April 3rd, 2021
    Digital Learning

3 Steps to Smash Learning Design

cgaborit 4 min read

At the very essence, instructional designers develop their learning plan based on clear learning theory. Contemporary course design has now become a stage for design experts to showcase some design theories, authoring software and online tools in the quest of designing the perfect training experience.

With the growth of mass internet accessibility and usage of smart mobile devices, both micro and macro learning are cornerstones within a robust learning strategy. We can tap into the power of each learning intervention by catering to individual needs and considering exactly where each learner is at in their professional development cycle. Gone are the days when one size could fit all. If you fail to understand the need of your target group and customise your solution to their needs, you will surely struggle to see the ROI on your training initiative.

1. Believe in the blend and the professional development journey

One common mistake is the presumption that microlearning is the next big thing. While the premise can be luring, it is not backed by any credible research. Macro-learning courses are designed to cover a handful of learning objectives over an extended period. Micro-learning should focus your learner on just one learning objective. Its good practice to see micro and macro-learning as complementing each other.

Before you design your next course, research where your learners fall in their professional development lifecycle. For example, when a new incumbent starts a job, odds on they will need macro-learning support to build important foundational skill sets. As they mature and master their skills, its good practice to use micro-learning interventions, which can be proven by the latest research on the neuroscience of learning.

Josh Bersin does a great job explaining where micro and macro learning apply in the employee development cycle.

Image credit: https://joshbersin.com

2. Walk a mile in their shoes

Business is fast and in our haste to respond to competing business priorities, we can start to design with our preconceived notion of what will be best for our learners without realising their preference. We all know how popular MOOC education has become. However, do you know how many people complete the courses? According to Onah, Sinclair, and Boyatt of the University of Warwick, less than 13% of the total enrolled participants finish the courses.

That should raise red flags. Somewhere and somehow the majority 87% of the people who registered felt either their need was not fulfilled, or it was not worth their time, despite having an abundance of enthusiasm in the beginning.

Its best practice to get as much insight from your learner before you start the design process, so you can customise your training initiative to meet their unique needs.

To kick off your creativity, here are some ideas:

  • Become the best Sherlock Holmes you can be. Get your learners to have an aha moment by asking them to focus on their key pain points and consider their ideas to resolve their most significant challenges
  • Spend time in different departments to understand what they do and how it impacts organisational success.
  • Immerse yourself in the workspace. Watch how essential tasks are done and document the process and highlight any flaws or frustrations that you notice.
  • Ask questions. Find out what basic skills they need to complete the task and what is the impact if they don’t finish the job properly
  • Connect with the human side of your learners. Sit with them, drink coffee, and ask questions that are relevant to them. Let them know you are genuine and interested in them as individuals
  • Seek out the star performers. They will often be able to short-circuit the longer path of discovery as they have found workarounds to solve challenges.

Unquestionably, you need to understand your learners, their business, their challenges, and even their dreams. You cannot design effective training interventions without this understanding.

3. Use Neuroscience to your Advantage

There are three discoveries in neuroscience that have helped us uncover more about the way we learn. Moreover, if we apply some of the key findings in the design process, people will be more likely to remember key pieces of information, which means they are more likely to apply it on the job. That’s got to be good news for ROI.

The first discovery is called the spacing effect. This is when you present and repeat information over intervals of time to increase the uptake of knowledge. Moreover, as a bonus, the brain encodes the new knowledge in a certain way that means it is more likely to be retained.

The second discovery is called the testing effect, which proves that the best way to learn is by testing yourself on the material. When learners actively retrieve information from their memory, retention of that information is

enhanced. This happens for a number of reasons. We know that active learning is better than passive learning. When you read or highlight, you engage with the material in a relatively passive way. However, real learning happens when you actively engage with the content. Active learning is any learning activity in which you INTERACTS or ENGAGE. It’s problem-solving. Doing. Exploring. Scribbling out a calculation on a piece of paper. It is superior to passive learning because it forces your brain to connect information and work to understand.

The third discovery has its origins in confidence-based learning. It tells us that both knowledge and confidence in that knowledge is the key to act quickly, confidently and competently in any circumstance. As it stands, confidence is the bridge between information in your brain and the actions your learners take in the world.

In practice, don’t just ask your learners to answer questions in a quiz. Before you reveal the answer, ask them to rate how confident they are in their response. This small shift can make the difference in how the brain processes the new information.

Let’s try not to fool ourselves that learning design is easy. It’s hard to build solid foundational knowledge without a macro-learning intervention when designing a new comprehensive training solution. The lesson here is that deep learning is built over time, and if we incorporate the principles of learning design based on neuroscience, we will go a long way towards meeting the enduring quest of designing a perfect learning solution.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8U3hB6DIJo (Based on Josh Bersin’s article)

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