What does modern learning design look like?

As some of you may know, I’m running an open programme called Modern Learning Leader. As the title suggests, it’s a programme designed to help L&D leaders understand the landscape of learning design better to enable them to be better and more credible L&D leaders for their organisations / clients.

As part of my process for the design and ongoing delivery and facilitation of the programme, I’m penning my thoughts so as to demonstrate how you can share openly about such things, and also to demonstrate my reflective practise about the programme. I’ve already written about how I got to the point of designing the programme, and this post is about my ongoing reflection on what it means to design modern learning solutions.

One of the things I’m actively thinking on is how in L&D we can get very stuck on the notion of having to deliver a ‘learning solution’ at all. Yes, it’s our mandate, and for many if we don’t deliver a solution / product, we may be seen as not doing our job. Increasingly, I’m of the opinion that as much as we are expert in designing learning solutions, those learning solutions should be about improving performance. For example, I can facilitate a learning solution on presentation skills, and it may help the individual to deliver better presentations. However, if that person doesn’t have to use that skill for another three months or more, then where is the value in the training? And when can that person expect to practise all their useful learning they received? This isn’t to say the training shouldn’t have happened, it’s to say there’s more that can be done to support that performance need.

Building on that, then, we are now at a stage with learning solution design where we can be really smart and clever about how the solutions are designed, and moves us beyond thinking about learning styles or 70:20:10, and encourages us to think about the right medium for the right purpose of delivery. We also need to actively think about what each medium is best at achieving, and how we can maximise that in the context of the learning solution.

Here’s what I mean.

As L&Ders, many of us have a strong preference for delivering person-led training. That’s aces, and if that’s where our strengths lie we should build on that. But the question of the medium is what does person-led training enable best? Well, that question gets answered by another question – what do people do best when they’re in a group together? They discuss, debate, reflect and do sense-making best. If that’s the case (and I’m gonna suggest it is), then the time spent in person-led training should be less about content delivery, and more about allowing the people present to do what they do best when in a group of people.

Which also begs the question, do L&Ders want to be known as content experts? There’s nothing wrong with that, and it’s how many make their money. What it does question, though, is if they’re too vested in the person-led training aspect that they can’t deliver training in any other way.

So what happens to the content delivery? Well, that’s where things get interesting. What other mediums (media?) can we explore to deliver the content aspect of the ‘training’. This is where modern technology like webinars, use of video technology, and content curation can come in handy.

These modes (ah ha, modes! Not mediums) of content delivery mean that we can still deliver content, and depending on the medium really go to town with what that looks like, and the quality of the content you put together.

Let’s consider further the use of the different modes and how they add to the delivery in different ways.

Webinars are great for being able to deliver content ahead of the person-led training. They can provide a way to create a baseline of understanding and for giving people key information that they can digest over time. As short forms of delivery, they also enable you to be flexible with your timings of running them and delivering to many at the same time. Their facility for recording also means that if you wanted, it could be shared with others on the training who may have missed out.

Videos are the go-to form of content consumption in the modern age. Nearly all platforms enable users to watch videos easily and the user experience is normally quick and accessible. That means most people are used to watching videos, and the creation of videos is easily done on your phone even without going through any particular social platform. With that in mind, there are a lot of opinions as to how long a piece of video content should be. Some L&D protagonists argue that videos should be short and snappy. However, if you take the example of Netflix videos, they’re up to an hour in length each episode and normally available to watch in a binge of watching. So, my insight is use video to share a variety of content, and don’t worry so much about length of video and focus more instead on the value and quality of the content.

Curating content helps people to know that there are multiple sources of information available to them and you don’t have to rely just on the expert delivering the content. Especially in this age of content access and freedom of access, it can sometimes be overwhelming to know which content people should access. Providing this curated content further strengthens your credibility as an L&Der as it shows that you’re aware of what’s in the open space and you’re unafraid of helping others access it too.

Taking the above into account means that we deliver better and more relevant content to our people when we design and deliver courses/programmes. We don’t have to include all of the above, but certainly we should pay attention to them and build them in as needed to the learning solutions we present to our people.

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