My name is Shannon and I am geeky about Learning Design.
There I said it.
Not only is L&D my chosen field, but it’s my passion. It’s a disease. I look at websites and I’m either wow’d by the user experience or I’m curious about how it could be tweaked for learning in the workplace. I’m forever looking at job aids posted on walls (the ones at Subway are particularly interesting). I’m always asking some poor produce person, “How were you trained to know a carrot from a turnip?” It’s in my DNA.
Come on…you know you do it too.
It is in this same manner that I look at an organizations learning content and strategy, always questioning – always curious. Alignment with learning goals and business outcomes is now more critical than ever. To be part of this Learning Rebellion is to know this is not an unusual statement. However today, let’s talk learning design. Where the rubber meets the road.
When it comes to learning design, I want people to be engaged in self-discovery. To be curious about “what comes next”. To be motivated to take their professional development to the next level. It all begins with us. The Learning Practitioner. Your learning design, and even the most simplest of learning aids, will be useless without a solid design plan .
This requires getting excited and downright geeky about putting it all together. Gone are the days of L&D silos. The idea of a specialist is slowing going away; so I’m here to tell you that to be successful in your field, you must be able to get your geek on about all aspects of L&D. (I look forward reading in the comments about what really gets your geek on!)
Without further ado – here are 5 reasons I get all excited and geeky about Learning Design.
1) Learning design is about touching the hearts and minds of people.
Ever participate in a course or activity where the memory still makes you super excited? A learning experience that stood out above the others? Be it the 21 Day Drawing Challenge, or a class more structured, like Project Management 101. Why were you excited? Why is this experience sticking in your mind? Because someone, somewhere, took the time to think about the design of the course, and how people interact and think. Believe me, someone just didn’t plop the 21 Day Drawing Challenge on the internet and walk away. There was some serious thought and planning behind it. People are having fun, learning a new skill or honing their current talent. People love when learning content “speaks to them” and addresses their real need. People become engaged when an activity proves to be one that engages them, becomes useful and vivid in their minds. People appreciate learning when it becomes a valued resource, when it’s helpful to their day-to-day lives. I love when a good learning design comes together!
2) The learning design process creates connectivity and builds collaboration with a team.
One of my favorite data collection activities is the focus group. It is energizing when a group of people come together to discuss the issues of the day, then have a robust discussion about solving those issues. What is the core issue? What may be potential solutions? Is it a workshop? Is it a job aid? Is it a resource site? A video, a mobile app? Where are we now and where do we want to be? It’s like dropping a pebble in the middle of a puddle and watching the effect. Mesmerizing. You get the right bunch of people together, ask important and relevant questions, and just watch your learning designs improve. The result is knowing you are making a difference in the end-users life by giving them tools that address their needs. You are not giving them a rake to dig a hole. Collaboration is the difference between learning that is of use and purpose, and those that are painful and forgettable.
3) Encouraging Positive Deviance.
What is “Positive Deviance”? http://www.positivedeviance.org/ . How does “Positive Deviance” apply to conversation of Learning Design? The sands are shifting, and we must take action. People do not consume information the same way they did just 5 years ago. The need to think differently is upon us. To me, this transition is exciting. It’s not just about changing the direction of content, it’s also about how the content is packaged, taught and delivered. There are sooooo many different and engaging ways to bring knowledge to learners, and this is your opportunity as designers to bring those elements come to life. You might say, “Shannon, I have to get content out quickly.” I get that. But because it’s quick, does it need to be mind-numbing? Why do the same boring role-plays? Why the same boring ice-breakers? You are in the driver’s seat now bring content to life! Be a positive deviant, look past the boring norm. How can you NOT get geeky about that?
4) Discovery. Finding out more about your business and its people.
Time to put on your Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) hat. I wrote a blog post about taking the Training Needs Analysis to a whole different level by conducting a CSI investigation on your people and organization. It takes some work, but “Oh the Places You’ll Go”. I love digging in and finding out the facts about the REAL learning need. The discovery process can be amazing and revealing. Example: A company swore to me their employees needed customer service training – after a bit of digging…you can guess the answer. Training wasn’t the solution. A revised operational process was the solution. The employees weren’t letting the customer down, it was the process. Very interesting. LOVE when discoveries like that one, make the team do a group head scratch. It was discovered the employees wanted to do the right thing, and were upset they couldn’t do the right thing – and further upset that the organization was blaming them for customer issues. The discovery processes turned out to be a win-win-win for this organization. I love when an investigation comes together!
5) You are helping people!
Ultimately you are helping people discover new knowledge, guiding them down newly paved roads, or enhancing skills that have long since collected dust. Humans enjoy learning new stuff. They just don’t always enjoy learning new stuff in a classroom or in front of a computer. People enjoy the process of self-discovery and your role is to help the people make those important discoveries. Concurrently, your goal is to help the business meet its goals. When those two concepts come together, it becomes a very powerful moment in the organizations learning culture. You are helping people and organizations meet together at a destination point. You are building bridges that reach across not only gaps, but at times huge chasms within organizations. Yes, you. You are doing that. You, through great learning design are helping people and organizations. Remarkable, isn’t it?
This is why I love what I do. It’s not just instructional design, or building learning strategies, or even conducting workshops – for me it is about helping people to find knowledge. It’s connecting people with information and resources that not only make them better professionals, but help organizations succeed at building and nurturing learning cultures.
Isn’t that worth getting all geeky about?
YOUR TURN! In the comment section: Share why you are geeky about what you do.
Want to learn more about how to develop great Learning Designs? Contact ATD for a Designing Learning Certification course near you, or for private event (hosted by yours truly) contact ATD directly. Together we will work towards reaching hearts and minds, building bridges and being “Positive Deviants”.
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