“What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?” If you were to walk into a room full of people and ask this question you’d likely get more than one answer. You’d have several vanilla fans, some chocolate, and others raising their hand for mint chocolate chip. If everyone happened to land on the exact same flavor preference, it would be a statistical anomaly. It’s not a novel concept: people are different, therefore, they prefer to consume different products and brands.
Not surprisingly, the same can be said for elearning courses. Walk into a room full of people and ask them to identify their preferred ways to learn, and you’ll undoubtedly get a range of responses. In a study by Valamis, delivered to business professionals aged 18 to 60, results showed that learning content with text is the preferred learning medium amongst all individuals regardless of role, industry, or age. Video content and audio also scored highly in preference but was more popular amongst employees aged 18 to 29. Some people will have a preference for short, microlearning courses, while others will gravitate towards longer training sessions. Individuals vary on whether they value social collaboration such as peer-to-peer learning, and some prefer scenario-based learning. Some will prefer to take training on their mobile devices, while others will elect to be in a classroom with an instructor.
According to the Valamis survey, 37% of workers aged 45 to 60 prefer in-person seminars as opposed to 21% of people aged 18 to 29.
In a world full of disparate cultures, backgrounds, and experiences, we inevitably wind up with equally divergent learning preferences and organizations looking to achieve different business goals.
But what about a room full of people who all work at the same organization? Or even a room full of people who work at the same organization in a similar role? It seems reasonable to assume that similar people might have similar preferences and that a uniform training solution could work for a relatively homogeneous population, right? Yet, time and time again, that assumption has been proven incorrect. Even among groups of similar individuals, the need for variety is critical.
Even in teams of seemingly like-minded people, individual learning preferences often vary substantially. We hear this directly from learners and see it in the data that we receive during our Curation Alignment Process (CAP), a comprehensive process used to identify training needs, objectives, and preferences of our customers. When completing this process, survey respondents are asked to identify preferred course features and rank various course elements such as mobile responsiveness and seat time. Next, they are taken through a robust content review process to elicit more nuanced style and delivery preferences. At the end of the process, we have a detailed map of each learner’s likes, dislikes, and business goals.
Over the years, we have collected hundreds of survey responses and found that no two respondents are identical. In any given set of company CAP results, one reviewer might love a feature that another dislikes, or place importance on a subject that someone else is indifferent to. It’s important to keep this in mind when curating elearning content for learners because those in different roles (or the same roles, for that matter) are likely to have incredibly different tastes.
Ultimately, every product, from ice cream to elearning, is received differently depending on who’s consuming it and what motivates them to consume it. The key to appealing to a wide range of learners is starting out with a variety of options and then curating for specific needs and preferences. Content variety is paramount because it gives learners the flexibility to complete their training in the style and format they prefer. We know that not every learner is identical so there’s no reason their training should be.
Content variety coupled with the proper tools to deliver and analyze personalized learning experiences is crucial in engaging learners. A Learning Management System (LMS) or Learning Experience Platform (LXP) that hosts learning content should, therefore, allow for a wide variety of content to coexist to accommodate different learning habits. This can be achieved by presenting content in many different formats (duration, media, pedagogy), tracking the learning interactions via Experience API (xAPI) and then further personalizing learning for everyone. This personalization can happen through content recommendation based on format preferences, desired skill improvements and categories of interest a learner sets in their profile and the learners’ activity in the platform.