Resources not courses: What does it really mean? 8 tips to create better resources

We know that people forget what they “learn,” that content needs to be short and focused to engage our audiences, and that 52% of people learn for work at a point of need. Design resources instead of courses, and you should be onto something, right?


Absolutely, if you play it right. But simply chopping up content into small pieces is not the answer. Yes, you’ll have some short things, but they’ll probably miss the whole point. The one about need.

‘Resources not courses’ and other songs

You may, like me, not be able to say “resources not courses” without using a silly, jingle-like tone of voice. It’s not because I don’t believe it, but because the term was used for years at learning and development events. I can no longer say it without sounding ironic. (Just me who does that? Well, bear with me anyhow…)

Courses are long and often done “away” from work at one time, mostly forgotten back in the real world. Thus, they’ve gotten a bad name for improving workplace performance. (The key is to not design them like that, if you do need to build in-depth skills).

So, hail “resources!” Shorter, more focused and available at a point of need, they have the potential to bind learning with application in the moment, and make people successful at work. Hoorah!

But just because something is short doesn’t mean it’s great. Sorry, Danny.

Of course you need resources!

Learning that’s integrated in the workflow is more likely to be used, shared and result-driven. Even if the performance improvements are on a mini-scale, it all counts: a better performance conversation, a single risky task done safely, an effective team meeting that motivates a team to get tasks done better. Think of resources as ways to help nudge everyone up one notch in at least one thing, every day. (Then add that all up – it’s A LOT!).

It’s hard to think of a situation where resources wouldn’t be good for performance.

The art is in finding the essence of usefulness

Yes, size matters. It is important to find the most efficient way to help someone achieve something – boiling the resource down to its essence of usefulness. But simply carve up your content or course into tiny chunks, and you’ll have some short things, but you’ll probably miss the point.

The point is that effective resources are needs-based. They help someone do something they need to do, in that moment. Usefulness and relevance trump. And who knows best? Your audience.

Let’s look at eight ways to create resources that make a difference:

1. Use design thinking: Ask, listen, empathize

To find the particular gaps that need to be closed, and to make your content win over everyone’s favorite (Mr. Google), you need to get close to what your audience’s pain points are – and even the time eaters that make them inefficient or unable to perform better.

  • What might they need help with?
  • What questions might they ask around that task area? What is X? How do I do X?
  • When? And in what context? (What are they “doing” at that moment?)
  • What format would most help them in that moment?
  • What would they prefer to use to help them, given a choice?

Here’s a really useful RESOURCE on design thinking for those who aren’t familiar with this great approach. Use this approach upfront, during and after your core project – in other words, do it regularly!

Need more? See this other great resource around elearning best practice.

2. Consider different modes

You can then look at a variety of options, such as one-pagers that outline the “what,” an easy example for the “how” and options to get further “how tos” that broaden or deepen understanding from there.

To show the “what” or “how,” consider using:

  • Infographics/diagrams/steps
  • Short videos: expert guides; dos and don’ts; walkthroughs; peer top tips
  • Case studies that walk through an example scenario in-depth
  • 5-10 top questions to ask/ways to do X/tips about Y
  • Crowd-sourced tips (i.e. the top ways your colleagues do this action, a polling question that asks people “What most helps you do X?” and share the results)
  • Downloadable on-the-job tools and templates to do that thing (a planner sheet, for example)

3. Irrelevance sucks. Get personal and adaptive

“74 percent get frustrated with websites when content, offers, ads, promotions, etc. appear that have nothing to do with their interests.”

We expect personally relevant content to such an extent nowadays that anything else actually annoys us. Focus on content that’s genuinely useful and relevant to your audience’s needs and context. Also try using diagnostics, rules, branching and scoring techniques to create adaptive content that tunes itself to the performance of an individual there and then. Present or suggest what they might need next; if they say they are struggling with X, give them some guides about that.

elucidat project structure

4. Let learners create their own guides

Empower learners to create their own performance support resources during other learning experiences you give them. Got a great best practice video of how to do a performance management conversation? Pair it with text input functionality to let learners capture notes about key phrases or techniques they could try. Enable them to set targets via survey questions around when they will get the conversation underway, and how many team members they will talk with by that point.

Elucidat enables you to represent this data as a structured, personalized, digital action plan. Add in some ready-made expert tips, and you have a performance resource tailored to that individual’s needs, which they can revisit at any point, on any device.


5. Curate instead of create

Don’t feel you have to create performance support resources from scratch. There’s bound to be loads of tools, templates, guides, videos and tips ready made inside and outside your organizations. Use Elucidat’s iFrame technology to play videos you already have, that may be spread across different sites.

Or look to curation tools, such as Anders Pink, to supplement what you offer.

6. ‘Ah Push It’…or is that ‘Pull it’?

Perhaps not the coolest song to drop into a blog, but Salt-n-Pepa should re-think their lyrics. When it comes to resources, it’s not really for you to decide what people should have and put to use. It’s got to be about choice. So, go for the “pull” not “push” mantra to avoid a tug of war that will make your project fall over.

7. Get down with your data


Analytics comes into its own with pull-based resources. Look at your in-built dashboards to monitor what’s hot, where, who’s using what, and who’s coming back for more. Usage data is a straight up way to find out if you’ve hit the need on the head. If some resources aren’t being used at all, clear them off the list or give them a re-design.

Use your data to drive your strategy moving forward, as Lori Niles-Hofman explains here.

8. Nudge them along

When a Fitbit buzzes, people get walking. Yes, resources are mostly about pull, but you can also be smart with your approach and create resources and reminders that nudge learners to take an action – or attempt the next “level” of their development. Targeted daily or weekly emails and messages to wearables and phones, alongside a micro-learning program that serves up personalized challenges, make up a powerful recipe to build new habits.

Other ideas to motivate learners can be found here.

Final thoughts

Create targeted, needs-based resources that help people take the right steps forward in the moment, and build performance improvements for your business.

And remember:

  • New habits and behaviors are built in small steps, over time;
  • Time is precious;
  • People want help in the moment;
  • Digital content is always there (you don’t have to shove it all at people in one go).

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