When it comes to elearning, there’s certainly no need to feel shackled to a course. In fact, there’s no need to limit your digital content to learning in a traditional sense. After all, we’re in the business of improving peoples’ performance, and we know modern learners also want content that can help them at their point of need.
Before you dive into creating your learning or revamping old materials, consider if you should be creating performance support, learning experiences, or just simple digital information—or it might be a combination of all three.
Learners’ needs will vary from person to person, role to role, and across organizations. Generally speaking, however, there are three types of content that learners tend to need:
- Performance support: quick “look-up” resources to help with the here and now
- Learning experiences: content that helps build skills and behaviors or changes attitudes
- Information: landing somewhere in the middle, we know this is not learning, but sometimes information is what is needed to support performance, particularly where there’s already a context for its application, e.g., updated product knowledge for experienced salespeople.
There’s a lot you can do with just one authoring tool to serve your customers’ needs. Therefore, when you think “elearning,” step back and consider which types of content will best help meet your goals—and certainly do not automatically reach for creating a course.
Here’s our guide to the three forms of digital learning and some examples for making the learning component really work.
1. Performance support
If you’ve ever faced a problem, a new challenge, or a situation that takes you out of your comfort zone, chances are you reached for your phone. You might have messaged a friend, or more likely, you went online and searched for a solution right then and there. According to Towards Maturity’s report on corporate learning:
- 52% learn at a point of need: the “puncture moment”
- 80% reach for Google or another search engine to find what they need
Why not? The learner is in control, and they can find what they want, i.e., content that is timely, relevant, and useful to their current problem.
There’s a plethora of fantastic resources and tips out there. However, unbeknownst to users, users could be sent off on a tangent or might pick up advice that isn’t quite right or even goes against a company’s policy.
How do you support learners in their times of need while ensuring the advice they receive is correct? We say use a mix of curation and creation. Curate what’s right and what works from across the business or from outside sources and then look to create performance support content to fill the gaps using rapid elearning software.
Work-based performance support can include the following:
- Reminders: Even if someone has done prior learning in a given area, they may welcome a timely top-up or reminder of the key actions or steps in a process. Think succinct, one-page visual or clearly written summaries.
- How to’s: Modern learners expect to find out exactly how to do something, so be sure to provide these aspects:
- Step-by-step guidance, e.g., videos, process diagrams, infographics, or numbered written steps that walk through how to do something
- Case studies, e.g., real-life examples of how other people have done it
- Tips, e.g., advice from experts or peers on what to consider when doing X
- Tools and templates: Consider providing downloadable performance apps, templates, or tools, such as an interactive PDF template that may help someone plan the conversation they’re going to have with a challenging client.
- Quick practices: Think back to your school days. Did you ever ask a friend to test you on a subject as you queued up for an exam? Practicing in a safe environment helps build confidence, but it also helps strengthen memory recall. While we know practice facilitates great learning, it also plays a role in performance support for individuals feeling nervous about a test they face, such as a first performance review conversation. A knowledge quiz isn’t what we mean here: an application scenario is probably most useful, but it must be short.
2. Learning experiences
If you need learning content, don’t just think “course.” In fact, there’s nothing stopping you from creating modern learning that fits with the expectation for short, bite-sized, relevant content.
What kind of skills or behaviors are you trying to develop?
- Practical skills: engineering, mechanics, or accounting where there’s a preset way to do things, perhaps with an underlying process or set of theories
- Soft skills: communication, presentation skills, body language, and listening
- Behaviors: leadership behaviors or attitude changes, such as considering the ethics or safety of a decision before acting upon it, or changing deep habits, e.g., stop doing X and start doing Y, instead
There’s no ready-made recipe for meeting the needs of each of these skills; each situation will be different and so will the context surrounding it.
However, this is where you might look to create the following:
- Micro-learning: Like duolingo, the building of skills through bite-sized activities that increase in difficulty and progress at a personal pace
- Challenges: games, scenarios, and quizzes that test understanding
- Case studies: provided for review and analysis
- Stories and examples: bring the context to life and provide memorable hooks
- Polls: benchmark opinions against peers’ and learn from one another
- Videos: provide demonstrations, expert views, fodder for reflective questioning, and interactive scenarios
- Tests: enable reflection, stretch, application, and feedback loops
Here are some examples of learning experiences created in Elucidat.
Utility Warehouse’s Spread the Word (created by Make Sense Design for Utility Warehouse in Elucidat)
Pepsi’s Formula One tour and game (created by Learning Evolution for Pepsico in Elucidat)
Medieval Swansea interactive history game (created by Make Sense Design for the Open University in Elucidat)
Live peer polling example (created by Elucidat team)
Now, we know information isn’t the same as learning, but sometimes what’s needed is only information, especially when there’s a pre-existing context for applying it. For example, short product knowledge updates for a sales team or legislation updates to corporate lawyers, might require straightforward albeit neatly designed multi-device information.
Here’s an example of an information awareness campaign made by Smart Serve. They wanted the general public to appreciate the laws that bartenders have to abide by.
Information can fall into the performance support camp if you provide easy-to-digest, multi-device content that can be referenced at a point of need.
This Picture Pro product knowledge created in Elucidat can double as mobile performance support.
For example, think of “digital brochures,” which are clear, visual, and to the point.
Of course, you can link from information to learning content, for example, from product knowledge to sales training materials. However, separating the two means you can cover different audiences needs.
If the update is big news or requires someone to alter what they do, then you might want to switch into learning mode as you’re asking for a change in behaviors or performance.
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Modern learners are crying out for multi-device digital learning that supports their needs. You can find out more about this here in our write-up of Towards Maturity’s learning preferences report. This includes self-paced learning, but the trends show performance support is a must, too.
Think expansively and beyond the course and you can create digital content that meets all of your learners’ needs.
Looking for an authoring tool? Elucidat makes it easy and fast for you to create good modern digital content that supports each of these three forms of digital learning. It is easy to maintain, and you can also provide information or content updates to all devices and users simultaneously—great for responding to requested needs.
For further ideas on how to select the right design mode, see our posts on analysis and example blends. You can also use the action-mapping techniques from Cathy Moore to work out what’s info and what’s not.