Content was Never King: Part One - Results before Solutions: Articulating the Business Outcome
Shaping the future of learning
Embarking on a curriculum design project can feel like there are a million different moving parts. A well-designed learning curriculum will develop and nurture the critical skills needed to achieve a specific business outcome. Unfortunately, whether or not a curriculum design is successful is often left to chance. With so much on the line, who wants to take that gamble?
At Kineo, we implement a proprietary process for creating effective learning solutions and curriculums that ensure your solution precisely meets the needs of the learners and achieves both organizational and business objectives. In this series of articles, we’ll share some of our process and how we’ve successfully helped some of the world’s largest companies achieve their business objectives through elearning initiatives.
Where do many curriculum programs fall short?
any curriculum projects fall short because they focus on delivering content rather than delivering experiences that support and enable change in service or address a business need. When you lead with content, you end up with a lot of blurred lines around the scope, the audience, and the applicability of what you put into the curriculum.
Let me illustrate with a common scenario.
You’re working with your compliance team to develop information security training. There hasn’t been formal information security training to date, yet recent regulatory changes have lit a fire under the compliance team to get something put together. They want an eLearning course that can be deployed to the whole company with completion tracked for compliance purposes. No problem, right?
The compliance team wants all employees to know the policies and to report if they suspect an information security breach. “Ok”, you say; you can work with that. You have plenty of content and dig into your treasure trove of creative themes and gamified learning experiences to find one that might work for this course, making sure that you include some practice exercises and assessments to reinforce and show achievement of the objectives. Then you build the course thoughtfully creating screens, analogies, examples, and stories to help learners understand social engineering, email security, social media safety, safe device use, malware, ransomware, phishing, choosing secure wireless access points, staying secure when traveling, and more.
The course gets delivered and the compliance team is happy—they meet their compliance requirements. You even get word that employees find the training to be entertaining.
But, not long after the training is deployed, a member of the compliance team reaches out to you with this message: “We have recently been sending out fake phishing emails to the company as a test—we sent some before the training was deployed and after the training was deployed. Before the training, we had about 50% of employees click on the links in the phishing emails. And now, after the training, well...no change! In fact, with the recent phishing campaign, over 60% of employees clicked the links! If this was a real phishing campaign, we’d be in serious trouble. We need more training! This time, we want a course just on phishing and we may follow with individual courses on each topic.”
So, what went wrong? Why didn’t the training help raise awareness? Why didn’t I know about this phishing campaign? What do we do now?
Results first – content later
The problem can be summed up simply—the compliance team led with content (remember when content was king? Not so anymore!). The compliance team had a good idea of what they wanted to cover (their very important compliance policies and procedures!), but no analysis was done into why these were the correct objectives. Without understanding first what security threats the company is facing and why, training becomes simply a regurgitation of old content.
Even a well-designed, interactive, and engaging content dump is still a content dump. Learners may achieve passing scores on their assessments, but what have they retained? Was it the right things? More importantly, if they retained anything, are they now able to apply what they learned?
When you instead lead with a business need, you can systematically break things down to make smart, focused decisions every step of the way, and equally important, have a way to measure and show the outcome of your decisions.
You take very intentional steps to design for results, starting with understanding the business problem and what needs to change, identifying the audience and their role in that change, then breaking down what knowledge and skills need to be taught to help the audience make that change. It’s a cascade of investigative questioning, that when done well, paints a clear path forward for you and the training solution.
In this series of blogs, we’ll share insights into Kineo’s process, activities, and the tools we use to help clients develop curriculum solutions that:
Have clear goals tied to a well-articulated business problem,
Meet the needs of your target audience, and
Specify the most effective and efficient set of experiences to meet the goal
The first step in any successful eLearning project, and one we undergo in the initial design workshop, is Create a Clear Project Charter. We will go into depth on that step in Part 2 of this series.