5 Recommendations to Maximize the Learning Experience, and what Virtual Learning Experts™ Need to Know
This is part of an ongoing column by Virtual Learning Expert™ Jennifer Finan. She’s exploring trends that impact virtual classroom trainers and designers with the goal of improving learner engagement in the hybrid virtual classroom.
‘Just Do It’?
Instead of creating training programs, why not just tell our potential learners: ‘This is what we need you to do, just do it’?
Not a great idea, right?
We all know that just telling people what to do wouldn’t be effective – that’s not training, it’s telling. If we want to initiate behavior change, we know we need to do a bit more than tell our employees to ‘Just Do It’.
It’s not just trainers that employ campaign design to encourage behavior change, marketers have been doing it for years! Think of the Nike campaign, ‘Just Do It’ (although if you read the first paragraph, I bet you’re already thinking of it). Nike didn’t just create one advertisement with this slogan and expect everyone all over the world to buy their products. Did you know, they launched that campaign in 1988? It’s not one advert, one logo, one tagline or even one product that makes their marketing campaign so successful, it’s the impact of all of those things together. As Virtual Training Professionals, we can learn a lot from the world of marketing and in particular, campaign design.
What is blended learning campaign design and why is it trending?
More and more frequently, the term 'blended learning' isn't descriptive enough. Especially when we consider that learning takes place continuously – even when the training department isn't looking! To become more of a partner with our business, we need make sure learning opportunities and content are where and when our learners need them. A learning campaign extends the learning beyond formal events by considering learning that takes place outside of a formal blended curriculum.
It's not just us that think this way. According to Sprout Labs, “A learning campaign is a series of learning experiences that occur over time and across different mediums that are designed to create behavior change”. It’s more than a course, it’s a suite of activities, resources and interactions that have been intentionally designed or curated to meet the set learning objectives.
As the global workforce becomes more hybrid, seeing boundaries between homes and workplaces blurring, so too are the boundaries around learning. Learning is something that happens inside and outside the classroom, regardless of whether that’s a virtual or physical classroom (or both). Learning can happen at the office, at home, at school, on the train, in the bath… It can happen during a class while listening to a lecture, during the working day when talking to a colleague, while reading a book or while browsing an interesting Twitter chat. Instead of trying to control that learning or keep it within the training department, let’s embrace these opportunities for modern workplace learning and build learning campaigns that teach, persuade and nudge our learners towards the behavior change for which we’re aiming.
What impact does campaign design have on learner engagement and virtual learning design?
Learning campaigns can incorporate learning plans or pathways which can be specific to a particular role or skill-level. Providing pathways that are personally relevant to individual learners can only be a good thing for engagement. When learners can seek out learning experiences and resources that suit their needs, they can take responsibility for their own learning and development and can intellectually engage with the content. A learning campaign may include several live virtual hybrid classrooms, blended with microlearning resources and other assets designed specifically for different roles or levels of experience. [Read: Creating Virtual Training with a Microlearning Approach: Defining the Trend.]
Since learning campaigns often incorporate microlearning materials, we can provide learners with what they need in their moment of need®. For example, during our Virtual Classroom Design Mastery Certificate we provide learners with various tools including a templated Design Document. We introduce the Design Document in a live virtual class and have learners use it as they work through a case study in breakout groups, so they have a solid understanding of how to use it. We don’t just leave it there though. We ask learners to use it for one of their own design projects as a self-directed assignment with the hope that long after the course has ended, learners still use the tool in their own design work. In fact, we know from talking to previous participants that it is exactly what they do – when the need arises, they know where to find the tool they need and have the confidence to know exactly how to use it.
As you create your own learning campaigns, you might find that a learner working in sales, with years of previous experience may not need to attend the live virtual class on sales basics, but may benefit from attending a live virtual class focused on practical skills for having virtual sales meetings. They may not need the infographic explaining all the benefits of a product they’ve been successfully selling for years, but will want to download the conversation guide relating to your newly-launched service.
Campaign Design aligns with many of Malcolm Knowles’ Adult Learning Principles. Adults like autonomy and want to be able to make choices about their own learning in terms of the content and process of learning. Let them see the campaign map and let them make their own choices about navigating the campaign themselves. Adults already have some experience, so learning should acknowledge that and build on what they have previously learned. Adult learners also want learning that’s practical and related to their work, so by giving learners the choice of what elements of the hybrid learning campaign they spend time on, will keep them intellectually engaged and encourage them to take even more responsibility for their own learning.
