5 Reasons Why Learning Experience (LX) matters

When you’re creating new learning materials for the organisation you work for, one of the most significant advantages is that you’re familiar with the company and what its employees need. At the same time, this means you face a lot of responsibility. As the company evolves, so must your approach to creating online courses for its staff to use. In recent years, in-house instructional design teams have begun to prioritise the Learning Experience (LX). Much like the popular User Experience (UX) from Silicon Valley, the LX focuses on what the learners need to flourish. In contrast, previous approaches would have taken a company-focused approach. If you’re not already prioritising the LX when creating new course content, here’s why you should.

You can overcome barriers to learning

As an in-house instructional designer, do you ever sit back and wonder why some employees seem to get it, yet others flounder? Although it’s easy to assume that this is because some work harder than others, when it’s more than one or two people failing to benefit from their learning experience, it could be due to the course delivery.

When you focus on the LX elements of a course’s failings, you can turn to the learners and ask them what they find challenging. Let’s say you choose to do this with an online survey that you circulate after a new group of trainees finishes an online learning package. You may find that a common barrier is accessibility. Difficulties with accessibility can arise for a number of reasons, including common disabilities.

One common example of an accessibility barrier is the number of men and women who suffer from colour blindness. Around 1 in 10 men and 1 in 200 women have red-green colour blindness, which could pose problems for the trainees in your organisation. If you find that such problems are introducing barriers to learning, adjust the colours of your course accordingly.

Accessibility doesn’t just apply to disabilities. You might find that technical issues such as a poor Internet connection, a lack of compatibility with certain operating systems, or even failing to make your course available outside of the working environment are also problems you need to tackle. Whatever the issue is, address it when it arises. Then, use analytics to see if your approach is working.

Learning that’s less boring increases employee engagement

Even if an online course proves effective, it’s essential that you analyse the content periodically. By performing a routine audit, you can identify whether the learning is:

  • Still relevant to the company and its ethos
  • Still meeting the training requirements of those who complete it
  • Still relevant to the modern world

Courses that lose relevance soon become tedious and frustrating. When an employee is bored and frustrated, their LX will suffer significantly. Much like everything else in life, they’re less likely to engage and maintain momentum. Therefore, while creating courses, it’s your job to discover why that lack of momentum exists.

One of the simplest ways to make sure learning is less boring is by asking your company’s employees what their interests are. By this, we don’t mean what they like to do outside of work. Instead, try to discover what they love about the company, why they chose it in the first place, and how they would like to see it develop.

Once you know what their interests are, your job as an in-house instructional designer is to incorporate them into the learning packages. Naturally, you still need to make sure the content matches their learning requirements. However, if you find ways to interlace the components that represent their interests, your employees will remember why they want to advance their skills within the company.

All your learning experience data contributes to a greater purpose

data

Focusing on LX while creating online courses often requires close attention to data. Another advantage of being an in-house instructional designer is that you can quickly access learning analytics. Once you do, though, you need to look into why the negative trends are there and what you can do to change them. Even if they don’t apply to everyone who uses the course, finding resolutions for those who they do impact is an effective way to develop stronger teams.

As you’re probably already aware, analytics rest at the heart of identifying what a learner needs. Although you can issue surveys and ask questions, they may be subject to self-reporting biases. In contrast, analytics present hard facts that apply to all participants. After gathering data, you can look at:

  • How learners are interacting with the course content
  • Where their interest tends to drop off
  • Areas where they slow down or fail
  • How people are interacting with the course
  • If relevant, how the learners communicate with each other

In the pursuit of developing a great learning experience, you can take all the above and translate them into:

  • Identifying where the content serves the learner’s needs and repeating your successes.
  • Focusing on why certain areas aren’t interesting and how you can reshape them to deliver a better LX experience.
  • Determine why certain areas cause slower progress or higher failure rates, then adapt them.
  • Go beyond survey responses and look at specific areas where the course could adapt to promote a better LX.
  • Find areas where the LX could focus on peer-to-peer interactions.

Focusing on the LX means you’ll also look at analytics regularly. When you’re looking into the human reasons why participants struggle and making changes, you’ll increase engagement and make the learning more effective. In addition to analysing data after a course completes, you should watch out for problems throughout its progression.

You develop a better awareness of cross-cultural learning challenges

If you’re creating courses for an organisation with branches in multiple countries, understanding cross-cultural learning challenges is crucial. At Darlo Digital, we know that even subtle differences between countries can affect how you successfully train someone. For example, one study published by Taylor and Francis Online found that there are significant differences in motivational factors between South Korean and American students. When you focus on the LX while creating a digital course, you’ll discover what those differences are and adapt content between regions to achieve the training outcomes.

