More and more so, organisations and professionals are seeing the benefits of digitalising their intellectual property (IP) – professionals want a bank of knowledge online so they don’t have to keep recreating the wheel for each client, and organisations want the same thing for their induction materials, on-boarding procedures, professional development sessions, workplace training and career path skills development programs.
Regardless of what the learning content is, it’s imperative that the delivery and user experience is up to scratch – if not, the benefits of digitalising the content are lost, and the learners can be even less engaged as they would have been in a face to face setting.
So what are the benefits of digitalising your intellectual property?
Standardising your content: which is much better for consistency and means that you don’t have to ‘wing’ it every time. When you ‘wing’ it every time it’s delivered, the quality can differ, as can the content itself. Digitalising the content means that you can be assured that everyone who goes through the training gets the same learning experience.
Removing or heavily reducing the HR needed to deliver training: instead of delivering the same training over and over, decide which parts (if not all) of the training can be delivered online instead, meaning that whoever normally has to deliver it is off the hook! Who doesn’t want to free up the time of their personnel, and accelerate the time needed to train or educate clients or employees?
Allowing for continuous improvement: if you’ve got good feedback mechanisms in place, you’ll also be able to update and improve the training as each person goes through it so you’ll know that you’re delivering the best product possible as time goes on. No stale training processes or procedures that don’t work, you can address the needs in real time and update the content so that all future learners get the benefits too.
Making collaboration, storage and maintenance more efficient: only having hard copies of your IP means that it’s harder to keep updated, that people may have various outdated versions they’re working from; it’s also more expensive to print, bind and disseminate information for each new learner, and ultimately there will be a lot of waste. Digital products are easier to update, especially if the data is being stored on a Learning Management System, or in a way that users only ever have access to the most updated information. It can also mean that you’re working with a ‘living’ set of documents, that grows as you and your organisation does, instead of being authored in a bygone era and staying stagnant.
How do you make sure the delivery and user experience are first class?
There are quite a few things to be thought through before jumping head first into digitalising your learning content. Let’s have a look at each one individually.
1. What is the best digital storage solution?
There are disadvantages and advantages to all of these options, depending on the needs of your clients, learners and organisation, and also how the resources are going to be used. Before making a decision, consider what all the stakeholders in your organisation or small business actually need. The solution might actually be a combination of the below options:
Online storage: (internal network) best if documents are uploaded internally, and only static versions are accessible.
Collaborative online storage: (Google Drive, Dropbox or One Drive) where documents can be uploaded, edited and updated by a number of users simultaneously.
Learning Platform: where users can access a range of documents for a specific course or program, in a specific sequence, with the ability to post assessments or tasks which must be completed before moving on to the next level.
Learning Management System (LMS): where multiple courses can be uploaded, giving various users different permissions or access depending on their level within the organisation
For example, I use Google Drive for the documents I’m collaborating with my clients on, to build their learning resources out – Google Sheets for curriculum planning documents, Google Slides for video training scripts, Google Docs for workbook or activity portfolio creation; all of these are stored in shared drives where we can work on them together during sessions or on their own between sessions. Brilliant for not needing to worry about version control or who is working on which version of a document at any given time. I also use a Learning Management System (LearnDash) which I have embedded into a WordPress website – this is where my clients can engage in my online courses to up skill in areas where they have gaps.
2. Is the content well structured and fit for purpose?
Structuring large quantities of IP has its own unique set of challenges, but if you can answer the following questions you’re well on your way to having a solution that is well structured and ‘fit for purpose’:
Is it clear what purpose the learning content is going to have for all stakeholders including the learners and others within the organisation?
How many modules, topics, stages or lessons are there?
Is there a set of foundation knowledge that must be understood before learners can embark on the rest of the knowledge?
How do people move through the content?
Do they need to take each section in a specific order or can they search for the content they need on demand?
Is it easy to search for or find the content they need (if they have to find it after they’ve already gone through it)?
Do you have to complete one ‘level’ before accessing another?
If so, what are the ‘assessments’ or pre-requisites for moving through the levels?
How is this managed? Automatically by the learning platform or LMS, or manually by a facilitator?
3. Is it a quality learning experience for the end user?
Best practice teaching and learning techniques, strategies and principles – the list is long and most certainly not exhaustive! There are certain elements you’ll need to address if you want to deliver an experience that is achieves the outcomes you’re trying to achieve:
Is it needs based?
does it fulfil a training, up-skilling or job specific need?
does it cater to different learning styles and intelligences?
are the expectations of the learning experience clear in terms of what is needed from the learner and the facilitators or guides who are available to assist learners through the content or assessments?
Is it outcomes based?
Are the outcomes SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound)?
Is the content and associated assessments or activities scaffolded appropriately?
Are there tasks, activities or assessments that guarantee the user has achieved the desired outcomes?
Is there a feedback mechanism so that facilitators or those higher up in the organisation can help the learners achieve better outcomes?
Is it collaborative? The 70:20:10 principle, is all about how collaborative learning is the way forward – if you’re not across it, and you’re in education and training, put it on your to learn about list – it is one of the keys to learning effectively in the workplace.
Is the learning content engaging?
What types of learning resources are you going to create? Videos? Text on screen? Animations? Podcasts? Interviews?
Have you considered whether the people creating the learning content are trained in best practice delivery skills? Are their visual aids in line with best practice techniques? Are the presentations, lessons, videos structured in a way that will engage the learner or put them to sleep?
Have you considered software that will allow you to
gamify the learning?
add quizzes or assessments to pre and post test knowledge?
test knowledge before allowing learners to move on?
Are you adding supplementary materials to enhance the experience, like podcast lists, research articles, demonstrations of best practice in other organisations, case studies or other external materials?
For all of the above questions, there are no right or wrong answers because what’s right for your organisation will be unique; it will depend on the purpose of putting the content online, and ultimately the way it’s going to be used by the end users.