Author: Intrepid by VitalSource
February 11, 2020

How to get digital learning results? Focus on what works in real life.

Organizations are moving towards more digital learning. In our global organizations, distributed teams and the need to scale learning, the digital solution seems like the answer. But how can organizations overcome some of the downsides of traditional digital delivery such as lack of participation, engagement and completion?  The answer is to focus on what engages and motivates learning in real life, connection and application to real challenges. I know, because I made it happen.

One of the benefits of digital learning is the vast amount of raw data on usage it provides in real time.  Sadly, broad-scale digital learning gets lackluster results. Academic MOOCs have an abysmal completion rate of 3-15%. Engagement drops 90% by the end of the course. And only 30% of people sign up for another catalogue course. It is therefore not surprising that organizations are hesitant to invest in going digital.

Would you invest in a program that got 93% participation?  What about an 89% completion rate? And maintained consistently high engagement throughout the program? ‘Great!’ you say, but how? The answer is simple: pay attention. What increases engagement and motivation in the digital space is the same thing that matters in life. People want to feel a connection and want to feel what they are doing makes a difference.

#1 Pay attention to the person:

The best digital platforms have multiple ways to interact with the user and draw them in. You can use quizzes, polls, discussions, chats, etc. This is critical to keep focus and attention. But it is more important to make them feel that someone is listening to their digital voice. That they are having a conversation and are connecting with others. As an online facilitator, I felt as if I got to know the participants both individually and as a whole. My online interactions had to reflect that. This wasn’t difficult, time consuming or expensive.

  • Answer the person: I found myself using my ‘coach voice’ in conversations and reflecting back what I heard. “You showed great insight about the difficult balance between empathy and being firm in your question.”
  • Reflect group themes: Identify the underlying themes from the group discussions. If everyone is mentioning trust, you should talk about that. You can quickly create a message and put it on the platform. I created several 2 minute ‘pop-up’ videos that started with “Many of you are talking about…”
  • Talk to them: I have emails that go out twice a week. They can easily be customized to real data. “Here are the point leaders.” “To help you prepare for your annual review conversation, use the guide.”

#2 Pay attention to what matters:

Leaders are very busy, and organizations are looking for short, impactful training. Leaders want snackable content that is personalized to them. The design has to be focused on meaningful situations they can relate to and activities they can apply immediately. This will be the difference between a generic session that presents a feedback model and one that actually builds capacity and confidence, leading to actual learning transfer into the real world.

  • Allow for personalization: Participants in our program had a Leadership 360, aligned with the program. At the beginning of each module they knew exactly where they needed to focus.
  • Practice, practice, practice: The design had to not only provide exercises, it had to encourage people to actually do them. They could then see how to transfer it to their lives. Digital learning platforms are designed for this. We had more points for missions, we added badges for gamification and completion. If you really want to encourage practice, assign small groups to hold them accountable.

#3 Pay attention to the data:

More than just pay attention. Do something with it. And not at the end, when it is too late, but throughout the program. My client asked for regular engagement updates and then followed up on the data.

  • Participation: I provided content updates to executives so they knew what leaders were learning. They included questions to ask participants about what they were experiencing. Early on, senior leaders followed up with every person who was not participating to encourage them. We achieved the 93% participation rate early on.
  • Engagement: We found out early that not all participants were doing the application missions. We added badges to the program at the midway point so that participants had to complete the application exercises to get a badge (gamification rules!). Emails were reframed to focus on the experience of the application rather than just the content.
  • Completion: How could we get the medium users to greater completion levels? At a town hall, the CEO recognized those who had completed the program. The organization gave digital awards (to put on emails and social media) for completion. We allowed access to the site past the ‘facilitated’ program time. We saw an astounding 89% completion rate 4 months after the end of the program.

For more tips and our recent success story, check out our leadership case study.

By Lydia Oxendine, Enact Leadership

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