Identifying what the cross-cultural learning challenges can become difficult, as this is an area that doesn’t receive much focus in the academic world. However, you can use existing studies alongside employee surveys and the analytics we discussed above to reach your goals. Doing so is essential because you may find that delivering content that’s the same between different regions results in some learners performing better than others. If this happens, the company you represent will discover that some branches subsequently perform higher than others. While the training goals should remain the same, how you bring different employees to that stage can vary.

Overall, your courses become more effective

The most important reason for prioritising the LX is to make sure the courses suit their purpose. Although you need to shape the content around what your organisation needs, it’s important not to ignore the user’s requirements either. The two approaches don’t need to remain mutually exclusive, and they can exist alongside one another with minimal compromise. Prioritising one over the other, though, could mean that both the trainees and the company suffers.

As any lecturer will tell you, when their talks are lacklustre, it soon becomes apparent in the students’ results. Your online learning packages are no different. If employees routinely perform poorly or don’t reflect the desired learning outcomes of the course through better sales or enhanced customer satisfaction, it’s worth examining whether the course pays attention to the LX.

When you focus on the LX, you also avoid simply ‘tick boxing’ while trying to train people. To do this, you need to make sure that participants feel motivated to direct their own learning experience. If they’re not feeling motivated, not only is the course not effective, it’s probably not focusing on the LX either.

From overcoming barriers to learning through to ensuring online learning is an effective process, there are lots of reason why the LX matters. As an in-house instructional designer, you should find that focusing on the LX makes your job easier. When you use what participants tell you alongside analytics and other data, you can begin creating training packages that are effective. Your focus on the LX means you also have a better awareness of what challenges could arise between branches, which then allows you to think on your feet and find solutions as each one comes along. With time, you should see that highlighting the learning experience means your online training packages become more effective, allowing the organisation you work for to shine.

At Darlo Digital, we’re here to help you build on your LX knowledge with our development platform. To learn more, contact us.

5 Ways SaaS Companies Can Charge Up their Bottom Line Using LX

Let’s lay it out, right away: Customer education, through thoughtful and deliberately-structured learning experiences, is the investment that keeps on giving.

It gives back in both tangible — revenue-driven — ways and long-term, intangible benefits — such as brand loyalty, competitive edge, market share and just a better overall customer experience.

LX & the SaaS Model: Natural Partners

First off, SaaS models naturally soften the learning curve because customers are on-boarded in incremental interactions. These increments mimic the progressive stages of the buyer’s journey and so getting a customer to adopt, commit to and find value from its use is a very scalable mountain.

The potential for success that ‘LX’ or learning experience in SaaS companies has is connected to the fact that SaaS models rely on MRR or monthly recurring revenue. This, in turn, is connected to the number of users both retained, regained and captured anew.

Customer training is the best way to make sure these goals are fulfilled in a way that doesn’t call for extra marketing dollars.

What is a ‘Customer Training’ Program?

Customer training is a kind of eLearning where people external to the business – including partners, resellers and customers — are users of the software and, as part of their use, are asked to learn their way around the software.

The solution sets up this learning through digestible training or micro-courses. These courses are used to help customers use your product, get acclimated and guiding the user to master the software successfully.

Customer training, through specific learning experiences, helps raise the entire customer experience, training and empowering the customer to take charge of their tasks.

Why Does LX in the Context of SaaS work?

But here’s the clincher: Customer training — your users’ tailored learning experience — not only helps your user/customer help themselves, it contributes to a greater likelihood that your target user will understand the software well enough that they end up adopting it as their go-to solution.

There’s less of a chance of churn if they understand the software and have learned to use it well. And a well-structured training program makes onboarding and learning the software a seamless part of actually using the software to get the desired tasks complete — so your user is productive while learning.

Let’s take a look at five ways in which Learning Experience is enhancing the SaaS model’s ability to grow through a focus on customer success.

1) Structure Training as Problem-Solving

Depending on how complicated or extensive the software is, as well as the various user profiles you’ve created in the development of this software, the best way to help navigate customer education is to re-frame the narrative.

Rather than making the experience about mastering the SaaS platform, why not give users a sense of value and instant gratification? The onboarding and learning experience should anticipate the simplest but also the most useful ‘first’ stage functionalities users will need to learn and master, before they can move on to more complex functions, building on their previous knowledge.

