DESIGN FOR RELEVANCE
Blended learning, e-learning, and mobile learning will usually include the acquisition of important knowledge and skills. A prerequisite to achieving results is to make sure that the program is designed for proper relevance.
Sequencing the materials from easy to hard, or for the natural flow of the learning, is helpful. Advanced material is placed near the end. Small quantities of information should be presented sequentially, keeping a balance so not too much content is offered, but enough to keep the individuals challenged.
The content should come at the right time for participants, ideally, just before they need to use it. If it is presented too early, it will be forgotten; and if it is too late, they will have already learned another way to do it. The content must relate to the participants. It must have relevance to the job. Essentially, the challenge is to focus on achieving customized learning to the individual, following the J4 approach:
1. Just for me.
2. Just in time.
3. Just enough.
4. Just right for the task.
DESIGN FOR RESULTS
After designing for learning comes the focus on results. The two issues are connected. As the program is designed for participants to learn the content, the focus shifts ultimately on the business results. At least five areas require attention.
All activities should focus on situations that define the application of what participants are learning, the consequences of their learning, or both. Activities, exercises, individual projects, and any other assignments should focus on the actions that participants will be taking on the job to achieve business success.
Sometimes participants will practice skills where the focus is on the use of those skills and the subsequent outcomes. The situational context for the practice is critical for achieving business results. For example, if a learning session is focused on improving employee work habits, a distinct set of skill sets are developed for changing these habits. To provide the focus, an impact objective is needed to define the original problem that must be changed. In one setting, it was absenteeism and tardiness. With that objective known, the skill practices are designed to improve an existing measure of unplanned absenteeism and persistent tardiness, both captured in the system. Without the impact objectives, the skill practice could be focusing on situations where other unrelated work habits and outcomes could be the problem, such as excessive talking, excessive texting, improper dress code, and other distracting habits. The impact objectives clearly defined the problem and signaled for the designer to include absenteeism and tardiness in the skill practices.
When simulations are developed to measure learning, they should describe and connect with the ultimate outcomes. This extra effort makes the simulation as real as possible for application and keeps an eye on the consequences (business impact). For example, simulations with the use of software are not only replicating what the participant is doing, but reporting time taken to accomplish steps (time), errors that are made along the way (quality), and the level of accomplishment achieved (productivity). These simulations remind the individuals about the ultimate outcome, business results.
Some programs involve solving problems, particularly if the program is process oriented. The problems provided should reflect a realistic connection to application and impact. The related activities should focus on a problem that participants will be solving and the measures that they will be improving as the problem is solved, such as output, quality, cost, and time. For example, in an advanced negotiation program, participants were asked to solve a negotiation problem. Given the ultimate outcome needed for the negations (budget, delivery, and quality), the participants used the appropriate skill sets to ultimately achieve their negotiations in a planned process. In solving the problem, participants had to identify the specific skill sets that would be used (application), and arrive at the correct amount for each outcome (business impact).
Case studies are often a part of a learning program. They bring to light real situations. Case studies should be selected that focus on the content, application, and impact for the program. Application items and impact measures should be scattered throughout the case study. The case study includes them, focuses on them, and often results in recommendations or changes to them. This reminds the audience of the ultimate impact that should be an important part of the process.