Author: Terry McGoldrick | Date: June 7, 2023

Technology Enables Great Learning Experiences – What Assures Them?

Over the past decade, what were once unique Learning/Talent Management Systems (LMS/TMS) features and functions became more commoditized. Most every LMS/TMS tool now includes robust learning administration, talent management, and social/collaborative learning functionality. Now, the real evolution in learning tools is around the user experience. This includes highly flexible user interfaces, adaptive learning & other AI features, learning in the flow of work / microlearning, and real-time machine-based feedback.

As we enter the 2020’s, there’s been an explosion in tools that support this learning experience. More solutions and vendors have emerged and are seemingly everywhere. But as with any tool or technology, its value is directly proportional to both the quality of the content delivered and how one designs the learning experience in the first place.

Newly designed and customized experiences, with increasing focus on how the learner interacts through the user interface, have great potential to shape a learner’s experience and subsequent engagement. There is more capability to implement microlearning and other methods to implement and sustain learning in the normal flow of work.  But organizations sometimes rely too much on the technology and do not focus enough on the user experience. This is what we refer to as a “technology trap”, thinking that tools can be selected for all learners without understanding the needs and differences across the learner population. We cannot rely on tools, and tools alone, to provide the engagement necessary for strong learning experiences.

Given the importance of focusing on the learning experience as you look to implement these powerful tools, where does one start when considering learners? Regardless of the tool implemented, every user experience design element needs to address these questions for each segment of the intended learning audience:

  1. How will learners be made aware of the learning opportunities available to them through new and updated tools?
  2. When and where should learners be accessing learning content?
  3. To what degree should leaders and coaches be engaged in various learning experiences and what other support is available?
  4. To what degree will your organization be promoting and creating a focus towards microlearning?
  5. Will your organization be measuring the impact of these tools that enhance learning experiences?

The answers to these questions will help influence your learner experience strategy and do a better job at selecting the tool(s) that match your learner experience needs.

The next series of considerations requires an organization to think of their learners as they would their customers. The entire “learners as customers” philosophy has gained steam as organizations continue to make the shift to continuous learning to close strategic skill and capability gaps. We found that by considering learner experience touchpoints, the points of contact experienced by the learner, is invaluable in enhancing the learning experience. You can take a page out of your own customer service playbook to attract learners and get them to advocate their experiences to others. From the perspective of a learner, these touchpoints include:

  1. Awareness – What do I need and want?
  2. Consideration – How can I learn and experience that?
  3. Intention – This looks like where I need to go.
  4. Location – Where is it?
  5. Access – That experience helped me.
  6. Application – Now I can do it.
  7. Advocation – Others should consider this.

As with external customer experiences, each of these learning experience touchpoints can be compromised by a variety of factors beyond the technology and tools you’re looking to implement. For example, a seemingly limitless learning portfolio will get in the way and cause confusion from considering to accessing learning. We have also seen organizations implement modern learning experience tools, only to have their efforts compromised because of multiple entry points to access various types of learning in their organization. As you look to select innovative learning tools, be sure to establish use cases that address each of these touchpoints for each segment of the learner population you are considering.

Sustaining strong learning experiences means to always keep asking “what are we are doing for the experience?” What do we want the learner and their management to do? What will we put in front of them that makes it an experience to come back to and how will it add value?

We finally have the technology and tools we long wished for and it’s up to us to ensure they enhance the learning experience. Evaluating these tools from the perspective of your learners is essential to this process.

Author's Bio: Terry McGoldrick is a Director, Consulting and Advisory Services at NIIT. He is passionate about working with clients to help them run their learning & development function like a business and ensuring learning and the business it supports are connected. ​