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Three tips for delivering authentic learning with the learner in mind

01 July 2020

It has become increasingly apparent that the Organisations who will not only survive, but thrive in the current climate are those that have two key traits in common:

  1. The ability to be resilient and focus on what is in front of us ( we have eyes at the front of our head for a reason) rather than bemoan what has been lost or get dragged into looking backwards or at our feet.

  2. The mindset to be agile and be brave enough to change their mind, rather than being stubborn and relying on what has always worked in the past.

As a learning and development practitioner of over twenty years, I have never known an opportunity like this to try out exciting new ways to deliver authentic learning, with the learner in mind.  

The advance of technology and the pace at which we have all had to upskill ourselves has clearly accelerated this but my gut feel is that learning and development has been ready for progress for some time now and it just so happens that recent events are allowing us to fast track this.

Below are three simple ideas that I have been implementing within my business and the way in which I work with my clients.

1. Start your architecture with the end in mind  

There is nothing too revolutionary in this statement of course, but it is very tempting to try and take existing content which was designed for face to face delivery and convert it into a ‘virtual friendly format’.

By reminding ourselves of the importance of asking questions first, it enables us to ensure we are trying to solve the right outcome before we start on the design piece.  For example:

  • What difference are we looking to make within the Organisation?
  • What are the success criteria for this?
  • How will the success be measured, e.g. which habits will be observed?
  • What pre existing knowledge do the learners have and how can this be tapped into?
  • Where are individuals now in relation to the desired outcome?
  • What are the barriers that are causing any gaps?
  • Why do these barriers exist?
  • What specific activities will overcome these barriers?

2. Consider the use of PDF materials

In my business, we traditionally used to print our learning materials, presenting them in an A4 bound folder.

When you think about this, this is a classic example of doing something because it was the way it was always done, rather than with the needs of the learner in mind.  

Imagine an open plan office (remember those days?) and a learner wanting to reflect on how to conduct a meaningful conversation in preparation for a conversation with a client or colleague later that day.  Reaching for an A4 folder is less than discreet and relies on the fact that the folder is within reaching distance and not shoved on a bookshelf or in the bottom of a drawer somewhere.

With this in mind, we took the view several months ago to move towards PDF workbooks.  We quickly discovered the benefits were multi-faceted:

  • Learners can access the materials on several devices, anytime, anywhere
  • Learners can set up a learning folder to access all their key learning insights in one place
  • A PDF format enables you to embed interactive tools such as video links, websites etc…  as well as interactive notes pages
  • Learners have the choice of printing their own copy or using a laptop or tablet during the facilitated learning.  In our experience about 30% of people prefer to print their own copy for use on the day
  • It saves on printing and delivery costs which has a positive impact on our carbon footprint
  • It is applicable to both virtual and face to face learning

3. Spacing

To my earlier point of not trying to crowbar a day of content into a half day programme, it is worth considering taking a more flexible approach to how we break up the spacing of delivery, both face to face and virtually.

There is often a challenge for managers to release their team member for an entire day of learning and whilst of course there are times when this is very appropriate, there are alternatives, especially when we consider that the intention of the learning is to inspire learners to develop new habits through insights.

The ability to keep learners engaged, attentive and connected to the learning often requires bite size chapters which is something we have been trialling very successfully with several of our clients.

Rather than a half-day session, typically we will work with smaller groups over a 60 – 90-minute period with a focus on one or two very specific insights.  Learners will then have a few days to reflect on these before returning virtually or face to face for an individual coaching session or further facilitated workshop.

This little and often approach minimises the disruption of a full working day and ensures that energy levels as well as focus remain high.  It is interesting to note that the feedback we have received from clients about the observed impact in the workplace has been significant using this methodology.

Of course, none of this is a one size fits all approach and what works for one learner or Organisation may not work for another, but the purpose behind this article is to start a conversation around what else we can do to ensure that learning and development remains authentic and results focused.

If you would like to arrange a complimentary consultation to discuss how to further support your learners or you have ideas of your own that you would be willing to share, we would love to hear from you. You can contact us on 01295 675506 or email ad@donovantrainingassociates to arrange for us to call you.

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