Effective digital learning – five tips on designing a learning experience

Five tips

As we teach our customers to create effective digital learning solutions and shape their learning experiences, we start off with the basics. I have put together five guidelines to get you started.

1. Define your goals carefully

You should definitely not compromise on this step! If the goals are unclear, you are unlikely to reach them. Consider and refine your goals, especially through the desired behaviour and its change. Is it enough for learners and the organization “that everyone knows A” or should something be done differently in another situation: should one be able to do B, start applying C, or be able to support others with D?

Once you have clarified the goals of the learning solution in the light of the desired change, consider what success looks like and how it can be measured. Can you utilize some existing indicators for this?

2. Know your target group

In order to achieve the goals set for the learning solution, you need to understand what your target audience needs in order to function as desired. Therefore, carry out a sufficiently detailed analysis of the target group during the preparatory stage, for example, using the following questions:

  • Who do you want to reach, or who is the learner?
  • What are the prerequisites and limitations for reaching your audience (for example, time management, accessibility, hardware)?
  • What does it mean for the learning experience?
  • What does your audience need: new information, a new application, a safe training environment, support for motivation, or the removal of obstacles? What other support is available?
  • Is there a diversity within the target audience that would necessitate differentiating content through alternative paths or an adaptive solution?
  • How would you make the learner happy or surprise them positively?

It’s often easy to forget this simple tip: don’t assume, ask. Invite a representative of the target group to the design team, or find out carefully in advance how this will be viewed from the target group’s perspective.

Invite the learner to think and act

In order for learning to be effective and the learning experience to be a pleasant one, you should plan the interactions of the digital learning solution carefully. Dare to let go of the traditional “teach first, test second” classroom model!

You can utilize different exercises, for example, in the following ways:

  • Focus the learner’s attention and let them find out: ask the learner to consider the matter themselves first, then provide additional information.
  • Provide experiences of finding information. Here you can use different exercises that utilize visuals and space.
  • Create a safe environment for a “dry run” before the real event. Here you can utilize exercises individually, in pairs, or in groups.
  • Repeat. And then repeat again. Repetition that reinforces learning truly is the mother of learning.
  • Apply. It’s best to put those skills and knowledge into practice straight away. You can, for example, create exercises that are based on real events or guide the learner into making conclusions.
  • Test whenever possible. When designing a test, consider whether it serves the learner or the organization, and plan the details accordingly.

4. Brevity is the soul of wit

Even a rocker knows that “more is more”. However, this rarely applies to learning. So, remove all unnecessary things around the key message that clearly do not contribute to your goals with your chosen target audience.

A pretty sure way to end up digressing too much is to start a project with existing material – this way, you might get caught up in the professional or “nice” content that doesn’t ideally serve the current purpose. Content last!

If it seems difficult to limit and focus the content, remember that the learner has only a limited amount of time and ability to focus. If you don’t limit the content, the efficacy may go to waste, as the essential will get lost in the non-essential, or there will never be a good time to learn.

5. Dare to gamify!

The purpose of gamifying learning is not just to have fun, even though you should make learning – and life! – fun as well. To support learning, gamifying harnesses factors that make playing fascinating and encourage action.

For example, you can encourage the feeling of accomplishment in the following ways:

  • visualize the learner’s progress and achievements
  • reward successful progress by unlocking new content or surprises that delight the learner
  • entice the learner to reach the next level through, for example, captivating exercises or tests
  • provide an opportunity to compare points or collect performance badges
  • make the content so practical that it is easy to combine learning achievements with work

There are many different motivational factors and approaches, and you might initially need the help of a gamification expert. Once you get the gist of it, you’ll be able to take full advantage of gamification without needing complicated technical solutions.

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