It’s wise, then, to structure the initial training as bite-sized lessons that give a clear, tangible and valuable outcome. Once the user logs on to the learning dashboard, for example, the learning experience can structure these lessons as problems that need to be solved.

Here, not only does the user receive a productive result, but they’re also unconsciously connecting the utility of the software to their desired outcome.

2) Nurture the Conversion

They’re called ‘Aha!’ Moments — those instances when, after a certain amount of use and time on a platform, a user subtly converts to the next stage. It’s a moment when they realise the power of the software or its use in their day-to-day functions in a very tangible and actionable way.

To make LX an essential part of your customer success growth strategy, you want to make sure that there is a convergence between your customer success, marketing, sales and UX teams.

Why a convergence? Having multi-functional teams dedicated to a goal, rather than siloed in their specific disciplines, does more for the entire customer experience. It allows the business to tackle the issue of customer success, education and experience through a multi-pronged approach.

This also means that customer success team members will be working with marketers to tailor granular but important creative decisions on copy, positioning, offers and lessons. When you nurture the conversion, it takes time, and it acknowledges that no user will adopt the SaaS all at once — especially on a subscription model, even if you have a per-month pricing option.

Again, the nature of the SaaS model calls for a gradual conversion, which works to both your users’ and the company’s advantage.

So if you can build communication and support through communicative emails, tailored to the user, alongside their growth in the training, you’re more likely to form a connection with the user.

On the flip side, this also allows you to track when and where in training users are dropping off, allowing you to re-think your learning experience strategy for greater overall retention.

All these aspects can only happen through an incremental approach.

3) Use Feedback for Agile Development

While customers are within courses, the feedback they provide — through questions posed in a discussion forum, module completion rates, troubleshooting queries, assignment marks and even searches logged on a knowledge base — provide learning experience developers invaluable feedback and information.

And while course developers use this information to improve the learning experience continually, they can also share this information with the developers of the software, so that newer, more streamlined versions of features can be built.

If software developers are using the agile methodology of development, this is even more important and can be applied to cost-effective methods of developing software without having to throw out the entire version.

4) Go for Stickiness, Not Substitution

By creating learning experiences that serve users by allowing them to complete a task; By tracking their use and success rate with completing learning materials related to the on-boarding of the software; By regularly communicating about further modules and ‘trainings’ that might be relevant through email marketing, what a SaaS platform is actually doing is making their software ‘sticky’.

This is instead of a mere ‘substitution’. What’s the difference? Well, ‘sticky’ software is, in this definition, software that is unique and that the user simply cannot do without.

It’s not only about competitive edge — it’s about allowing the user, through the software training, to build their own workflows.

These are specific approaches to the software’s functionality that, while other software might similarly demonstrate, a user becomes familiar and comfortable with doing things in a particular way within the SaaS platform.

In other words, a mere substitution won’t do because the user has now built a specific habit. And that habit least preferring one software solution over the other. In other words, your software solution is now stuck with them.

5) Make Support (Nearly) Redundant 

All these aspects of learning experience make your support team — almost – redundant. And that should be the aim here.

Cohesive and well-structured learning experiences — especially ones with goals to enhance customer success through teaching how to use and master the platform — means that companies have to spend less time troubleshooting, and less money hiring customer support staff.

At the end of the day, that’s what learning experiences in SaaS companies come down to. It’s not only looking for actual topics that can be taught, as part of the training, or nurturing a conversion by having customers learn the platform and then become reliant on it. These are certainly the side-effects of a well-developed learning experience.

But the aim is empowerment — and, as you can see, empowerment is not a one-step process, but, when done right, leads to higher customer retention and more efficient conversions. It is the investment that keeps on giving back because it asks you to give something in exchange

Brendan Moloney

Darlo Group CEO

What is a Learner Experience Map?

Everything you Need to Know About Learner Experience Maps

The anatomy of a journey map is closer than you think.

The customer or buyer’s journey is just one common example. Experience maps essentially allow you to both design an experience and anticipate it. The learner experience journey, like the customer journey, allows designers and developers of a course to see the interconnected of course design.

Besides a multi-level connection, experience maps allow designers to see the effects of previous stages of the journey, over time. And, lastly, experience maps break down all possible outcomes, giving information on what the complete experience for the learner engaging with a course would be.

Learner experience maps are not meant to be theoretical — the point of an effective map is to be able to make it an actionable, tangible design that can be followed.

Going Beyond Conventional Course Design

Conventional course design follows the goals of conventional learning. And learner experience maps help go beyond that conventional frame of online and digital learning opportunities.

