You can’t know everything, and the good news is that you don’t have to. Knowledge and action need to combine to get the best results, but natural constraints limit the number of things a person can learn and do. A major e-learning project will make this clear as can be. So, when you have to adapt an enormous body of tedious manuals and instructor-led trainings into engaging, succinct online training, how do you make it work?
Define your success
You might have a result in mind, but in order to get there you need to figure out what it is that the learner needs to do in order to achieve it. Don’t confuse a change in output (such as an increase in sales) with a change in behavior (such as improved customer interactions). It’s a surprisingly common cart-before-horse mistake. A learner-centric, performance-based approach inspires specific and actionable behaviors, rather than merely focusing on knowledge sets or end results. Not only will this mindset create more engaging learning, but it will also help you pare down an unwieldy heap of source material into lean and effective training.
Once you have a destination in mind, what seems like the most obvious route to a solution might not be the best one—or even possible.
Suppose a sales team isn’t getting much interest in a new product line. Assuming the problem isn’t with the product itself, where do you go next? An initial assumption might be that the new product is unfamiliar to employees. Because they are are unaware of its benefits, they aren’t conveying them to customers. So, if you make a product-knowledge tool with some associated assessments, you will close this gap and voila: customers start buying!
Or maybe that’s not it at all.
Maybe the employees know the new products every bit as well as the older materials. Knowing them and being able to convey their value to customers are two different issues. Through lengthy trial-and-error in real world situations, the salespeople have learned effective selling methods with previous products. But they haven’t had a chance to do this with the most recent line.
Rather than giving salespeople an online reference and a quiz, you need to give them a place to apply their knowledge—a series of simulated interactions (allowing failure without risk) that change behavior and get results.
Get to the story
Every organization has what they imagine to be the best-case scenario for any interaction. Unfortunately, this natural context can be lost in a series of manuals, procedures, acronyms, and other training tools that obscure the core nature of what a learner will need to do. A page-flipping yawn-fest or a seeming endless loop of presentations and knowledge checks turn e-learning into a tedious skim-and-click exercise.
Instead of thinking in terms of regulations and flowcharts, begin by thinking of your training as a story. What are some typical situations the learner will face? What are some obstacles that might stand in their way or some conflicts that might emerge? What tools will learners have at their disposal to solve these problems? What are some common mistakes they make along the way? By getting to the story, you sidestep cumbersome exposition and move directly into the real-world situations and events learners will likely encounter.
A massive amount of source content can seem overwhelming at a project’s start, but a pragmatic approach will quickly boil it down to the essentials. By defining success, shedding misconceptions, and finding the story, you can deliver an online course that not only feels more engaging and immediate, but also delivers the results you need.