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Architecting Digital Learning: What Hasn’t Worked

Dr. Elena Abramov

Head of Global Content Sales

"A smart man makes a mistake, learns from it, and never makes that mistake again. But a wise man finds a smart man and learns from him how to avoid the mistake altogether."

- Roy H. Williams

The question remains—how do you identify the "mistake"? Sometimes, the mistake is not so obvious.

Organizations dedicate significant resources to providing employees with opportunities to learn and develop to ensure they are fostering and retaining talent. In today’s environment, the digital learning options are exploding with more vendors and modalities entering the marketplace. Given all these new choices, how do you architect your program?

Below are some of the mistakes for the wise man to avoid altogether.

Lack of Context

This is perhaps the most common and the most impactful mistake programs have. Why are we learning? Self-motivation is a difficult struggle for all humans—hence the diet and exercise business is booming. The same goes for learning. We rarely do it because it’s good for us—it’s usually because we need it to achieve something. However, many organizations fail to inform employees as to what that something is: career, culture, promotion, merit increase? As humans it’s important for us to know why we are engaging in an activity, and companies need to provide some context for employees surrounding their learning programs. Context can come in the form of competencies, helping employees use a common language for measuring skills and progress.

It’s the Same Old Thing

When entering a meeting or overhearing office discussions, people discuss the latest phone upgrade, the new shoes they just purchased, the latest movie they saw—and then those same individuals talk about the online programs, proud of the same thing they’ve been offering employees for 10, but wondering about adoption strategies. In this culture, we consume information at rapid rates and our attention span is shorter by the decade.

According to a Microsoft study, the new human attention span of 8 seconds, down from 12, is even lower than that of a goldfish: 9 seconds. If you manage to engage past that threshold, an Indiana University study revealed that the average adult listens effectively for only about 15 to 20 minutes before their mind begins to wander.

Given these natural challenges in keeping focused, what benefit do we derive from the same resource each year?

One Size Fits All

Given all of the attention over the last few years to driving diverse cultures, many organizations still struggle with diverse learning programs. To encourage a diversity of ideas, we need to engage a diversity of people across a variety of learning methods. The broader and more diverse your stakeholders are, the more likely you’ll have a well-rounded perspective for your company. Those include everything from traditional, technical and compliance content, to the more modern micro-learning, social learning, blended learning and more. No matter what you are doing now, diversify your portfolio for other areas and learning styles. The more options you have for learning, the more likely you’ll engage more people and that variety helps build a culture of learning.

Everything and the Kitchen Sink

We all like to be prepared and a "buffet" style menu ensures you don’t leave hungry—but that’s not the same as satisfied. Too often companies offer extensive libraries in the hopes that there is something for everyone. However managing and sorting through extensive libraries is onerous for everyone and rarely achieves the desired impact. When determining the size of the library you need, you should consider the type of continuous learning you want employees to engage in and how many hours they spend. It’s important to have all your topics covered, but you probably don’t need more courses than people in your organization.

As the media world around us changes, it influences the expectations employees have at work. Now, the marketplace in digital learning is expanding to enable professionals to deliver on a different experience. The current state is not the only option, and experimenting with your program will enable you to determine what works best for your company.

I hope these are helpful and look forward to hearing your ideas.

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