There are so many adjectives connected to learning remotely at the present time that it’s very difficult to discern which is which. There is e-learning, online learning, virtual learning, hybrid learning, blended learning, digital learning, and I’m sure at least a couple of more.
I’m not going to go into any taxonomies here because, in all honesty, it’s difficult for me too to define precisely which are synonyms, which share some similarities, and which only mildly overlap. The bottom line is that they are all models aimed at helping young people, as well as adults, adapt to the current situation.
For corporate learning specialists, the main challenge is not to create or curate relevant content but to generate enough interest that online training modules are accessed and participants fully engage in educational interventions. These are a few ideas about how to boost that engagement.
L&D specialists need to relinquish a lot of their control
This may not be the first thing you would expect me to say, but that’s actually the foundation of building a solid digital learning strategy. The thing about this type of learning is that it is almost entirely user-centric. All that L&D specialists need to ensure is that it is easy for the learner to find exactly what they need.
Of course, the quality of the material needs to be on par, and all data must be up to date and relevant to the subject, but other than that, it is pretty much out of the hands of the specialists and into those of the platform user.
The focus needs to move from ensuring course completion and evaluation towards performance support. Just like the modules, L&D specialists have to be available in case they are needed. It’s also advisable to have good tutorials and whitepapers readily available for the users.
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It’s time to recognize informal learning as legitimate
Credentials are still somewhat important, but skills and competencies weigh in more. Proven abilities in an interview or a project are more likely to grant someone a job than a pile of impressive diplomas and theoretical achievements.
Things change so rapidly that it is sometimes hard for formal learning (whether we talk of university curriculums or corporate ones) to keep up, and people seek to learn on their own most of the time with spectacular results.
Self-direction is highly valued immensely by the younger generations, and they like to choose both the subjects and the experts they get to listen to. Informal learning may be harder to track and quantify, but its relevance is very high.
Content curation needs to become as important as content creation
There is no shortage of sources online, some more reliable than others. The average internet user has some ability to discern between articles that are scientifically sound and pieces that are rather questionable.
In the context of blended learning, it’s best for trained professionals to filter materials and present the users with a varied selection of valuable (and valid) content. The newest or most interesting bits can be pushed forward as ‘featured articles’ in newsletters or on the platform hosting the curated content.
It’s also essential to do periodical clean-ups to take down what becomes obsolete and update any information or numbers that have changed since the initial post.
Ambassadors of digital learning are not only advisable but necessary
Simply acquiring a digital learning platform and filling it with wonderful, interesting, and engaging content does not ensure it will become an instant success. It can be promoted by HR and L&D specialists via teasers, podcasts, e-mails, or informative videos, but since we live in the age of influencers, it’s best to employ the help of those.
In the corporate world, these may be formal or informal leaders, subject matter experts, or high-performing employees. The key is to get them not only to sponsor the learning program in name and have one or two appearances at the start, but genuinely get involved and participate throughout the entire deployment process.
These ambassadors are as important to getting people engaged with the learning programs as the quality of the content and the platform’s UX.
Digital learning engagement requires different metrics
The subject of measurements and assessments in L&D interventions has always been a difficult topic. Both learning and engagement are very personal and it’s challenging to find the right tools to quantify them.
When it comes to digital learning engagement it’s crucial to look at more that number of views. Luckily, most LMSs can gather a lot of data about parts of a module that are repeatedly skipped, chapters that appear to be problematic as people tend to spend too much time on them, and even the points where several users go away from the course.
The goals should be to gather all this data and interpret it in a way that allows for corrective action. To fix the numbers, you need to figure out what needs fixing. Another great way to do this is by gathering good old-fashioned user feedback.
The fact that digital learning is engaging just because it’s online and benefits from all the ‘cool’ new technologies is a dangerous misconception. Simply putting up a site or a learning management platform and expecting people to log in and learn like there’s no tomorrow is utopian at best. Even the latest movie in a successful Hollywood franchise needs trailers and a whole marketing team behind it. In order to drive up digital learning engagement, L&D specialists need to understand that it is very different from traditional corporate learning and act accordingly.
Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.