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Home / Resources / How to balance innovation and learner needs in elearning.

How to balance innovation and learner needs in elearning.

Author: Bethany Chudley Date:

We all love the opportunity to play with a shiny new toy in the world of elearning. However, shoehorning the latest gadget, innovation, or systems development into a learning solution often obscures the core learning need. It’s important to strike a balance between developing an innovative solution and creating learning that actually works for learners. That’s why, in this blog post, we explore how we can pull off that balancing act and create effective learning while satisfying the little L&D Magpie that exists within us all.

Navigating the 'shiny' elearning solutions.

L&D Magpies… heard of them? No? We’ve probably all been guilty of being attracted to something new and shiny. The latest trend, a new piece of tech, something which has the word ‘innovative’ in front of it have always piqued interest in the industry; and rightly so! It’s exciting, it’s novel and most importantly, it’s a new opportunity.

As L&D professionals, I think it’s safe to say we are always looking for opportunities. An opportunity to capture attention or demonstrate effectiveness – an opportunity to improve the learning experience of our learners. The technology we use, or the learning approach we take is key, to fulfilling those opportunities. But when we focus too much on the solution, when we entertain the whispers of the L&D Magpies rather than listening to the needs of our learners, we can lose sight of the goal.

Balancing innovation and learner needs.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with creating learning centred around a ‘shiny’ solution. However, creating learning that focuses on the solution at the expense of the wider learner need or experience is a pitfall that heeding the L&D Magpie may well drive us toward. Yes, the latest virtual reality headset is a very cool toy, and one that will be fun to design learning with, but is it really the best tool for teaching employees how to use a new project management software?

Four top tips for embracing the 'New and Shiny.'

With that in mind, here are four top tips to consider when embracing the ‘new and shiny’ without running the risk of losing sight of what your learners really need:

1. Identify your challenge and lead with objectives.

How often do you hear stakeholders lead with the solution? Does “we need a 20-minute elearning module” sound familiar? Well, when a new technology or trend comes on the scene, we’re even more likely to be led by the solution rather than working backwards, identifying the challenge or problem, and subsequently objectives. Challenge yourself and others to not jump ahead. Whilst a solution might be in mind, you might be surprised with what it ends up being when you really align on the challenge and goals first. 

2.  Ask yourself why?

Once you land on that solution – pressure test your decision. Why did you make that choice? Is it the right use case? How will this impact the learner (this last question being key)? Let’s take gamification as an example. We know that gamification in learning can be beneficial when it comes to increasing learner engagement – it activates our rewards systems increasing our motivation. But it can sometimes be a blocker to learning, especially when learners need information quickly and in the moment.

3. Don’t be afraid to scale up.

If you identify the right method to support your learners, whether that be storytelling or branched scenarios, there is always the opportunity to scale up the modality you use. Test the method before committing to a modality, giving you more confidence to move forward with what could be a heavy investment into new technology. If your learners are benefitting from an interactive scenario, why not scale that solution and introduce a more personalised and interactive approach through something like AI.

4. Be prepared to fail and pivot.

With anything new there is an element of risk associated. But, if we never try, we’ll never know! The important thing is to revisit your objectives and measure your success against them. Speak to your learners and gain their perspective, learn what’s working and what’s not, and ultimately be prepared to pivot. If you’ve followed the steps so far, you can be sure that, no matter your solution, it’s underpinned by the right principles. This means that even if you need to pivot the direction of your modality, you can be confident in your learning approaches.

Elearning that delights learners and magpies alike.

So, let’s be sure to embrace those new opportunities in the right way. Keep focused on your learners needs, the challenges you’re looking to solve and what success looks like. Pressure test your decisions with your stakeholders, and always look for new opportunities. Finally, keep looking out for those new and shiny solutions. When coupled with our top tips, you can create learning that keeps both your learners and your L&D Magpies happy.

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