L&D professionals sometimes misunderstand the subtilities of learner and learning experiences. In this article, I outline what each aspect signifies, what are the differences, and share strategies using both to create effective learning programs.
What Is the Learner Experience?
The world has seen an expansion to virtual working and learning. If you ask typical eLearners what their “experience” has been with a course, they’ll likely talk about what they learned and how much they liked (or disliked!) what was taught. This feedback is a binary way of expressing their experiences.
Their likes or dislikes about certain aspects of learning are only part of – but not the entirety of a learner’s experience.
In fact, learners’ experiences encompass more than just what they learned. It entails everything related to the act of learning – from where, how, and when they interacted with the learning environment, to how the curriculum is structured, and methods used to present the subject.
- In that sense, learner experience refers to everything a learner encountered along her/his personal learning pathway.
- It includes the fun (or stress) she/he may have experienced through her/his learning journey.
- It factors the social interactions associated with learning.
- And it takes into account the interactivity aspects along that journey.
What Is the Learning Experience?
Like an eLearner’s overall experience during learning, learner experience does not describe a binary encounter between the learner and her/his Learning Management System (LMS).
- It is a much broader term and defines multiple facets of experiences between learners and their learning environment.
- It encompasses every interaction a learner has with the program or course he/she attends and the experiences generated along that pathway.
To provide a good learning experience, learners should progressively go through multiple stages of their learning journey.
- That path typically commences with awareness building and consciousness of the need for learning.
- A learner flows seamlessly through a stage of successfully consuming appropriate learning content to meet her/his learning needs.
- But the purview of the learning experience doesn’t end there. It expands into the domain of successful application of skills learned to the job and culminates with demonstrable on-the-job behavioral change.
Why Are Both Learner Experience and Learning Experience Key for Creating Effective Learning and Development Programs?
The key to providing employees with a long, successful, and rewarding career at the company lies in offering them continuous learning opportunities through a memorable learner experience.
With so many from the workforce working and learning remotely today, learning dynamics have changed. The usual adage of “Build it and they will learn” just doesn’t cut it anymore!
L&D teams must therefore take a holistic, learner-centric approach when creating those opportunities. To do that, both learner experience and learning experience are key components for building effective and immersive learning and development programs. Focusing on only one of these aspects risks producing learning solutions that do not provide learners with both memorable learning and performance improvements.
What Strategies Can Help You Create Great Learner Experiences?
The following strategies can help deliver exceptional learner experiences:
- Anytime, anywhere learning: To deliver good experiences to your learners, it’s important to not make the timeframes around learning rigid. This is especially essential in today’s work-from-home environment, where employees often work on personal time and request managerial flexibility to attend to personal commitments during traditionally working hours. Allowing eLearners to consume content anytime, anywhere helps provide a better learner experience.
- Available on demand: Learning “convenience” is another aspect of the entire experience that learners crave for. Learning at the point of need, learning in support of a specific performance objective, and learning just in time to deal with a work challenge all go to building an exceptional learner experience.
- Learner centricity and personalization: A good learner experience doesn’t happen through a one-size-fits-all approach. Cookie-cutters just won’t cut it! The learning program must cater to unique learner requirements and needs and must entail personalization to support those needs.
- The “learning pathways” must map to the “career pathways”: Career pathways are planned keeping in mind the employees’ future progression through various organizational roles. And, to support that progression, employees will likely require learning support. That support will come from learning pathways. Both pathways must map to each other to create an exceptional learner experience.
What Strategies Can Help You Create Great Learning Experiences?
The following strategies can help deliver exceptional learning experiences:
- Immersive and engaging: Connecting learners with real-world experiences, using story based scenarios, gamification and game-based learning, Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (MR) – all help in producing a great learning experience.
- Experiential learning: Designing active learning programs, where learners proactively participate in the learning process – as opposed to listening and understanding – helps build a good learning experience. Learning simulations, interactive assignments, and situational learning help learning by doing and through reflection.
- Available within their workflow and should help them perform better: Integrating learning within a learner’s workflow is a great way to deliver a positive learning experience. Rather than waiting for scheduled courses, or scheduling learning opportunities based on an instructor’s availability, use point-of-need learning and offer learning with performance support tools.
- Social and collaborative learning: With employees spending a lot of time on social platforms, including with peers, colleagues, and co-workers, it makes sense to deliver a compelling learning experience by integrating social learning. Designing social learning activities, where learners must cooperate and collaborate, also helps produce engaging experiences for eLearners.
- SDL and continuous learning: Self-Directed Learning (SDL), as opposed to mandated or forced learning, often makes learners more receptive to learning. In addition, offering learners opportunities to further their learning throughout their careers – e.g., mapping career paths with learning paths – ensures a performance-enhancing, rewarding learning experience.
At first glance, learner experience and learning experience seem to indicate the same thing. However, to seasoned L&D professionals, they’re not. In some ways, the two terms could be used interchangeably, though they have subtle differences. In that respect, they’re different sides of the same coin – but the underlined point is “different.”
With so many people working and learning remotely today, it’s helpful for training teams to understand those differences when designing impactful and immersive learning content. Understanding what learner and learning experiences mean, and why they are both important, can go a long way in creating effective learning programs.
I hope the strategies discussed in this article will give L&D professionals a head start in creating exceptional learner experiences and learning experiences.
Meanwhile, if you have any specific queries, do contact me.
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