Appealing to the person in learning

Learning management systems the world over, were originally designed to serve the administrators and as content repositories. The learner was typically seen as the person who had access only to view the content prepared by the learning team or subject matter experts. In marketing, personalisation has been a thing for at least 20 years even before digital technology made it easier to accomplish.

A few weeks back I looked for a demo from a marketing personalisation platform to be applied in learning with gamification. I have to say the response of the owner and the sales person was really funny. They had never heard of gamification and definitely were bizarrely surprised at how I wanted to use their system. So surprised I am still waiting for the follow-up email.

In any case, applying personalisation to learning is key in learner centric design, which in my view is also what gamification is about. It starts with creating content that the person can consume in the first person, where they learn, implement, receive feedback. Feedback can come in the lesson, but equally in overarching data visualisation. Surprisingly a lot of learning management systems still don’t come with a learner progress dashboard. Seriously in this day and age?!

Anyway, if I as the learner can see how far I am through a course, what competencies I am building and how I benchmark against company standards or peers or even my own chosen goals; then the chance of me coming back more to achieve more is higher.

Most people tune out of learning when it is too easy or too hard. When it is too easy, the “I know this already” program starts to run in the mind and typically a learner will then start evaluating time investment against other more valuable or rewarding things they could do. When it is too hard, then the learner starts to wonder “I don’t know if I will ever get this”, with confidence being put into question. It is easy at either of these points to quit learning. Roll in adaptive learning and it adjust to the learner and their level of competence. In games, this is often built into to the gameplay by design. The level obviously needs to be assessed through the shape of exercises, quizzes or other tests. But it allows the adaptive algorithm to adjust which lesson is proposed next to the learner. As the learner gains confidence and ability then the system will adjust. Just look for adaptive learning to find tools to help you implement these suggestions.

Gamification is often used to create a more personalised learning experience on top of adaptive learning. This starts with incorporating feedback into the content, creating it from a 1st person learner perspective and allowing for tracking of progress and achievement. The dashboards we often create include indicators of progress in a course or towards a goal or competency and we encourage setting a personalised follow-up plan where the reminders are triggered based on the preferences you choose at the beginning. My run keeper tells me every three days that I told it, it would be a good time for the next exercise. Funny enough it is often the little prod that gets me out the door. Why should learning be any different.

In the music industry, self selection of playlists has become second nature to most of us, thanks to tools like Spotify. The same with video streaming on YouTube etc. Yet on a lot of learning platforms this is not an option. Creating a playlist is not always possible and if it is then typically only with content already in the system. I work with a few clients, who are actively adding this option to their functionality. We tend to learn more from people we like and respect, which has become much more acceptable thanks to social media. I often read things my friends posted, which I otherwise may not have looked at. In organisations, the biggest fear would be that any content could enter the corporate network, and whilst this is true, also consider that most people want to keep their job or want to advance, so what they post in a career setting will be quite different to what they post socially. The way to mitigate this to have curators who approve public content, maybe having a list of channels that are pre-approved like for example Ted Talks or Harvard Business Review and others of a similar reputation. Anything that is then fully self-created, is up for review and can then upon approval be made available to the wider employee base. Playlists for personal use, should be a no-brainer “just do it”.

If you want to take this to another new level the Spotify tactic of presenting you with a playlist based on your previous selections, opens up a world of new content. If you like something in the playlist, your preferences will be adjusted to show more of those, if you dislike something then these kinds of songs will be avoided. Little by little you will receive more and more of what you like. In learning this is not yet a tool used by many, but it could be very powerful to keep people engaged and coming back for more.

With today’s technology, personalisation is easier than ever. If you want a place to start, gamification is one route, adaptive learning or playlists another. Take one step at a time and create something learners actually want to access, because it appeals to them personally




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