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Stop Wasting Time: Designing Effective and Efficient Learning Systems

August 11, 2011

Egg timerWhat’s the biggest cost in any elearning or training programme? The production of video, graphics and audio? The instructional design time? The subject matter expert’s time? No. It is the time it takes your learners to go through the material.

10,000 employees going through three hours of bloated elearning courseware is a huge time cost to your organisation. What if they could achieve the same performance level in 45 minutes? This would be a huge saving. One of the key things I teach in the ID workshops I run, is to design learning solutions that are both effective and efficient. Efficient to design and develop, but most importantly efficient for your learners to go through.

So how can you sift through that stack of PowerPoint decks, Word docs, PDFs and intranet pages your SME says have got to be included to get to the crucial content?

  • Start by identifying what you need learners to be able to do once they have completed the training. For example; enter data into a system with zero errors, sell a product more effectively or manage a project to completion on time and within budget.
  • Next design practice activities where people can develop the skills needed for these real world actions.
  • Then identify the minimum knowledge they need to complete the practice activities.

This allows you to filter through your source material and identify what will help people to change their behaviours and develop new skills. This process is part of Cathy Moore’s Action Mapping , which we use on many of our projects. Cathy also advocates adding a measurable business or organisational goal to use as a focus for your efforts and a way to measure success.

The more targeted and relevant the learning interventions we design the more effective and efficient our work will be. This can only be a good thing for us and our organisations.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 12, 2011 8:17 pm

    SUPERB observation. This is by far the largest argument I have against traditional training metrics that typically praise volumes of training hours and attendance with no regard to results. An astute executive or analyst can do the math quickly and conclude “lots of hours in training means less time generating business value”- unless there is a clear “training cost plus” bump in business results post-training, this is a losing game for L&D departments to play.

    I also want to promote Cathy Moore’s Action Mapping. I included it in my presentation at Learning Solutions 2011 (with permission, of course), and highly recommend anyone in L&D to review this as a guide for very efficient and focused design. She presents the issue in a manner that is straightforward and fun, and most importantly immediately applicable to the reader’s next design challenge.

    • August 15, 2011 7:51 pm

      Thanks for your comment David. I’m increasingly convinced that the time someone spends initially ‘learning’ something whether online, on the job or through the classroom is but the tip of the iceberg. How long does it take to actually put something into practice – to try it, perhaps fail, change our approach, try it again and improve our performance iteratively until it becomes ‘business as usual’? We typically give learners far too little, if any, support in implementing what they learn which just seems crazy to me.

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