The days of presentation-style training experiences like a PowerPoint-driven lecture or a “click next to continue” eLearning are bygone. The reason for its obsoletion being learners didn’t learn much of anything, rather they hated these experiences. And since you are reading this, I gather you or your organization want no part in creating these kinds of experiences for your employees/ students.
Studies show that the level of interactivity within a learning environment is what drives learning. The more the learners interact with other learners, the content, and the instructor, the more likely it is that learning will actually occur. Hence, to learn, a person needs to be engaged and one of the reasons custom learning is growing in popularity is because they are effective in meeting particular learning needs in particular situations.
In this blogpost, I will be discussing the ten elements that are the building blocks of great custom learning. But first familiarize yourself with the general production mantra, which will act as your reference point while developing effective custom learning.
- Conceptualize – One of the most difficult task in the entire process is figuring out what ideas can be used to create the custom learning. One way to start is by conducting research. Use your research data as a foundation upon which you can build the learning.
- Prototype – At this point, you can brainstorm ideas and create a paper-based prototype.
- Test – Finally, it’s time to create a digital prototype and see how it works.
Are you ready for the ten building blocks of great custom learning? Most of you from the learning and development field must already be familiar with them, if not, you will know now.
1. Define the real problem
Have a discussion with your stakeholders, team members, and anyone else involved to learn what is driving the need of a custom learning strategy. Identify if it’s for the wrong reasons like – everyone’s doing it, effortless learning, it’s easy to design, not a learning need. There might be an existent problem but it is not necessarily learning-based, for example it may be because of a poor incentive program, poor teaching, vaguely articulated business objectives, badly designed business processes, or a poorly executed business policy. So part of the process of identifying the business problem is to ensure that the problem can be solved by a learning intervention. Apart from all of those negative reasons, some correct reasons to develop custom learning can be overcoming disengagement, providing opportunities for deep thought and reflection, positively changing behaviour, and implementing authentic practice.
2. Identify the learning gap
What are the learners not doing now that they should be doing, in terms of the identified real problem? Ask this of yourself and the stakeholders. Make a list of the major knowledge, skills, activities expected from the custom learning. This is the gap between the desired behaviour and the current behaviour of the learners.
3. Gain an agreement from the stakeholders on the learning outcome
Understand what the learners should be able to do/ know after interacting with the custom learning program. This provides a laser-like focus for the design and development process. During development, this will also help you to measure every decision against desired outcome.
4. Consider design aspects
The design aspect of creating a custom learning is, in fact, the most critical aspect of the development. The technological obstacles are usually secondary to the need for a good, effective design. When custom learning is intuitive and easy to learn, the process to ensure those features is usually involved and complex. Thus, when beginning the process of developing a custom learning strategy, do not hesitate to remind others that the process is more complicated and complex than designing a linear lecture or a static online learning module. Ensure great rapport with these two teams, who play a pivotal role on the design front:
- Instructional design – An effective instructional design team builds a strategy that ensures the design of interactions, storyline, assessment, and feedback in a manner that reflects the learning outcome of the custom learning from the beginning and not as an afterthought.
- Engineering and graphic design – This team is responsible for the visual delivery methods that includes the user interface, or UI, the on-screen menu(s) and graphics that overlay a custom learning.
5. Perform an audience analysis
Make a list of the skill level of the learner, technical knowledge, familiarity with digital learning, reading level, knowledge level of the subject matter, and length of time in the organization. Creating a learner profile or ‘persona’ helps to define the interactions within the custom learning and meet learner expectations.
6. Determine the logistics
Know how the custom learning will be rolled out to your organization. What type of device will the learning be played on? These will help you and your organization think through logistical issues and identify potential problems early in the process so that those problems can be overcame or mitigated during the implementation of the custom learning program.
7. Determine the technical requirements
Understand the technical aspects of the custom learning environment. Will the custom learning be delivered through HTML 5, Flash, on a mobile device? Which authoring tool will best suit the purpose? What LMS features will it require? In case of technical glitches, who can help you out? Will internet connectivity be needed to play the custom learning? Can the course can be downloaded and still be tracked in the LMS? Is there a need to consider SCORM or Experience API? Ask these questions to determine the technical requirements.
Building a custom learning program to function within a specific technological infrastructure is key to making it work. Even the greatest custom learning won’t be any use if a learner cannot access it. Involve the information technology folks in the custom learning efforts early to understand the requirements, restrictions and parameters under which you can develop.
8. Create storyboard and asset management documentation
Regardless of what process is used, you will require use of some types of design documents to articulate the design goals, strategy, flow, and outcome both within the project team and outside. These documents have proven to play important roles both during the project cycle and at a later date, time and time again.
9. Manage the process
Each custom learning project is a unique venture, although the production requirements always share a central core. The learning must be interesting and engaging, but the primary goal is to deliver the intended learning outcome. The custom learning program must meet the learner’s expectations, but must also be completed on time and within budget. Design issues, developmental problems, implementation roadblocks are part and parcel of the job. Remember, pre-production is the key to success. Use checklists to keep the team on track. Document the requirements. Every aspect of custom learning development is reiterative from start to finish.
Whether you are managing a team virtually or face-to-face, you will find that the following skills help you succeed: self-reliance, self-confidence, strong problem-solving skills, a thirst for self-training, strong time management, the ability to intensely focus, routinely paying attention to detail, and the ability to communicate clearly.
10. Evaluate the performance improvement of the learners
Finally, performing a performance evaluation and using the performance improvement to justify your custom learning will position learning and development professionals like you, as people who understand business. The process for conducting a performance improvement justification is systematic and not overly complicated – gather post-learning data and data from the control group to determine the performance metrics and return on investment.
We hope you will find some or all of this to be useful for you, whether you are a first time producer or veteran who is translating years of skills and experience in the learning and development field to the unique demands of great custom learning productions.
If you would like to learn more about how to build the most effective employee training strategy!
If you’d like to know more about how EdApp’s mobile learning platform can help your internal training practices, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also try EdApp’s Mobile LMS and authoring tool for free by signing up here.