Building a Digital Strategy for Learning: Do’s and Don’ts
Technology – By Tiffany Prince
Many companies these days are going digital, so what does that mean for learning and performance professionals? In thinking about using mobile technology for your learners, you need to understand how to use this medium best. It is good for short bites of information or providing theory. Going digital in learning usually means training provided on a smartphone or tablet, so that will be the focus of this article.
In designing and developing content to be provided via mobile, it is best to think of it as an eBook format or read as a webpage. So imagine items you view on your phone and how you like information presented. It is good to break up text with videos, infographs, images and short interactivities, like flashcards or things learners can interact with to break up just reading large blocks of text.
The design of the content needs to be more from a storytelling or “what’s in it for me” format than other online content, otherwise you will lose your audience quickly. I’ve seen it work best when the content is broken down into smaller sections or chapters. This allows learners to obtain information in short, consumable chunks when they have a few minutes. If you think about this, we are doing this in our personal lives, so why not with content to do your job better?
My suggestion is to break a small chunk of content down into smaller parts, then convert one piece into the digital platform so you can see how it will display. As you are starting out, it is helpful to test and see how it displays so you become savvier in the tool and its limitations. Videos are good for storytelling especially bringing complex concepts to life. Developing work situations where employees must use these skills or knowledge helps the learner see how it could or has translated into a real-life scenario and where it might apply.
There is a balance in providing text and mixing it up with other graphics or visuals. Using one or two videos or audios such as podcasts per section is about right. Generally, each section should be no longer than 10-15 minutes each. Developing content in this format can be harder than others as it takes “the less is more” approach. However, you can go too slim as well so making sure you have meaningful, relevant content for each section takes planning. In working with my stakeholders, I try to develop or understand the objective for each section to keep on track and know what to add or trim out based on the purpose of the message.
The bottom line for any organization in providing skills or content in a digital format is to test and see what works for your organization. Use it as an overall learning strategy, not just a one-off solution. I found it works best as either pre- or post-work in a blended learning course or program. Don’t be afraid to launch, the feedback from the learners will guide you on what and how they like to consume information. The good news is that most publishing software taps into some form of analytics, either Google or built-in, so that you can track what content is working and what needs to be updated, removed or changed quickly. Think about the key engagement metrics you want to capture and how often before you launch your content.
Lastly, be sure to test how the content looks on various devices before launching. Some development software uses a responsive design, so it will detect the type of device the learner is using and adjust the layout on the screen. Another design is adaptive, which uses preset templates based on the screen size. These two designs handle the display slightly differently, but can make a huge difference in how your learners experience the content. Be sure to test how your software works or ask that question from your partners (if you aren’t building the content), as it can have impact to your success in launching.
As you are developing your digital courses, you will have to make some decisions on the best way forward and understand the limitations of your software package in what can be done. My suggestion is to think about your everyday digest of content and use that as foster for a new design. You might be surprised at the impact you have on your organization.
Tiffany Prince is principle of Prince Performance. Email Tiffany at firstname.lastname@example.org.