Modernise elearning: A how to guide

Time to change our mindsets.

Al Thompson Head of Production

Modernise elearning: A how to guide

What do your learners really want? We’ve been asking ourselves that question since we started THRIVE over 2 years ago. And since inception, we’ve been on quite a journey; building new, modernised elearning from scratch, creating our own authoring tool, conceptualising and constructing a Learning Experience Platform. It’s been a busy couple of years – and one that has been fraught with challenges and laden with constant questions.

Using qualitative and quantitative data, we’ve done our best to answer the question of what your employees really want and expect from training (we even wrote a report if you want to read that too). Undertaking research with OnePoll on learner sentiment and interviewing and seeking feedback from active clients in the market and other L&D professionals has enabled us to glean a clear 360 view of the industry. What’s working, what’s not. 

The L&D:learner dichotomy

The ongoing dichotomy of what L&D wants to do and deliver vs what the learner wants and needs has been occurring for years. But our research has proven that learners want more. So what do they actually want?

When asked about the one thing they’d change when it came to the training they presently received, several responses were clear (only top answers shared):

  • 26% = Available when I need it
  • 16% = Shorter
  • 11% = Contains more information
  • 6% = Less formal

Now, you may read this and think: “Well, that’s not a surprise.” No, it’s not. But are you doing anything to meet these known expectations? Over 16% of learners also said they would like their training to be shorter, which is not a surprise given that over 60% of learners also said they have less than ten minutes a day to learn, 41% of which said they had NO time to commit to learning in a working day.

So what’s going on here? Are learners just completely disconnected? Is learning outdated, too long, only accessible on desktop and far too formal for learners? Perhaps.

How to modernise elearning

The reality is, elearning is still a fundamental part of training delivery for businesses. In fact, it was the most common training method after classroom training for those surveyed, with over 55% of organisations using it. Clearly, elearning is here to stay for a while yet – but that doesn’t mean it’s the cause of these problems.

In fact, we’re not saying you need to discard elearning to deliver more modern experiences at all. But you probably do need to reflect and evaluate how you’re using it, analyse the way it is being created and delivered and discover how that can be adjusted to cater to these clear needs which aren’t presently being met. Our experienced Learning Design team came up with 4 simple ways to modernise elearning.

1. Make it available at the point of need

How this is still a conversation point is somewhat beyond us – smartphones are ubiquitous. Learning needs to be available when it is needed. It really is that simple – but our research proves we’re still not meeting this obvious learner requirement. Break down the barriers which are restricting access. Perhaps it’s time for a new LMS. Maybe you need a new elearning development partner. Likely – you need to reduce the amount of time spent in classrooms.

Do what you can to enable better access to knowledge, when learners need it. That also means making sure it is clearly signposted and intuitive to revisit (that means no more courses which are 60 minutes long guys). Not one learner wants to traipse through an entire 60 minute course to find one little nugget of information. Not a one.

Beyond the elearning, make the learner journey as simple, seamless and invisible as possible. Remove barriers, encourage engagement and drive connection with content that matters – this is key to creating an ecosystem of learning which delivers real help and expertise at the point of need.

2. Make it shorter….much, much shorter

Remember, over 60% of learners said that they cannot commit more than 10 minutes of time a day to learning. Many of those have no time at all. So clearly, the conventional way of creating large elearning courses just isn’t going to meet their needs these days. Here at THRIVE, we took that information really seriously.

That meant completely breaking down the pre-existing mindsets of our learning designers to create true microlearning. We know it doesn’t work to just take a longer course and chunk it down into shorter instances of training – so this took a lot of energy to get it right.

So what we did we do? We created discrete modules which do not overlap with any other elearning in our collection. For you, it should mean the same. If you are to create true microlearning, then you must break down your learner journeys and content into clear topics – this allows you to focus on specific subjects – meeting their expectations for being available when they want it and ensuring specific knowledge is easily obtainable and accessible.

We kept it under ten minutes to align with the data we had; it’s probably not a bad place to start.

3. Provide more relevant information

We wrangled with this point endlessly here at THRIVE. Learners want content which is shorter, but also they want more information? After many internal debates, we arrived at a conclusion: “Learners want more relevant information.”

It seemed to us that a lot of elearning courses were laden with erroneous information, complex theories and outdated schools of thought. All of which your learners couldn’t care less about.

To modernise elearning, we took much inspiration from the likes of YouTube. Why do people actually go there to learn, what is it about this delivery method which works so effectively? For us, it was the fact that it focuses on real, actionable data. It’s fit for purpose and comes with clear, practical tips and examples that will help people. They also just get it when they need it, tying back into point one.

So if you want to create more relevant learning, make sure it is fit for purpose, applicable and practical and focused on skills.

4. Talk to learners like humans

It’s high time we started treating our employees as people, not robots, when it comes to learning. Much of the content employees engage with at work is extremely formal, stuffy and therefore quite unrelatable. Yet again why they often turn to YouTube – it’s real people providing real insights and advice.

For us – that also meant removing commonplace elearning components such as assessments. Again, after much internal debate, we came to agree that these are often completely ignored by learners and organisation alike. Instead, to modernise your elearning, consider the following:

  • Always design and build with common sense – asking yourself whether this is practical, applicable and useful
  • Ensure where there are interactions, that they are meaningful and of use
  • Add fun and vitality where possible – reflect their outside lives with video, rich media and more
  • Be more conversational – talk to them like humans

Time to change our mindsets

Of course, even modern elearning is just a small piece of the pie. There is a much bigger part to the learning story of your teams, and that’s to do with the learning culture you currently have in place, and indeed whether that serves them. It may well be that it’s L&D who needs to evolve and change, rather than just the elearning.

Our best advice in meeting their needs is taking the time to understand your employees. Our data is a great start, but undertaking root cause analysis as to the problems and challenges at hand will allow you to find REAL solutions to problems, instead of just using new tech, new interfaces and new shiny things to resolve them.

This goes way beyond tech – it’s really about changing the way we do things to ensure it better reflects the experiences learners are having outside of work. L&D needs to work hard at facilitating and encouraging learning way beyond the realms of modernising elearning, should it continue to be successful in the next 5-10 years. Foster social learning environments. Harness user generated content. Do whatever it takes to evolve. Remember, be bold. Be brave. THRIVE.

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