This single question, which popped up in one of our casual water cooler discussions, triggered a volley of responses, leading to a full-blown discussion before culminating into a blog post.
So, what’s the noise about ‘Learner Engagement’ anyway?
In L&D, ‘learner engagement’ refers to the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that learners demonstrate when they are learning or being taught. And it doesn’t end there. It extends to the learners’ level of motivation to learn and progress in their training/learning.
Learner engagement, by far, has been and still continues to be the most discussed, debated and elusive topic in L&D. Fueling its popularity in the recent decades has been the increased understanding and recognition of the role of certain behavioral, physical, and social factors that play in the learning process and social development.
While it may seem shocking, the fact remains that majority of employees don’t feel engaged or inspired in the workplace, with organizations admitting that user engagement is the top barrier to adopting technology-enabled training. This is more pronounced in Training Companies, given that they have to cater to a large and diverse learner audience.
Learner Engagement and Training Companies
For Training Companies running multiple training programs for individuals and corporate alike, ensuring ‘Learner Engagement’ is crucial for their success. After all, Engaged Learners = Better Learning Outcomes = Business Success.
However, many Training Companies are still stuck with traditional Learning Management Systems that are uni-directional (read ‘non collaborative’) and do, what I call, a ‘transmission’ of learning/ training activities. Learners are left to merely ‘take up’ the training assigned to them without any opportunity to interact or collaborate with their colleagues or trainers, which is a critical aspect of learning and engagement.
While today’s innovative technologies have made collaboration possible and easier to implement, they have also brought along more challenges. The increased penetration of mobile devices, advancements in Internet services (3G and 4G services have become a norm already!) and the emergence of the multi-device world (with each of us using a 2 or more devices sequentially or in parallel to conduct our daily tasks) are some of the biggest challenges that stand in the way of providing a collaborative environment to learners.
How can Training Companies bring in Learner Engagement?
The simplest answer would be to invest in a Learning Management System that can make learning enjoyable, collaborative and easily available to the learners. But that’s easier said than done. In addition to a robust LMS, it requires overhauling the entire training approach, leveraging technology to do some of the training ‘heavy-lifting’, conditioning the learners’ minds and providing a learning environment that is conducive to learning, sharing and collaborating.
It all starts with laying the ‘right foundation’
An LMS that is designed from the end user perspective, goes beyond the traditional ways of learning and provides a complete learning ecosystem for the learners can go a long way in enabling Training Companies to bring in learner engagement (and hence knowledge retention and business success).
Below listed are some key LMS ‘learner’ features that can help Training Companies in their learner engagement endeavors:
Multi-device Responsive Access
An LMS that can be accessed from any device, any browser, any platform – anytime and anyplace gives learners the much needed flexibility to learn at their convenience. It’s the consistent, seamless learning experience that learners get as they move from one place to another and/ from one device to another that keeps them engaged and motivated.
Now-a-days game mechanics that reward learners with badges, points or ranks are all the rage, and for the right reasons! After all, it’s every individual’s innate desire to win or be recognized that drives him/ her to perform or, in this case, learn. Gamification hits all the right notes to engage and drive learners to learn by incentivizing actions/performance.
Social Learning & Knowledge Collaboration
Frameworks and models like the 70:20:10 acknowledge and recognize the importance of learning and developing with and through others from coaching, exploiting personal networks and other collaborative and co-operative actions. Learning Management Systems that provide Social Learning and Knowledge Collaboration tools help Training Companies in driving learner engagement by enabling learners to connect socially with colleagues, share best work practices, updates, ideas, success stories, learning, and motivate/ inspire fellow learners.
On a higher level, these tools bridge the gap between learners and experts, which is typically seen in the traditional mode of training delivery, by giving them a platform to seek answers from experts in an informal environment.
Selling training materials online, easily and securely, may not be a radical ‘new’ feature expectation of a Training Company from its LMS, but it’s critical nonetheless for its learners and their engagement.
In today’s day and age where consumers (in this case, learners) are able to purchase practically anything they desire on whatever device they wish and wherever they happen to be, the ecommerce experience has changed dramatically. Training Companies now need to ensure, more than ever, that the online selling of training materials is possible and consistent across all devices, and, further still, integrated with their website catalog (or some other application) using LMS APIs.
Multiple Learning Modes
From eLearning to Virtual Classroom to Classroom Training – there are multiple training modes and methods. All of them are on the continuum of ‘which mode’ works the best for ‘what topic’. An LMS that enables training delivery using the above mentioned modes individually or as a part of a blend (a blended learning program i.e.), provides a unique way of not only engaging learners in collaborative work and projects, but also personalizing and individualizing instruction for the learners.
Easy-to-use, enhanced User Interface
Perhaps the most ignored entity in the LMS, from the engagement perspective, is the User Interface. A complex, difficult to navigate LMS is a sure way to disengage the learner. A pleasing UI that is easy-to-use, so that learners can explore the system and take up the learning assigned to them gives them the motivation to seek and learn.
Other features that aid in learner engagement include Calendar Sync, Learner Transcripts, Multi-lingual support, Multi-time Zone support, FAQs, and Ask an Expert.
So, do you agree to the importance of Learner Engagement for Training Companies? Which features do you think tick the boxes? Share your thoughts in comments below.