Quick! A pipe just burst in your house and your kitchen is flooding. Now, imagine instead of a having smartphone ready to look up a local plumber, you’ve been handed a book containing every plumber’s number in your country, forcing you to find someone local in its pages. As water starts to lap around your ankles, you curse how long it takes to find what you need.
For some employees, using their company’s LMS can feel just like this: a flood of content masking the relevant information they need to learn. While it’s critical that learners have all content available if it’s needed, in reality, learners only need a small portion of the information at any given time. And learners want what’s right for them. Having to sift through pages and pages of dense content often leads to disengagement and a decline in learning motivation.
One of the easiest ways to increase learner motivation and engagement is to allow for more personalization in your elearning strategies. When learners are able to control what they learn and how they approach it, they’re more likely to see training as an opportunity for growth rather than a chore.
Two big-picture approaches are courseware personalization (control of content and learning) and portal personalization (control of social learning interactions and learning environments).
Courseware personalization can range from letting users enter their name and set up an avatar for their course (imagine a course that said “Welcome back, Trevor!” on its home page), to letting learners control what learning objectives they want to master, and the timing and methodology of that learning. Some learners are best engaged with videos, others may learn best with a PDF—by allowing multiple media options, your learners will engage in the way they learn best.
Another example of personalized courseware is learning paths. One of my first projects at Allen was working with a team to create trainings for a video surveillance company that employed sales, installation, and design experts. Rather than give their learners a single training that tried to incorporate all of these roles, we designed a learning path that gave all employees a foundational knowledge, then branched into three different role-based learning paths. The result was that we were able to make each path more focused on specific skills and used more nuanced language for each role (more technical for the installers, more conceptual for site designers, etc.).
While courseware personalization lets learners control what they learn, being able to personalize their learning portal allows learners to how they approach learning. A portal can be more than just a tool for organizing and delivering content; it can make the learning process more relevant, more immediate, and more engaging.
A common learning portal solution is to allow learners to set up user profiles, much like social media, where they can enter their roles and learning objectives, and receive content recommendations based on their profile information. Other solutions like dashboards can provide learners with an instant view of what they’ve been working on and their progress along their learning paths, allowing them to see the most relevant content right away.
In our use case about implementing personalization through portal, we discuss how learners and learning managers can benefit:
“Using personalization allows you to scale your learning infrastructure across the enterprise by giving relevant information to multiple audiences. […] As you gain the insights about what is most needed, you get a deeper understanding of what content your learners, or customers, think is most important to your business. This is a good indicator of where to invest your learning budget.
Combining Courseware and Portal
These two strategies don’t have to be mutually exclusive, or even exist separately. Learner input from courses can inform the layout of a portal landing page, and profile information within a portal can be used to make courseware content more personal.
For instance, say a learner enters “systems mastery” as one of their learning interests. Later, when they receive feedback in a course, it can be tailored to include that interest: “And you’ll be one step closer to systems mastery!”
Another example of combining courseware and portal personalization is through gamification. When a learner plays a game and receives a personal high score, that score could then be posted to a portal-based high scores table for the entire company. This increases social learning and motivates learners to not only beat their own best score, but the scores of their peers.
- Courseware personalization allows learners to control what they learn and when they learn it, which increases motivation and engagement while making learning more relevant.
- Portal personalization allows learners to sort relevant content for immediate use, set learning in a social environment, and gives learning managers more accurate analytics.
- Combining courseware and portal personalization can be done through a number of solutions, creating a seamless learning experience that puts the learner in control.
Are you doing personalization in your training? If not, what are the obstacles in your company?