Learn, or else! The culture of forced navigation

Recently, I was speaking to one of my contacts about an upcoming online learning solution to be launched in his organisation. He told me not to worry, as he knew the tricks to get to the end quickly.

Why are our teams in such a rush to the finish line and why are we trying to stop people from doing so? We wouldn’t open a business book, skip to the appendix and start using the tools. Yet that is the culture we have with online learning resources.

So how do we address this culture? Disabling navigational next buttons until a learner interacts with something on the page or staged unlocking of menu navigation. This increased focus on the interactive content in front of us will surely drive engagement. Correct?

Perhaps not.

Let’s look at some simple methods we can empower the industry professionals on our team to drive better business outcomes.

Trust your staff to take what they need

One reason our staff rush to the finish is because they are already qualified. Earlier, I substituted the word ‘learner’ in favour of the phrase ‘industry professionals’, because if someone is part of your team, regardless of their experience in the role, they are industry professionals. We have recruited them as such. Trust that the industry professionals on your team will take what they need to be successful from the online resources and allow them to skip content they are already competent in. If you employ an autocratic learning approach, your staff will refuse to engage in your learning resources and actively seek to bypass the learning so they can get back to business as usual.

Give your staff a sense of control

Neuroscience research shows that as frustration builds, we have a decreased blood flow to our brains – particularly to the frontal cortex where most thinking occurs. We are actually stopping the learning process. By allowing learners to navigate freely without roadblocks they retain a sense of control over their own experience. Everyone gets what they need. Those unfamiliar with the subject can take their time to work through the topics while the veterans can really hone in on what they need to be effective on the job.

Drop the ‘knowledge check’ mentality

Another reason staff rush to the finish is to get to the quiz and finish the course. But, nothing screams out distrust like a series of multiple-choice questions waiting for you at the end of a course. Much like examining a child in school at the end of a semester we are subjecting our industry professionals to the same childhood education process. An exam testing short-term memory cannot be proven to equate to capability on the job. Instead of an exam, provide rich scenarios where it is safe to fail.

Challenge the notion of the next button

How else would staff progress through a course but via the trusty next button? Granted the software used to develop online learning resources send us down this route. But we don’t have to be constrained to this. Game designers do not employ next buttons half as much as Learning Designers do. As your team designs learning experiences, consider allowing your staff to work through multiple pathways of role contextualised scenarios by interacting with elements on the screen. Don’t forget that any element on the page has the possibility to lead to the next section.

Don’t lose the benefit of self-paced

No two people think exactly alike. One of the primary benefits of having your learning solutions delivered online is that it will be truly self-paced, unlike face-to-face delivery. Don’t throw away one of the biggest benefits of this delivery method by forcing everyone through the same locked navigation leaving them frustrated and unwilling to engage.

As you build a learning culture in your organisation. Consider the impact that small details such as navigation will have on the experience of your team members. Changing a culture is a slow process, but the more you empower your staff to control their own learning experiences, the more you will drive better business outcomes.

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