub-tasks, that support your main activities, such as adjusting the temperature of the water and washing your hair.
Understanding what your users need from a learning platform
If we relate this to a Learning Management System, you might have a need for employees to book a course. Under the option to do this, you might require them to be able to search for topics, pay for a course and select different payment options once they’re on the payment page.
It’s wise to name the different types of users who will use the platform and describe what they will get from doing so. For example, think about these groups:
- L&D analysts who need to report on measurement and understand which staff have completed courses through a learning platform
- Managers who have to undertake mandatory training specific to leadership
- Entire workforces who need to take generic health and safety courses
You may need to break your user groups into smaller groups if they have specific needs, for example line managers and team leaders.
When thinking about the needs and groupings within your organisation, it is a good idea to create a fictional persona of who fulfills that role, based on real-life attributes. This humanises the requirements, and allows you to really try to put yourself within that group’s shoes.
In the initial phase of mapping, you might split your workshop team into users with back-end admin roles and users with front-end learner and client roles. These planning sessions tend to be fun, engaging and stimulate debate, leading to goals being refined and a greater clarity of vision.
The groups you’re likely to be thinking about will also have different goals over the course of a year, in line with the training they need to complete. This is another reason why capturing the groups is important.
It also helps in developing your own learning platform, setting a benchmark to measure against other platforms and creating a vision that you can pull into a tender document.
Mapping a path to the right learning platform
You can now slice your map into holistic product releases across the users and use of the platform. These create an incremental product release roadmap, where each release is a minimal viable product release.
Each release should have target outcomes and impact, saying how the release contributes to the overall goal that motivates building the product, and how users will behave in a way that helps us reach the goal.
Identify your success metrics for each release by answering the question: “What would we measure to determine if this platform was successful?” Ideally this will involve specific changes in user behaviour as they use the platform the way your story map imagines.
Defining your learning platform requirements
In reality, the user profiling stage is often missed or not done thoroughly enough on the path to selecting learning platforms. Organisations might interview a few people in a room, but there are always a few areas that are missing from the survey.
This eventually leads to the wrong learning platform or supplier being selected, or completely missing an entire requirement because there wasn’t enough detail in the preparation.
By mapping out user experiences and identifying the touch points across the platforms you might use, you can think about all the great possibilities of your platform, as well as everything that can go wrong. Then you can proceed with the confidence of knowing that your list of requirements has been rigorously assembled and explored.
Once you’ve broken down your requirements, you’ll be ready to take advantage of the best technologies and frameworks offered by learning platforms, with tailored functionality specific to your needs.
In the next part of this learning platform blog series, we’ll explain how to take the next step and select your learning platform.
If you want to make the most of LEO Learning’s expertise on your learning platform journey, contact us today.
Richard Havinga is a Solutions Architect at LEO Learning.