The Problem With Modular Learning and 3 Easy Ways to Fix it.

While advantageous in theory, self-paced learning modules, or modular learning, can actually hinder your organization’s learning and performance if not executed effectively. This article provides 3 ways to fix the problem with learning modules and create reusable, multipurpose lessons that will provide more bang for your buck.

The Problem with Modular Learning

One of the biggest challenges organizations have today is managing their capacity to produce learning that meets all of their training needs. The struggle to create a wide variety of effective learning materials that cater to a broad range of needs for different departments, roles, and competencies can be a daunting and extremely costly endeavor.

At Learnkit we see a lot of organizations attempt to overcome this challenge by developing an extensive content library. Human Resources and training departments try to create large content repositories that can satisfy all of their employees’ learning needs. However, these content libraries can be hard to navigate (for learners and administrators alike), have content that is too general, and can really decrease the effectiveness of your learning initiatives.

The problem with creating a large content library is that the courses are usually catered to one department or job function. This can end up leaving many employees feeling disconnected from the material. If I’m in the marketing department, then I want all my learning to be tailored to me as much as possible. If the learning I’m going through speaks more the sales department, I’m not likely to internalize anything. What’s more, a lot of content ends up packaged in longer courses and it can be hard for administrators to tailor learning paths for the needs of different departments.

For example, a restaurant will offer their staff an online learning module for dress code training. A kitchen employee will take the training and find themselves having to sit through the first portion that goes over dress code for front of house staff and servers; information that has little to no value or relevance to their job. If your employee makes the time to do their training, only to be submerged in learning that is catered to another department, they will get bored, disconnect, and likely not complete the training.

Employees want personalized learning. We hear the need to create learning that is personalized to the learner time and time again. However it is extremely costly to create a learning module tailored to the needs and realities of your sales team and then re-create similar learning modules with customized content for marketing, operations, and customer service. Many organizations don’t have the staff, time, resources, or money to build out personalized learning modules for each department or role.

So how do we address these learning module challenges? The trick is to find ways to reuse content so that you aren’t reinventing the wheel.

3 Simple Ways To Create Great Learning Modules That Increase Employee Engagement While Staying Within Your Budget:

1. Axe the content library -quite literally- by creating easy to use, agile, and truly “bite-sized content.

When dealing with huge content libraries, we often see courses embedded in long training modules that take ages to move content around or take out small learning modules. To create amazing modular learning it is crucial that your content is developed into small, independent bite-sized chunks. All of your modules should be built as small, separate files. This will allow you to have 5-6 minute training sessions that employees can use throughout your organization, opposed to being embedded in a larger training course. When you create your training and learning courses as separate files, rather than menu items embedded in a larger file, you are given much more flexibility to slice and dice your learning for different purposes. This means, next time you want to put together a larger course you can simply pick and choose some of your small files to bring them together into a 2 hour course with just one click through your Learning Management System.

2. Plan ahead to maximize learning effectiveness and efficiency.

When we create digital learning for our clients we spend time upfront carefully planning how to build the content for multiple roles and departments at once. Simply asking your users in their training which department they belong to in a course (and then directing them there!) can help you make small adjustments. A simple “Choose your department question at the beginning of a course will allow you to direct your employees to the course modules relevant to their department or role. The rest of these changes can range from little text changes to larger changes branching off from core content. Small items include changing the department name and role-specific language. Larger changes include things like the uniforms in the above example, or changing the dialogue in a branched scenario to match a learner’s role. All of these, large and small, go a long way to improving engagement and retention.

3. Ask more open ended questions to encourage the personalization of knowledge.

Would you tell me about a time where you feel like you learned quickly? Rather than have a multiple choice test with various questions and static four choice answers, make your employees feel like it is really applicable to their day-to-day job and responsibilities by adding open ended questions at the end of each module. Use general language when crafting the questions, so that they will be applicable to everyone. This will help your employees be more engaged in the learning by requiring them to reflect on their own role and experiences with the new material they are learning. When an employee goes through training and is asked an open ended question, the internalization of their own experience in their role and with the company will not only improve their engagement, but will also increase their knowledge retention because they are actively processing the learning.

How does your organization stack up against the common learning module problem? What other strategies have you applied to help solve the problems with modular learning?

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

Mitchelle Boyle

Digital Marketing Specialist at Learnkit
Learnkit works with industry leading businesses and top academic institutions to create innovative custom elearning that delivers measurable, real world results
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