5 Recommendations for designing virtual training with a campaign approach
- It’s not instructor-led training plus some resources. Be sure to create a deliberate learning path that addresses every moment of learning need. [Read: With Hybrid Learning, the 5 Moments of Need® are More Important than Ever.] Blended is more than running a live virtual class and sticking a job aid in the LMS or adding a channel in Teams and hoping for social learning. It’s got to be designed intentionally as a whole campaign, allowing learners to follow their own learning path and access the resources they need where and when they need them.
- It’s not a ‘Netflix of learning’, where learners can pick and choose from a menu. It’s not about just providing a whole ton of standalone courses or resources either. Be sure to blend relevant resources with live, facilitated discussions and practical collaborative activities that are all aligned to the learning objectives. It’s about blending these with conversations and practice to help join the dots and connect the content (in whatever form) to real work. [Read: Blend With Intention: Plan for a Successful Blended Learning Campaign.]
- It requires ‘big picture’ thinking. Effective learning campaigns can only be created when we keep the ‘big picture’ or overall learning goal in mind. Be sure to take a step back and see how all the pieces fit together to achieve the behavior change we set out to make. Creating a course map at the design stage, and updating it throughout the process, can really help. [Watch: Exploring Blended Learning Course Maps.]
- It requires ‘attention to detail’. Learning campaign design isn’t only about the big picture. Be sure to provide a cohesive message throughout all the various components to connect individual dots, or learners and faculty alike will get lost. Differences in messaging will only result in confused learners, so we need to ensure consistency and accuracy. This is important in any hybrid training where we need to ensure virtual learners and learners who are in the same physical location all get the same learning experience. It’s even more important with blended hybrid training where not everyone will access the same elements in the same order at the same time. It helps to create a blueprint to guide your design, and ensure goals are met.
- Blended learning can take advantage of the work you have already done with microlearning and other informal/formal learning assets – so you can develop it quickly. Be sure to consider the learning resources you currently have in your organization. Consider all the live virtual classes you’ve already designed. All the eLearning modules that are already developed. Add on the multitude of resources we have available on external websites – TED, YouTube, LinkedIn Learning, or any other free or subscription-based platform you have access to. Much of that can be incorporated into a learning campaign, without redesigning it. (Make sure you give credit where credit is due!)
When designing your campaign:
- Design your formal blended solution first, and then think about and design in the types of informal activities learners will want to participate in three, six, or even twelve months after the formal event is over. How will you make sure the content is 'where' and 'when' your learners will need it?
- Consider their moments of learning need. These moments should give you context of the types of resources or activities the learner will want to access.
- Decide how social learning, like Communities of Practice, can support the learner before, during, and after the campaign.
What do Virtual Learning Experts™ need to know about using Campaign Design in the Virtual Classroom??
- Virtual classroom designers can drive intellectual engagement without needing to create everything from scratch. We just need to curate the best, most relevant resources and tie them together with relevant interventions from our instructional teams to provide context, relevant examples and experiences and to supervise and guide exploration and application.
- Virtual classroom facilitators can drive the emotional engagement throughout the campaign by bringing all the pieces into the classroom when appropriate and discussing them on the forums when it makes sense to do so. Facilitators know their learners and can help make connections to elements of the campaign that are most relevant or useful for them. Learning campaigns allow facilitators to be the ‘guide on the side’, showing learners where various resources are and when they could be used, not just the ‘sage on the stage’ handing them out to everyone regardless of their individual needs.
- Virtual classroom producers can drive environmental engagement by ensuring all materials are accessible to all, providing support when required and even helping to track who’s accessing what and when.
- Virtual Learning Coaches™ must understand the blend of the learning campaign to ensure they can support designers, facilitators and producers to make connections for learners to the content and their experiences.
There’s more to learn!
If you’re ready to ‘Just Do It’ (yeah, I went there) and create your own better blended learning even faster using campaign design, don’t miss the expert seminar! Of course, it’s not just one seminar, it’s a whole learning campaign so you’ll have access to all sorts of formal and informal training as you explore instructional strategies, techniques and technologies and you’ll get all the tools you need to design your own blended learning campaigns.
Are you wondering how to design entire live online learning events? We can help with our Trends in Virtual Training - Expert Seminar Series workshop Create Better Blended Learning Faster Using Campaign Design. And there are 11 more trending workshop topics for you to explore!
Purchase 5 workshops and the 6th workshop is free. Click on the image below to learn more.