Content was Never King: Part 4 - Learning Design: Content is What I Need to Know or Do
Shaping the future of learning
In part four of our Kineo series on designing a program for optimum impact, we’re talking all things goals – identifying them, setting them, and sticking to them. Part One, Two and Three are available now.
Once we’ve documented the desired business outcomes and understand our audience, it’s time to get a clear understanding of what learner outcomes are required of the solution in order to achieve the business objectives.
Author and founder of Success magazine, Orison Swett Marden said: “All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible.” In the fifteen years since our founding, and after having serviced millions of learners, we realize that not only is it critical to set behavioral goals for the curriculums and solutions we develop, it’s essential that we enable our clients to have the confidence to stretch themselves and aim for the highest possible impact to yield the longest lasting results.
What we refer to as the Kineo Experience, provides the environment and process that enables our clients to tap into, and exercise, all of their creative faculties, which results in ideas and designs they never knew they had, producing results that never thought possible.
During our design process when we discuss learning goals, we often have a client that states enthusiastically, “we already have our goals and audience defined and we know what needs to be taught. We’re ready to design!” At this point, we applaud their enthusiasm and write the following on the whiteboard.
Design = Creating an Object or Experience with Intention
We then review what we covered at the onset of our Design Workshop: The driver for design isn’t content. Rather, the driver for design is articulating the experience that will achieve a specific outcome for a specific audience. Knowing the audience, while important, is just the first step. Our process enables clients to examine how the business needs translate into performance goals, and then explore each performance goal through the lens of the target audiences to flesh out how the solution might make a difference.
To achieve this level of clarity, we employ a technique we call Situation Mapping—a modified approach to Cathy Moore’s Action Mapping. This is best done as a workshop in which project stakeholders and SMEs provide the details. Situation mapping is a 3-step process:
Identify a context for which a business goal is relevant for a persona.
List the “what they need to do” (actions) in that context to achieve the goal (the performance goals).
Analyze the actions to flesh out any barriers, training, and support needed.
This process is time-consuming, but it’s important as it helps determine several things.
- It helps identify what type of problem we’re dealing with—i.e., Knowledge, Skills, Motivational, or something else?
- The impact of Mary taking each of the actions above.
- What are the potential consequences of Mary not taking a specific action.
- What support is in place today to enable Mary to do these things, and, if there is no support and training, what is needed to enable Mary to exercise the desired behaviors.
We repeat this process, and others, for each audience persona to get a clear understanding of what each audience group needs to be able to do until we have a complete picture. This is the most time-consuming part of the upfront work, but it pays off. As our clients go through this process, they quickly see how easy it is to design a solution that meets their audiences’ needs, and that guides their stakeholders and SMEs to determine what content is important and relevant to achieving their performance and business goals. This exercise also helps them identify any overlaps in content for the different audience segments.
Once all of the above is completed, we map our learner paths. For example, will there be a preassessment? Will everyone go through the same experience, or will there be an option to select a role in order to view content specific to that role? Answering these questions requires having a clear understanding of the intersections in content, and that clarity should come from your situation mapping. For example, if you find as you do your situation mapping that more than one role needs the same foundational training to perform their job or tasks properly, you can think about how to structure your curriculum in such a way that the two roles go through the same foundational training before branching off into training specific to their role.
Finally, we document the performance and learning goals for each audience segment and implement technology to track, analyze and refine the solution on an ongoing basis.
Today’s workforce is under significant pressure to product measurable results across the entire organization. Our ID’s, creatives, technologists and consultants devote significant time and effort to identifying learning and performance goals, but more importantly, to understand how they differ and how to design solutions that enable organizations to achieve both. In the end, we believe that the purpose of a learning goal(s), and thus the aim of any curriculum and learning solution, is to encourage engagement, exploration, and collaboration, and to adapt what learners know and are taught to a variety of functions, circumstances and roles.