Online training is typically made for mass consumption—one reason why it’s so cost effective compared to classroom training. It is typically not meant for private tutoring or coaching. However, if every learner feels that the training is personalized for him or her, you’ve created a meaningful connection and made the learning session feel individualized.
Example: Is your name on the Coke bottle? The “Share a Coke” campaign rolled out in the U.S. this summer, and Coca Cola has swapped out their logo with the 250 most popular names for American teens and millennials. These personalized bottles are available for purchase in stores, and people are drinking more Coke this summer. Getting personal—with marketing, shopping, friends, or training—boosts interest and engagement.
Here are some ideas to “get personal” with online training and get in the learner’s face (in a constructive way!).
Personalized Recommendations Based on LMS Data and Reports
The personalization “magic” of eCommerce sites, like Amazon.com and Netflix.com, is based on personalization engine software and hardware. These engines mine customer data and present recommendations to make the customer feel like the site “knows him”.
To achieve this effect with online training without deploying a full blown personalization solution, you can simulate a personalization engine by manually combing and interpreting the data from your learning management system (LMS) reports and making recommendations to your learning stakeholders.
Here are some ideas to get you started on finding ways to creatively use the data at your disposal to pull everyone into the learning effort.
Ping Managers: Statistics on the “top 5” courses or series, completion trends, and average time of completion are great hooks to pull the managers of the people taking the training courses into the learning effort. What if you created a competition among managers, to see whose teams successfully completed the most courses in a given amount of time? Or, what if you created an online training module for managers, with the content and quizzes related to showing them how their teams have performed during training? Use the training in lieu of a meeting to discuss training results and ROI. And after the “training”, engage the managers in idea generation on how to increase learning, engagement, and workplace performance among their teams.
Ping SMEs: The subject matter experts in your organization are crucial to the retention and growth of organizational knowledge. What if you provided SMEs with quiz data from online courses? Give them reports on which subjects learners are struggling to learn/answer. Your SMEs could then host meetups, write explanatory intranet or blog articles, blast FAQ information to departments, or otherwise find ways to fill knowledge gaps. Or, recruit them to create additional training modules. Online training is easier to create than many people think, so recruit a “training department” from the experts in your company and create a learning subculture.
Ping Learners: Your learners (employees, partners, customers) need to know basic information like what courses they need to take and if they have passed or failed a course. What if you also pinged learners proactively about things like upcoming courses of relevance to their job or additional resources when you saw that they did not perform well in a course or on a quiz (e.g., documents, discussion forums, subject matter experts available to help)? Imagine sending personalized recommendations to learners based on their learning behavior and past performance, just like an eCommerce site sends personalized recommendations to buyers based on purchasing behavior.
Personalizing the Learning Experience Itself
The days of boring online training are long gone. No longer should learners need to sit through blocks of mind-numbing text, a multiple choice quiz following each block, with a clipart graphic or two peppered in for variety. With the great number of learning methodologies and tactics we can now incorporate into eLearning, it’s becoming easier to incorporate a personalized learning experience for each user—and inexcusable not to do so.
Make learners feel as if the instructor (or the "module", effectively) is talking directly to them and give them a voice in the training.
- Insert personality in the module: People are more engaged when they feel a personal connection to their instructor, one reason for the continued popularity of in-person classes. The same feel can be achieved through online training if the instructor inserts her personality into it. Video, audio, and avatars enable learners to feel that they are learning from a person rather than a computer. When shooting video of an instructor lecturing, plan the objects in the background and make them fun and relevant to the training.
- Allow “one-on-one time” with the instructor: Instructors can host office hours, in the form of an online chat, hangout, webinar, or other personalized discussions where the learner can ask questions and receive immediate answers. For online courses where there are no “instructors”, consider asking a subject matter expert (SME) to answer questions.
- Give learners a voice: Take advantage of social learning, knowledge sharing, blended learning, and post-training discussions. People of all ages want a voice in everything they do and to feel a sense of control over their (learning) environment. Promote and provide platforms for sharing that extend learning beyond the online training module itself.
- Let learners choose their training path: Sometimes, learners just need to complete mandatory training, period. Training related to safety and compliance, for example, is not optional. However, when possible, consider letting your learners have a more active role in planning their own training path—the ultimate form of personalization.
- Custom certificates: We all love to feel a sense of accomplishment. Offer customized certificates to employees and partners that promote your company’s brand and advertise learner accomplishments.
The Context is the Thing
Look beyond personalizing just between learning and learner himself. Involve all stakeholders in the conversation. Often, learning happens because of the context and connections people make, not just the content.
And, know the reporting capabilities and data capturing possibilities available to you so that you can reap maximum benefit from the data you have collected.
How do you use the data and devices at your disposal to draw learners into the learning experience?
Personally speaking, Gauri Reyes is a talent developer and learning leader with extensive experience in roles ranging from software management to managing the learning function in organizations. She is Principal Learning Strategist and CEO at Triple Point Advisors and Founder of the YOUth LEAD program. Follow her on Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+.