Solving the learning-context conundrum at LinkedIn

Robert Todd is Director of Learning Technologies at LinkedIn. His colleague Laura McBride is their Editor in Chief, responsible for content strategy and delivery. Both are here today to talk about a new model for digital learning content…

 

Robert opened the session by asking who is building digital content in their role. Many people said “yes”. But why is this?
Surely there is enough content out there? To prove his point, Robert’s team did some internet research on the topic of “giving and receiving feedback”, looking for exactly that search result. He found 65 LinkedIn posts with that exact title, 918 slideshare presentations, 3640 YouTube videos, 3606 books on Amazon, 41000 PDFs on Google … … … you get the point.

 

So, why are we building new content?
Maybe we want to own the content, or e think we know best, or that none of the existing content will be relevant to our organisational context.

Robert Todd agrees that getting the context right is important to creating effective eLearning, training or formal learning experiences. In fact it is key. And this is what leads to the need for a new digital learning strategy.

His own experience suggests that investment in contextually relevant, well-designed courses is far more likely to please the learner; they are far more likely to “dig it”. But context-specific learning has its problems..

  • Courses are expensive to make, requiring a lot of thought, design and content-building time
  • They are difficult to update
  • Functions and processes change, making courses irrelevant
  • If you are not close enough to the user, it’s difficult to make something really authentic
  • They push made-up high-high-context detailed situations, rather than helping people deal with their own questions and situations
  • They are not “ready” in-the-moment people actually need to learn something

 

So we have a conundrum based on the following dichotomy: Either its low-context, model-based job-aids, FAQs or courses that don’t engage or fit our any reality; or its overly high-context case-based simulations and courses that can’t work in practice because they are too specific to one person. There needs to be another answer… An effective blend.

 

 

Enter ?WhatIf!, the international innovation company, Todd’s first port-of-call to solve this conundrum.

They created a blend of low-context “formal” content and high-context experience-based learning consisting of fundamentals, “seeing it in the wild” and “doing it in the wild”. As the learner progresses through the experience, context was added step-by-step:

  • Walkthroughs (5 minute videos to teach basic principles) and skill-checks (online exercises to check understanding) to deliver fundamental ideas, concepts and knowledge
  • Best-practice sharing and real-world stories from the field (video format) and highly curated discussion (online) to help people see how other people applied those things in real-life
  • Field-guides (PDFs with checklists, tips and pitfalls) and mobile-based missions that learners could undertake in the field; both designed to transfer the learning to personal high-context workplace.

 

If you buy into this strategic approach to the conundrum of low vs. high context, McBride says you will have to think a little differently about your role as a learning person and the competencies you need to be successful.

To summarise her part of the speech:

  • You will need to become and expert on content. Not “things to be learnt” content, but what types of content work for which types of learning. You need to be a media expert to make good choices on how content is presented.
  • You will have to have a lot of dialogue with experts in-the-field and learners with specific questions. Successful learning comes from making relevant connections between those small fundamental concepts and real-life experiences.
  • If your people are going to share their stories, you have to make it easy for them. Whatever platform you use should be simple to navigate and add-to.
  • Invest time and effort in curating content, story and sharing from within the organisation.
  • Be consistent in the look and feel (or brand) or different platforms and media-types. And make it beautiful! (See also my blog post on how “form sells function”)
  • Make any formally delivered content mobile-friendly. This will certainly help in the “mission” phase.

 

Once again, it seems so obvious. But when I think about the training I deliver or how the majority of Belgian learning management people approach their formal learning initiatives, I think it’s worth some more consideration and effort.

 

Thanks for reading

@dan_steer

 

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About Dan Steer

Wandering corporate trainer, learning and development consultant, conference speaker and professional El-Magico. I help people get better at stuff by creating and facilitating Infinite Learning © opportunities. The world would be a better place if everyone was doing what he loved and doing it well. I am working to bring out the "El Magico" in everybody. Training in presentation and communication skills, leadership, social media for learning and marketing, learning and development management + personal effectiveness.

Posted on January 14, 2015, in Learning Management and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. John McDermott, CPLP

    Thanks, Dan, Good stuff. I think there are two more reasons why content is reinvented: 1) NIH (not invented here) I see this way too often. Some management folks believe that if learning content was invented somewhere else, it can’t be appropriate (this does not seem to apply to, say computers or mobile phones or other physical tech, for some reason). This leads to 2) “we cannot sell it or count it as an asset or clam it as a competitive advantage if we didn’t create it in-house”. That attitude leads to lots of wasted resources and so forth.

  2. It was a wonderful time in Las Vegas with your seminars. Thank you. I am looking for the program you used when you had a senerio upo on the screen and had all of us with an IPad or phone send in our thoughts which came up on the screen behind you. One of the answers was “A Blog”. I would like to get a listing of our answers (it was too fast to follow and text at the same time, and I would like to know the name of the program.
    Thanks again for all your hard work.

    Mark

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