How to Create User-centric Courses for Successful eLearning
Posted: January 4, 2017
It’s easy to get caught up in designing learning based on what you and your team think is best. You, of course, have the users’ best interests in mind. You want the learning experience to be a productive one. There are so many factors to consider: staffing, new product or system launches (and their ever-changing deadlines), technology, size and location logistics. The list goes on. What I’ve found, however, is that when I maintain focus on the user and look beyond all of these constraints, I become more creative and the result is a better learning experience.
Here are some ideas to help you center your designs on the user:
Build your course around skills, knowledge or experience that users desire
Consider: Survey managers, of course, but also the users on the floor. Shadow a user at his or her desk, on the phone or in meetings. What is interfering with performance? Where do you sense a lack of confidence or uncertainty as to what to do next? Study performance reports for gaps. Offer a targeted learning experience.
Focus on reality-based content, structure and learning styles
Consider: Base your solutions on what you have learned from past experiences: how these particular users approach problems in their daily tasks, what is most relevant to their daily routines and the type of eLearning that has been successful in enhancing performance in the past.
Arrange the course to fit users’ work life
Consider: Sure, some scheduling decisions are based on the existence of “slow periods” or on availability of resources, but others can be driven by more user-friendly factors, such as “learn it when you need it.” Is your eLearning best completed in a group where discussion can be part of the learning process? Or is it best accessed individually as needed? What is the most appropriate duration, two-hour webinars or 15-minute virtual drills? Would peer sharing be of value?
Chunk course material so it can be consumed easily by users.
Consider: The arrangement of the content to be learned is one of the most critical decisions an instructional designer makes. A lot of factors go into this decision. Does the content build from foundational to basic? From most urgent to “good to know”? Does “on-the-floor” practice need to occur between learning sessions rather than after the course?
Augment this learning event with additional opportunities to practice, revisit content or gain advanced skills.
Consider: A learning event is just that, an event. Make it an ongoing learning process by giving users the opportunity to dip back into the content in a way that builds skills, knowledge or experience.
Test it out on the people who will be using the learning.
Consider: There can be situations where, because of time or resources limitations, it’s easier to run a pilot with a group that is expedient, but which you know is not representational of your users. You may even have found yourself where no pilot at all was done. Omitting a realistic pilot with adequate feedback is not an option if you are committed to improving performance.
Remain open to tweaking or even starting over if the learning is not meeting user needs.
Consider: It takes courage at times to make a learning event user-centric when you realize that it is not currently on target. It can be tempting because of ever-present budget, time and other resource constraints to launch a less than optimal learning experience. The most critical decision and the one that most matters is: Can the participant return to his or her desk and do the job better than he or she did it before?
Look beyond the constraints to focus on your users. If you excel at designing learning that your users value, you’ll see it in their enthusiasm, their comments to their managers, their responses to employee survey questions regarding their learning experiences and, of course, performance tracking reports. Your users will thank you!
About the Author
Kat is the Kat in KatQuest, focused on the belief that productive people are happy people. Her firm offers performance consulting and instructional design and development. She also helps people find jobs, having spent eight years coaching executives in transition. Kat was the Global Training Manager with DBM and has over 25 years of experience working in the financial services industry, as a CPA (KPMG and her own firm) and Sr. Performance Consultant with USAA. Most recently, she discovered a passion for retail during her gig as a performance consultant within Lowe’s corporate offices. Kat is a published author in newspaper, industry magazines, and websites and has written a popular book on relationships. She has been recognized for the popularity of her creative solutions with employees and has designed training for every existing medium on just about every performance-related topic!