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Learning Program Priorities (through the eyes of your learners)

We all have our reasons for creating learning programs. Sometimes (hopefully most of the time) the learning programs address business needs. Sometimes they’re mandated for compliance reasons. Sometimes a stakeholder requests that we build them a training course.

While we (generally) know our reasons for building these programs, what happens when we try to look at the program through the eyes of our learners? What is it that they find most important?


It’s not a rhetorical question.

What do you think?

I even prepared a poll for you. I’d love to know your thoughts. Through the eyes of our learners, what do you think is most important?

[yop_poll id=”39″]

I’ve talked with many trainers who get excited when they get feedback such as: “That was so engaging!” or “I had so much fun!” or “That was the best training session I’ve ever attended!”

And who wouldn’t want feedback like this?

However, something we all need to ask ourselves is: Is this meaningful feedback, or is it what I’d call “vanity feedback” (feedback that makes us feel good, but tells us little else)?

There’s nothing wrong with having a chance to bask in the glow of high praise, but when we’re done basking, we still have some work to do.

On Monday, I shared a podcast on the difference between “engaging training” and “effective training”. Today let’s take a closer look at each of the five areas I listed in the survey above, because they each have their time and place in a learning program.

How do we get to “required attendance/course completion”?

I don’t know many learners who get excited about needing to take compliance training, whether by attending an in-person session or completing an elearning course.

While I’m never a proponent of a just-get-the-training-done-so-people-can-check-the-box type of learning design, sometimes it’s what we need to do in order to free up resources (time and money) to work on other, higher priority projects.

If required attendance or course completion is the whole goal (which is silly, because usually physical safety, higher standards of ethics and conduct or creating a work environment where everyone can thrive is the ultimate goal of these types of programs), then you need to do little more than provide the content and a sign-in sheet (or an LMS report) to identify those who have completed the course.

How do we get to “fun”?

You can just generate “check the box” type of training to provide a learning experience that people simply need to complete for compliance reasons, but why not give your learners something more enjoyable than just text on the screen?

In general, I’d call “fun” a nice-to-have component for a learning experience. It’s not necessary, but if you’re able to add it, then why not? Different people define “fun” in different ways, and what’s fun for you may not always be fun for me.

Fun components can include a sense of play, a game, a metaphor, and image, a comic, a story, an analogy or an activity. All of these can serve to liven up a learning experience, but “fun with intention” is a much more effective learning strategy, meaning that any of these components should be connected to the ultimate learning objectives and behaviors your learners should be able to demonstrate by the end of the experience.

How do we get to “learning something new”?

If you’re a fan of trivia, you may be inclined to offer fun facts during a training session you’re designing. This is also something that subject matter experts or anyone with deep expertise in a topic may tend to do.

While it’s natural, and even the point of training programs (to an extent) that learners take away new knowledge or ways of doing things, there is such a thing as too much “new”.

Stories, while sometimes both fun and one way to get your learners to say “Huh, I didn’t know that,” can be helpful and engaging ways to help learners navigate your content. One question that still needs to be asked is whether all the new information is necessary.

How do we get to “learning something job-related”?

If you’re leading a live, instructor-led program, you can always begin by asking people what they hope to get out of your session and/or ask your learners to share some of their thoughts of how your session can relate to their job. For asynchronous elearning, you may need to find intentional ways to connect the dots between your topic and how it relates to the jobs of your intended audience.

Of course, not everything new will be job-related, and something job-related to one person may not always be job-related to someone who has a different role within the same organization.

Knowing who your learners will be is essential. If you have a variety of audiences that will be going through your learning experience, you may need to take an additional step or two.

Creating elearning that offers different paths for different roles is one simple way to help differentiate learning while keeping the learning relevant for all. For live, instructor-led training, you can differentiate the learning to make it job-relevant through use of small group discussions or different scenarios or case studies for learners to work through.

How do we get to “solving a work-related or performance problem”?

Adult learners are typically busy people who don’t have a ton of time to take out of their schedules in order to simply learn new or fun things. It’s long been suggested that adult learners will be most successful when they can see how your content will help them solve or address a problem.

Crafting behavior-based learning objectives can help keep your program tight and focused, but taking another step to ensure your learners can see how your content can help them (the “what’s in it for me”) may pique your learner’s interest more than facts that are simply fun facts or new information.

How can sexual harassment training go beyond “check the box” training and turn into something that can solve (or prevent) intentional or unintentional actions that create a hostile work environment?

Busy hiring managers may not actually care all that much how their actions can lead to legal issues for the organization four months from now, they just need to fill a key role on their team. But how can plain old boring legal considerations that go into the hiring process prevent individuals from hiring the wrong person or having issues with a candidate soon after making a job offer?

Training can be so many things. It can be all of the above. Sometimes it should be all of the above. Keep in mind that it isn’t often naturally all of the above; it takes intention for training to be fun, new, job-related and clearly solve a problem.

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