LS2011: Creating Engaging Learning Designs

After presenting my session at Learning Solutions 2011, I attended “Creating Engaging Learning Designs” with Joseph Fournier of Amerigroup. Most of his presentation was fairly straightforward advice that we all should be following already:

  • Close the distance between the instructor and the learner.
  • Get learners involved early and often.
  • Focus on true needs of the learner.
  • Keep it short and sweet (I loved his discussion on this topic: “and that’s all I am going to say about that”).

Change the conversation. We aren’t a cost center. We are a collaborative business partner.
Most of the presentation were tips such as these that most of us have learned, but often lose sight of during the flurry of activity in our work. It serves as a good reminder.

Joe did say something that resonated with me, and I hope every learning and development professional in the industry. We need to change the conversation. We aren’t a cost center. We are a collaborative business partner.  I believe many in the industry agree, but are not acting on it nor are they engaging in changing the dialog.

Pay attention to the in-between spaces

Another keen insight Joe offered was to pay attention to the in-between spaces which is where learning happens. There are many in-between spaces in learning design. Scaffolding. Conceptual to application. Transfer of learning to the workplace (if you separate the environments instead of embed the work as learning and learning as work). Transfer support is often missed in design. Business process improvement often yields improvement by focusing on the whitespace between processes. Joe’s advice applies this same concept in a learning context for improved learning designs.

Take-away: Simple, adaptable analysis matrix

The last take-away from Joe’s presentation for me was a simple matrix that can be adapt for many uses. Joe uses a 5 Opportunities Framework (shown in the diagram at the top of this post). These are ways the learner can progress through different stages of learning from initially engaging in content to constructing understanding to mastery, refining, and sharing. Then, Joe plots his learning model into on axis of a matrix, and places specific learner properties into the other matrix. For example, he plots his learning model against learners according to the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) quadrants as shown below:

Joe noted how the matrix could use different criteria such as job role, tenure, or other learner demographics that would effectively categorize learners.

You don’t have to buy into Joe’s 5 Opportunities Learning model or his use of the HBDI quadrants to see the value of this tool. You can substitute your own learning model-or any key learning success criteria you need to track-into the matrix. For the other matrix, select any categorization schema for learners that would help guide your development.

(or did I take Medina’s advice of ‘have learners start improvising off of learning’ too far and completely corrupt what Joe was intending here?)

The reason this tool was such a good take-away for me is that I too often see silo-type thinking with training designs. Designers focus on a training design for group A, and follow that design through. Then, they use that baseline and attempt to tweak it for Group B, then C…  The process is inefficient and generally only one group gets it’s core needs addressed. All subsequent development only perform tweaks to the first development offered as a compromise, which only partially fulfills the needs of the other groups.

This tool is effective because it is simple to use and can be extended to incorporate your own learning models and learner categories for your analysis purposes.

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