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A Fresh Start: Parallels in e-Learning & Life

describe the imageby , senior instructional strategist

This weekend, my family and I are moving.  There will be sadness to leave the house we bought six years ago when our oldest was still in diapers, our middle was three months away from delivery and our youngest was just a “maybe someday” baby. A lot of great memories were made in that house, but the good news is, I get to take those memories with me when we move!

Now, this move won’t take us far. In fact, the new house is less than a mile from our current home and within the same development. Unfortunately, proximity has little effect on the effort of moving. You still have to change your addresses, set up electricity, water and cable, pack up all your belongings, get a truck and move the furniture.  It’s easy to understand why moving is considered one of life’s great stressors.

But, let me share a little secret with you...I love moving! As crazy as that may sound to some, I find the process of going through the house room-by-room, closet-by-closet, drawer-by-drawer and deciding which objects should be purged and which should be packed is therapeutic, rejuvenating and energizing.  

In that process, I think creatively about ways to reuse objects in my new space. Those shelves I bought from IKEA, but never hung will be perfect to display trophies of our little athletes in the playroom. The floral dish set my mother-in-law gave to us, but didn’t quite match the dark wood and dark counters of our old hose will look perfect against the white cabinets and light counters in our new house. And, the dresser that was in my daughter’s dainty pink bedroom but does not seem to match her tomboy personality will be perfect to organize my crafting supplies.

 Lastly, moving gives me an opportunity to update my interior design style. Now, I’m not talking about getting all new furniture, but the little updates like switching out throw pillows, area rugs, paint colors and bath accessories will allow us to get the more modern, clean, light look I drool over on Pinterest.

And, as always, I seem to find a parallel between my home life and my work world. Over the last several months, our studio has been engaged by a number of clients to perform very similar tasks. I find myself these days evaluating existing training, determining which should be purged, updated or left alone, looking for new ways to repurpose existing learning and providing suggestions for some stylistic updates for a fresh, modern, clean feel. 

There are several reasons why our clients, or your organization, may undertake these efforts. Perhaps you are implementing a new LMS and instead of moving outdated content, you want to be sure to take the best content. Maybe in your existing LMS, the content exists, but is poorly organized. You may have finally received the green light to begin hiring again and feel the “Survivor” or “Jeopardy” themed New Employee Orientation course feels outdated.  Maybe you want to take the leap and move away from the PowerPoint, text heavy style of e-learning to a more scenario-based, graphical presentation of learning events. Or maybe you want to transition an ILT course curriculum to a blended approach.

MovingWhatever the reason for taking on this process, the end result is certainly worth the effort. But, like moving, unless you’re organized and strategic in your approach, you might end up with a bunch of boxes of “random stuff” or give a feeling of a disjointed design style – think French provincial dining room table under a very contemporary light fixture.

First and foremost, it is important to set a completion date. After all, nothing puts pressure on getting things done like a date. You have a date when you move— your lease ends, a closing appointment is set, you schedule a truck. When you have a project to revamp your training, it’s a good idea to set a date for, at the very least, the analysis work to be complete.

Next, get inspired.  I spent a lot of time recently getting home décor and organization ideas and inspiration from magazines, catalogs and the internet. I “pinned” things I found intriguing to inspiration boards – whether virtual or in real life. You can do the same thing for training. Explore some of the industry websites and take a peek at some award-winning training. What do you find appealing? What do you think your learners or stakeholders might like?

Then comes the hard part – evaluating your existing material. Similar to the process of going drawer-by-drawer and closet-by-closet, you need to sift through your existing content. Separate your courses, lessons or content into virtual piles – remain, repurpose, or retire.

Courses that are popular among learners, highly regarded by leaders or recently developed may be natural fits for the “remain” category.

Repurposing content is a great idea when you have good material. Similar to when you move to a new house, you get a great opportunity to put your existing belongings into a new space. With learning, think of it as placing “content” into a new “shell”.  Repurposing content can mean converting existing ILT courses to e-learning or a blended approach, or it could mean simply revisiting the interface design for a more updated appearance – modern colors or better images.

You know it is time to retire a course when it contains outdated data that minor updates just won’t fix. Have you shifted your entire sales strategy? Has your organization rebranded and now has a more customer-centric, or value-driven approach? Did you once offer products and services that were mentioned in the training, but haven’t been available for years? Is that Candy Land game for leadership development really appropriate??  

And finally, one more “R” word –reorganize. Since you are already evaluating content, think of how the content is presented and available to the learner. Assuming you have an LMS, is the e-learning course easily found? Are there learning paths or curriculum maps to guide learners? What about helping employees understand what they need to know to grow their career? What does a new hire’s training plan need to contain?

And much like moving, the work is really hard, but the end result is a fresh start, and a great sense of accomplishment!