Conventional learning has particular hallmarks that don’t call for learner experience maps because the student or ‘learner’ is not at the heart of the process. This usually looks like:

  • A one-size-fits-all approach to course delivery
  • ‘Single’ learning events that are disconnected from each other and don’t call on an integrated approach
  • Learning content itself is confined to a specific lesson or task that the learner needs to learn
  • Functional training, again, based on an external goal, not learner’s intrinsic motivations for learning

Learner-focused experiences, on the other hand, are vastly different. Their complexity and opportunity specifically call for a map — both, to break down and model that complexity in a digestible way, as well as ensure that design thinking creates a safety net where all aspects of the experience are optimised.

In contrast to conventional course design, then, learner-focused experience:

  • Are ones in which course designers have taken the time to understand who the learner is and what their priorities are, where they are in their levels of awareness, prior to taking the course, and where they hope to arrive or be guided
  • Focus on individual experiences and tie in what needs to be learned in a step-by-step way
  • Understands the learner’s strengths, capabilities and weaknesses for a curriculum that addresses these
  • Will articulate what learning opportunities learners can benefit from and map out ‘must know’ versus ‘nice-to-know’ content
  • Design learning resources that fit both the learning opportunities that will suit learners as well as the timelines they must accomplish the course in
  • A plan for delivering the content and then monitoring the progression of students
  • Using the incoming feedback and analytics to design iteratively improved ‘versions’ of the course

Learning experience maps, then, are not a static thing. They are a living, breathing document that actively shifts and they require both qualitative and quantitative data to come alive and change.

The journey model

Within learning experiences, the journey is the pathway that the students or learners take to get from the beginning of a ‘touch point’ to the very end.

While some journeys are linear and progressive, others can be mapped or modelled as a cyclical or circular journey. Rail Europe, for example, has a journey map for its ticketing and purchase system that clearly guides the user through specific, simple ‘touch points’ and denotes actions at each point.

lx map
Source: Rail Europe

 

The journey map is also about marking down transformation points. When the learner moves from one stage to the next, the transition actions are clearly stated and give course designers a clear directive that the can create learning opportunities as well as content around.

The journey model of learning experience maps allow course designers to model real quantitative and qualitative data.

As the course progresses and an increasing number of students move through the modules, the journey map takes into consideration data like drop-offs, assignment and quiz successes, whether students make it through certification and more. These numbers guide course designers to reconfigure parts of the journey and re-think or address the parts that aren’t working as they should.

Designing the Learning Journey

There are a number of granular details that go into designing a learning experience map but the broad strokes come down to five key steps.

1) Crafting learning profiles

This is the most important building block of your LEM, as it describes who the employee is, what their roles, goals, and aspirations are, and what potential learning opportunities they could typically need to succeed, and how (in-class, virtual class, mobile, desktop) they would usually consume learning content.

The first thing you’ll need to do is craft a ‘persona’ or a profile of your learners. This is more than a demographic description — it should also encompass goals, learning strengths and weaknesses, their needs, pain points and expectations from a learning experience

You also want to give detailed information, at this stage, on how they’re going to be consuming learning content most of the time (mobile? desktop? etc.).

2) Learning pathways

Learning pathways map the various roles that a learner can evolve into, and track the progression from each stage to the next. Once a learner takes a course, what is their motivation to move on to the next stage and what is that next stage? What kinds of learning support will they require at each stage?

3) Touchpoints

Touchpoints are all about specific stages of the learner experience. In the above map, we saw that these were marked off as actionable items that specifically describe, in a couple of words, what the learner will be doing at that point.

Touchpoints should really be about interaction and engagement. The learner is motivated by the pain points and levels of awareness about these pain points. The response or solution to these pain points are the touch points themselves.

4) Placing timelines on learning pathways

If a learner remains at one stage for ‘too long’, it can become stagnation, which will eventually lead to a drop-off or an incompletion. Every touch point needs to have a timeline or a time constraint attached to it.

These timelines also clearly define how long a particular stage will take to master.

5) Mapping modes of interaction

Every touch point should also map out what the mode of interaction is. This is the primary method of communication between the course and the students and can include modes like email, forms, social media interactions, quizzes, lectures, audios, walkthroughs, tutorials, chat rooms, discussion boards and more.

Learner experience maps are becoming increasingly important because eLearning is not just maturing, it’s becoming a primary way that individuals consume digital content. In the way that blogs and case studies were the way to consume content and move towards purchasing, courses and digital learning area, through a cohesive learning experience map, becoming a pathway toward a new digital behaviour.

Is LX the new marketing communications?

