Creating Purposeful Challenges For Learners

A phrase we hear quite often at Brainier when speaking with new clients is “to create a culture of learning” within the organization. While it may illicit eye-rolls from cynics, the reality is that many learning leaders take this goal seriously. Like them, Brainier believes in the power and the potential of learning to reshape the culture of an organization. These leaders also are acutely aware of learning engagement strategies. One strategy we see gaining steam lately centers on self-directed learning through massive, subscription-based content libraries. Though they are quite costly, these libraries offer a depth and breadth of relevant content for learners in virtually any industry.

However, we know from our many conversations with Brainier customers that “more” is not always better. While the early-adopters and “shining-stars” of the organization won’t hesitate to dive in, many learners might not know where to start. Some libraries pay attention to the concept of Choice Architecture. Platforms like Netflix are famous for this treatment in presenting their content. Limiting options presented on a screen to focus on certain titles reduces the burden of consideration and more confidently make a selection. Self-directed learning has its benefits, but aimless, unfocused learning doesn’t help advance an organization’s learning objectives. The solution in this case might be to highlight certain courses and create challenges for learners. Here are 4 ways to tap the potential of a massive content library and benefit your entire organization.

A closer look at how to strategically use that massive learning content library with your LMS.

1. Name and Define Learning Challenges

Start small. Looking at thousands of courses can be overwhelming for both the learner and the administrator trying to make sense of it all. Instead, start off by addressing specific learning objectives. Many people are drawn to these libraries to learn new skills or refine them, especially around learning common software platforms. Without a doubt, the organization benefits from employees developing and refining their skills on software they use on a day-to-day basis. While some of these libraries offer curriculum recommendations, they often need to be curated to ensure they are relevant to the organization’s learning objectives. Going further, that content needs to live within the LMS to realize its full potential, (more on this later).

By building out a learning track for a certain topic, you can identify core competencies around skills development for the learner. Naming and defining a learning challenge can help to direct learners to meet and exceed these core competencies. For example, running 26.2 miles without stopping is an oddly specific distance that doesn’t sound very appealing. Yet, when a backstory is applied and it gets a name, the challenge of a “marathon” has inspired millions of people to try it.

Attaching goals and metrics to assess the program is a must. Providing evidence that this investment is helping to move the workforce in a desired direction is a way to evaluate the strategy. Simply granting learners access to a learning library might be enough for the shining-stars of the organization to find the right content, but others might benefit from seeing highlighted selections. There may be organizations that embrace a laissez-faire approach to L&D strategy; however, many learning leaders rely on producing objective results to determine success.

2. Know What You’re Getting

Just like the rest of the internet, the range in quality of content is huge. Mixed in with the valuable, high-quality courses are outdated, low quality, and minimally engaging courses. Much of these libraries focus on learning software platforms that, by default, offer a very short shelf-life. As the software is frequently updated, so too must the learning content be updated. For this reason, it is important to continually curate the titles that make up learning tracks. While there are professional-level, engaging courses done by instructional designers, there are also monotone, screen-capture tutorials that don’t exactly follow best practices.

Asking for feedback in the curation process is also important. Consider inviting the “shining stars” of the organization to collaborate on creating a meaningful learning track. Use their knowledge and experience to create more personalized learning experiences for their peers. Also, consider creating a sub-group withing the LMS of the cohort going through the same learning track. Connecting learners can help foster success in the program by enabling discussions and collaborations. Perhaps, graduates of the program could be involved to help guide the discussions.

3. Reward Learners Along The Way

Recognition for achieving these learning challenges doesn’t have to be complicated. Some organizations may have existing rewards programs with points or perks that could work seamlessly with their learning goals. For recognition that doesn’t add to an expense account, activating badges, ranks, and titles in the LMS can help shine a light on high performers. Adding gamification elements in the LMS can help with learner engagement by creating a forum for competition in their learning activities. Items like badges that learners can achieve and display on their profile can help boost esteem and drive competition to log more completions and essentially acquire more skills. Learning leaders can even configure certifications within the LMS based on specific learning tracks. This way learners can see their own growth in the onboarding phase as well as an ongoing path to success in the organization.

4. Use Tech Wisely

Offering a mountain of learning content does not replace a learning leader, nor is it the equal of a learning management system. Though access to learning is important, it is the application of knowledge and measurement of growth that matters. The AI-features that these libraries offer, such as recommending other relevant content, can fast-track the build-out of new learning objectives. But just like people, the AI is not perfect and must be validated. Another issue with these libraries is the lack of analytics they offer. Simply reporting course completions only tells a portion of the learner’s progress. Once this content lives in the LMS, the picture becomes clearer. Learning analytics can help leaders determine how effective the process is: individual courses, the entire learning track, and even the potential of the learner. Managers and leaders can act as coaches and nudge learners to complete learning tracks with reminder emails and direct messages. The LMS can empower leaders by providing a better vantage point on overall progress.

Now that We’ve Got That Settled…

Self-directed learning opportunities like these are usually a sign that an organization is interested in creating a culture of learning. Giving the learner access to discover meaningful content in a library is important. A key component to creating that culture is providing a space for learners to share meaningful content, discuss it, and put the acquired knowledge into practice in their role. Establishing that “culture of learning” can often lead to that sought-after next step where people use that knowledge for innovation.