A good coach listens to what we say, reads our cues, focuses on our goals and progress, and adapts accordingly. But how can this kind of approach translate to the online environment? With users expecting digital learning to be equally personalized and relevant, here’s how to use data to do just this…
Personalized experiences: something we expect in good learning
If you have a one-to-one with a skilled coach or mentor, you’ll see how they adapt their questions, advice and support, depending on what you say, do or ask. They’ll probably also be reading your body language and noting cues to work out how confident/engaged/passionate/agitated or, even, irritated, you are. And, hopefully, they are aware of the goals you’re working towards and will be able to support you in achieving them. It’s a personalized service we expect in this context.
In our recent webinar “The Science Behind Digital Learning That Works”, Lori Niles-Hofmann argued that a good trainer takes cues from the audience to see whether they are engaged or not:
“The students will give the trainer signals, both consciously and subconsciously. If the trainer notices that the learners are disengaged, they can adapt their approach to try and increase engagement.”
How do you read the signals to personalize online learning?
Research tells us that we give digital content 7 seconds to get our attention – meaning that relevance is key. Instinctively, we filter out anything that’s not personalized to our needs or preferences incredibly quickly, if good algorithms haven’t already done it for us, of course.
It’s then no wonder that ‘personalized and adaptive’ learning is the hottest trend in L&D according to Donald Taylor’s Global Sentiments Survey. Everyone is getting on board to the idea of engaging learners beyond that magic 7 seconds, and ensuring their content stands out.
To design these kinds of personalized experiences digitally, you need a way to read your audiences. This is why we believe every learning designer needs data in their daily toolkit, in order to:
- Profile audiences and help pinpoint their needs, contexts and goals so you can design relevant content, flows and adaptive experiences for them.
- Forecast the best ways to engage those audiences based on evidential data you already have, and design based on what you know, rather than what you assume.
- Monitor engagement levels in the moment, much like a coach or trainer does when faced with learners, enabling you to make instant changes.
Think of data as “Digital body language”
When it comes to monitoring a digital audience, think of data as a way of reading their ‘digital body language’. Lori Niles-Hofmann coined the term to help L&D managers make the connection between the classroom and online learning:
“Every drop-off, click or share is a learner shouting their likes and dislikes. These actions are the eye-rolls, smiles and crossed arms from the classroom, simply in digital format.”
For example, if you see user numbers drop when they hit a certain page, that’s your audience telling you it isn’t working for them. In fact, you’re losing them. Take a look at possible reasons why. Perhaps that page has a design-fault, or maybe just isn’t relevant. Or they may already have all of the information they need by the time they reach the page.
If a certain page or topic is hugely popular and gets revisited time and time again, try increasing your marketing tactics to further boost audience numbers. Or why not pluck it out as a standalone resource to be used in its own right?
The more you monitor data, the more aware you’ll be of what works and what doesn’t. In fact, good tools connect the dots for you by presenting you with data-based trends, enabling you to invest in ideas that have a greater chance of success.
How to use data for smarter, personalized online experiences
Use live data dashboards! It sounds obvious, but you need some decent data streams that are super simple to use. Try not to use data that is too complicated to get a hold of, or anything that requires an advanced level of spreadsheet skills. Instead, utilise tools with live dashboards built-in. Here’s a snapshot of the kind of data dashboards Elucidat provides:
You can also chat to your LMS, intranet or content portal providers to see how they can help.
This guide,co-authored with Lori Niles-Hofmann, outlines practical tips, tricks and strategies to use data to make your learning designs work smarter.