In the world of online learning, there was once a time when courses were shaped around what the instructors wanted. Thanks to the evolution of analytics and educational psychology, course content and delivery now focus on the Learner Experience (LX).

Much like the phrase User Experience (UX) that gathered popularity in Silicon Valley, LX refers to how a product can focus on the person who uses it. Unlike UX, it’s a niche phrase that focuses on learners only. In the online learning world, focusing on LX is no longer just about creating an effective training package. Organisations now have the chance to produce online courses for those who aren’t employees, engaging more people with their brand and enhancing their marketing efforts as a result.

If you’re an instructional designer and you’re yet to use course delivery as a marketing tool, it’s worth considering how well it works. At Darlo Digital, we’re here to demonstrate how focusing on the LX as part of your course creation could enhance your marketing team’s success.

How does the LX work in marketing?

If you’re adept at creating online courses for your organisation’s trainees, you probably focus on the Learner Experience (LX) already. Applying the concept to customers is no different but your desired outcome changes.

When you’re creating a course for consumers, you’re going to focus on making the content useful. At the same time, you’re scattering brand awareness throughout the material, without being too salesy. While this may feel challenging, incorporating the LX into your course makes life easier.

For example, if you work for a translation company, you could create a basic French skills course for business people to use. While creating the course, focus on how to make it accessible for the user and easy to learn from. If a business person finds your course useful, they’ll share it with others. They may even mention it at networking events. Before long, the number of people who find your course useful should lead to more people sharing it, which then results in greater brand awareness and authority in your industry.

Are there any real-life examples of companies using the LX for marketing purposes?

One of the biggest industries where LX-focused online courses prove effective for marketing is software. Take a look at Google, for example. Although most people know of the search engine, smaller businesses may not recognise its potential when it comes to pay per click (PPC) marketing. Google offers digital marketing courses at a beginner’s level, which teach users about onsite SEO, analytics, and PPC.

Google’s content is infinitely useful. It features quizzes so users can monitor their progress and it uses its own tools as an example of how online marketing can become effective. When users see how tools such as Google analytics and PPC can accelerate their business’s progress, they’re more likely to buy into the brand’s products.

Google’s course is so effective that other online marketing firms and gurus promote it. It ranks highly amongst search results for “online digital marketing courses,” demonstrating its efficacy. Marketing gurus are experts in their field. They command a lot of authority because their blog posts and YouTube videos prove useful to others. So, if they’re promoting Google’s content, it’s probably because it focuses on the LX. If you can create a user experience that’s just as beneficial, you’ll see the same benefits.

Other big brand examples: Quickbooks

Much like digital marketing, basic bookkeeping and tax duties are often carried out by a small business owner. Until they have the resources to outsource to a professional, they must learn how to carry out the tasks themselves.

QuickBooks is arguably the biggest name in the self-directed accountancy industry, but there are other brands out there. Some offer similar products at a lower price, which is often a reason for an already famous brand to enhance its marketing techniques. The QuickBooks course comes with an incredibly user-friendly experience: it’s self-paced. It appears that the marketing team at QuickBooks recognised that its target audience faced one challenge: it’s too busy to sit through a routine class.

By providing an online course that users can work through themselves, QuickBooks has the chance to promote its software, demonstrate how easy it is to use, and enhance its brand awareness. It also tackles niche problems, such as creating courses that focus on those who are new to accounting and a course for non-profits only. As an in-house instructional designer, doing the same makes sure the company you represent appeals to lots of different audiences.

How can you start using the LX as part of your marketing approach?

If you already create online courses for a company and you have some data to work with, you may be at an advantage here. Take a look at your analytics and see where users drop off, where their interest dips, and where they fail. Is there a particular OS that appears incompatible? Or, maybe there’s an age group that seems disinterested?

Once you analyse common problems using your current course data, you can begin fixing them with the user in mind. For example, you could make the content more appealing to Generation X. You could also make sure it works just as well with Android as it does with Apple.

If you don’t already have an online course for customers and you’re venturing into this area, you can still focus on the LX. Work with your organisation’s marketing team to see what it is that the target audience needs. For example, if the target audience is a bunch of Millennials with a public transport commute, is the course accessible for mobile and tablet users? Or, if there are gaps in the audience’s knowledge that would make the content difficult to grasp, can you fill them somehow?

Focusing on the LX while creating an online course is an effective way to boost a brand’s presence. Once you start prioritising it, you should always revisit the course’s analytics to see if you need to make changes. If you’re open to consistently evolving, your marketing efforts will grow from strength-to-strength.

Brendan Moloney

Darlo Group CEO