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What is "The Learner Experience"?

Intrepid’s GM, Sam Herring, was recently asked questions about “the learner experience” for a Training Industry podcast and it got an email ‘roundtable’ started amongst some of our colleagues. Here is the collective wisdom about the all-important learner experience. 

So Just What Does “Learner Experience” Mean?

Learner experience is no longer just their experience of the content and how they interact with it.

It’s the entire learner journey:

  • becoming aware of a need
  • being able to find an answer or resource
  • being able to access and participate in learning seamlessly within their workflow without jumping through hoops
  • being able to interact with real people (experts, peers, instructors etc.) in a coherent way
  • being able to not just consume things created by others but being able to personalize those resources into personal and actionable insights that become uniquely theirs.

It doesn’t end with the actual training event. How do trainers support the learning through use within jobs, answering questions, and needing to be refreshed on information?


What Is A Common Myth People Hold About “The Learner Experience”

Learners need more content.

Yes, content is important. But what turns content into a meaningful learning experience is embedding that content within the right context and with the right activities to promote learning and application.

While content might apply across situations, the context and activities need to be uniquely relevant to the organization, to the specific learners, and to their role in addressing the business problem which the training seeks to address.

It’s also a myth that all content has to be professional quality. It doesn’t, it just needs to be relevant. A phone video from a SME in the field can often make a bigger impact, much faster, than a costly and timely, highly produced video. Think about when something breaks at home—you watch a homemade video from someone on YouTube to learn how to fix it. It’s OK for work learning to mirror our personal learning.


What Is A Best Practice for Designing a Good Learning Experience

Bring together strong content with clear, compelling context and worthwhile assignments.

Great learner experiences make the business goals relevant, tangible and immediate for learners. That might sound simple, but anyone who has created training knows it is not!

Doing this will help learners internalize, apply, and synthesize whatever it is those learners ultimately need to help the business excel. Because learning is most powerful, most provocative, impactful when learners get to own their learning and make it theirs.

Bring the learner into the design. Ask them what they want, need and like. Ask them to film some videos, moderate discussions, etc. What you’ll end up creating will be much closer and relevant to the learner than what you would build with assumptions from the L&D silo.


What Makes for a Bad Learner Experience?

Not recognizing the strengths, possibilities and parameters of the different modalities available today and using them effectively

Designing and adapting learning experiences should make the most of available options, not try to replicate exactly what they used to do in one medium in a completely different one.

Another pitfall: making the learner work hard to get to their learning through extra clicks, multiple logins, do something here and discuss it way over there – not using an integrated experience.

Also, any kind of elearning that goes longer than 10-15minutes. This is just a test of endurance, and not a learning experience.


How Do You Measure the Learner Experience?

The measure of any learning experience needs to be, “how well did the people and the business achieve their goals?”

This is true whether those goals were building a deeper, stronger leadership pipeline or increasing sales or reducing errors. The beauty of online learning experience platforms is the range of leading indicators available via at-a-glance dashboards and detailed reporting.

There’s no one particular piece of individual data to measure; it’s a combination of all sorts of data points that build the learner experience story:

  • When do they log in?
  • How long do they stay?
  • How often do they come back?
  • What is most liked( what kind of content was it?)
  • What is least liked (what kind of content was it)?
  • Where was the most discussion, where was the least discussion?
  • How many people started, how many people completed, where did people drop off?

And on and on. With all these data points, you can start to paint a picture of what the experience looked like throughout the learners’ journeys.

Most importantly, be honest with your data. It’s very easy to just point out the data points that support your success, but if you discount or ignore the data that tells you something didn’t work, you may set yourself up for failure the next time. 


What Background or Skills Do Training Departments Need in Order to Develop a Strong Learner Experience?

Look for staff who have successfully navigated a change of learning medium before.

  • How did they handle the change from ILT to vILT or elearning?
  • How have they maximized the strengths of each medium, working effectively within the constraints of each medium in using each?
  • When given a choice of which media to use for a program, how do they make that selection; what criteria do they use?
  • What skills and knowledge do they bring from beyond the typical boundaries of training? For example, from information architecture or library sciences to inform effective organization and flow, from marketing and writing to generate engagement and appropriate emotion, or from visual design and web UX to know how to make the best immediate impressions and intuitive flow. 


In Conclusion: Why the Learner Experience is So Important

A good digital learning experience generates an immediate, positive emotional reaction – like curiosity and a sense that “the people who created the experience understand me and my challenges.”

If you accomplish that, then learners keep coming back. They WANT to return, because they know it will be worth their while; they’ll gain from that experience.

And even after a training event or period is over and done, the digital experience is still there – reference-able, something they can use to refresh, something they can share with a colleague who has a similar challenge and something they come back to if it’s a quality leaner experience. This is why the learner experience is more than just content.

Contributors: Elizabeth Pearce, JR Burch, Manjit Sekhon and Nicole Bunselmeyer 



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