As a lead facilitator of Enact’s new digital offering, Emerging Leader Experience, I have had to re-educate myself (and my clients) on how to get and keep people engaged in the digital learning space. And it is more complicated than I thought. I’ve identified four critical aspects to building engagement and achieving the ultimate objective: the adoption of new mindsets and skills.
“Create a space learners want to go instead of a place they have to be.”
The technology of digital learning receives the most attention, is well-researched in terms of what works, and unfortunately is where most programs start and stop. My experience shows that well-designed technology in combination with content is required to drive engagement.The use of social media techniques – liking items, bookmarks, replies, discussion boards…all create community and interaction with the content. Interesting modalities such as videos, quizzes, polls, and discussion boards keep the learner from getting bored. Then add gamification with points, leaderboards, earned badges and even digital credentials such as Credly. And one size does not fit all. It’s all about personalization, where the learner interacts with the platform and adapts their content “consumption” based on individual needs. Finally, the content has to be engaging. This means relevant content, with people that look like the learner and about a topic that has meaning or promises a rewarding outcome for them. Create a space learners want to go instead of a place they have to be.
“Facilitation takes hours and hours…checking the site regularly, time to think, time to respond, thinking of what to say …”
Research is beginning to show that an online environment where users feel they are seen, heard and can engage with a ‘real’ person brings engagement up to equal levels with instructor led. This is not easy. In fact, the first time I facilitated a group it kicked my butt! (see my bright idea on how to reach virtual excellence).There are two avenues to facilitate a program. The first is indirectly with learners either through the site or emails. I moderate content by posting questions, skimming discussion boards, adding pop-up videos based on themes and answering our Ask the Facilitator section where learners can ask anything. And they do! Facilitation takes hours and hours…checking the site regularly, taking time to think, and determining how to coach through emails. We also monitor usage, follow up with people falling behind, ask for feedback and send emails twice weekly with engaging thoughts and prompts. Yes, it’s a lot…and it pays off. The other way to offer facilitated content is through a blended program. One global client added Communities of Practice with live webinars and triad assignments where leaders met (virtually) to practice or conduct projects. Research shows the best results come from this blended approach.
“It takes a lot of effort from the organization to tie it all together and get the results we want.”
Digital learning is a boon for companies. It is a massive step forward toward the ultimate goal of scalable, customizable, cost-effective digital leadership content. Clients who start with curated content (think LinkedIn Learning and Grovo) are excited at first. When we check back with them, they sigh, “It takes a lot of effort from the organization to tie it all together and get the results we want.”This is going to be true for any digital learning! I have a kick-off with executives, we provide regular updates on content, offer activities, and share engagement reports. The best partnerships are with active clients who are clear on outcomes, have involved executives/sponsors, and encourage managers and individuals to engage with and apply the content. They market the program through emails, sponsors and internal communication boards.
“I help clients identify learners’ needs using existing assessments as well as a customized 360 for each learner.”
The other collaborator in this–and the penultimate critic–is the learner. There are many factors that affect each and every learner differently. What motivates you? What skills do you need to build? How do you learn best? Do you feel safe here?The best-in-class organizations ensure the content is on point for their challenges and culture. I help clients identify learners’ needs using existing assessments as well as a customized 360 for each learner. Each module should contain self-reflection and real-world activities where each learner applies the new skills. While this kind of personalization may not pull everyone in (there will likely still be some percentage who hide out and never get involved), it definitely increases overall participation. The bottom line is that high levels of learner engagement are achieved through high levels of involvement and personalization in each of these four areas. This agile approach keeps you connected and adapting the program to get the best ROI possible. CLICK HERE to get connected to Enact and put boring digital learning in your rear view mirror!