Addressing Today’s Top Learning Challenges

July 9, 2024 David Witt

Designing for today’s modern learner can be a challenge. There are a lot of different factors for instructional designers to keep in mind. In preparation for presentations at the 2024 Blanchard Leadership Summit, leaders and solutions architects from Blanchard’s Design Studio and Innovation Lab have identified some of the top challenges they face—and how to solve them.

In an upcoming webinar on July 24, each of these thought leaders will share one key insight and an actionable strategy for addressing it. Here are some of the issues they will explore.

See the Complete Picture—April O’Malley

For solutions architect April O’Malley, the key issue is incomplete information.

“The problem I see most often is that a designer doesn't have all the information they need to create a complete solution,” says O’Malley.

It can be tempting to start creating programs regardless of a lack of data, assuming the environment is ready to support the learning.

“A better response is to be forthcoming and ask questions about how the learning fits into the bigger picture,” says O’Malley. “When people need to change behavior, a lot of infrastructure is needed to support that. It's not just one learning event. It's not an event-based activity.”

O’Malley uses Blanchard’s Five Drivers of Learning Impact as a framework to ensure learners are set up for success.

1. Key Influencer Support: How will we gain sponsorship and involvement from executives and supervisors?

2. Strategic Integration: Have we made clear connections to organizational objectives?

3. Effective Design and Delivery: In what ways do we need to adjust our learning approaches to optimize impact?

4. Follow-up and Reinforcement: What are our plans for encouragement and accountability to drive behavior change?

5. Demonstrated Tangible Value: Do we have a process in place to measure progress and success measures?

“We need the complete picture to create effective learning programs. Once we understand the underlying goals, we can be more sensitive and selective with the other pieces that make the learning stick and the program successful.”

Use Technology Appropriately—Betty Dannewitz

For solutions architect Betty Dannewitz, the focus is technology.

“Designers often feel intrigued or compelled to use a new technology even when they don't have a business problem to solve with it,” says Dannewitz. “They fear being left behind, so they create something with XYZ technology.

“Artificial intelligence (AI) is a great example. Many designers feel they have to do something with AI simply because everyone else is. But we are still in the vetting phase of AI and how it's going to work for L&D. While some organizations have figured out good ways to use it, others are just spinning their wheels and spending resources.”

In contrast, technology adoption also can suffer due to assumed constraints, says Dannewitz.

“It’s easy to think of technology as being expensive and complicated. But as designers, we need to jump in and challenge assumptions like this. Start with the business problem you are looking to solve and ask: Is this really going to cost too much? What if it helps us do a great job of rolling out learning? What if it gives people an opportunity to practice in a safe environment?

“By challenging assumptions, we could come across an idea such as virtual reality, for example. And you know what? Virtual reality would be a great way to practice skills safely, repeat that practice again and again, and get graded on it.”

Set Context when Adding Content—Ann Rollins

For Ann Rollins, Blanchard’s VP of custom solutions and chief solutions architect, the challenge is how to use content libraries to solve development gaps within large groups of people.

“When L&D professionals are looking to solve gaps in development, one promising solution is to partner with third-party providers that offer huge libraries of digital content available to everyone. This approach can service many different populations very quickly, at scale, with very limited effort.

“But more content doesn't always solve the problem—there’s often plenty of content already available. It's how we're able to contextualize that content for people. We have to know who we are solving for to be able to create a solution that makes the most efficient use of time for different groups of people.”

“When we think about curated learning experiences or curated learning designs, it's not a matter of just putting building blocks in place. When a participant knows the content aligns with their needs, they will be far more likely to finish the work and truly engage with the content.

“At Blanchard, we use our Five Drivers of Learning Impact to frame a learning solution from beginning to end. This wraps around the change management that's necessary for people to engage in and apply the learning.”

Use Design Thinking to Create Personalized Learning Plans—Britney Cole

As the head of Blanchard’s Innovation Lab, chief innovation officer Britney Cole believes the big challenge is taking the time to employ a human-centric approach.

“Many times, when an organization is looking to solve a business problem, they go right to solutioning. They focus on content and frameworks and models. Or individuals will go into their bag of tricks of what worked in different parts of their own careers.

“When people have a content-first or solution-first mindset, they’re failing to truly appreciate the importance of considering who they are solving for. If they look back at some of their past initiatives that were not as effective as they had hoped, they’ll see it’s not the content that caused the problem—it's the experience of how that content was teed up and served to participants.

“At Blanchard, we use a design thinking approach that focuses on the leader. Instead of going straight to problem solving, we ask ourselves Who is our audience that will be going through this experience? We use techniques such as creating personas to help empathize with those who experience our solutions, which allows us to discover and feel what is truly challenging to our intended participants. And by thinking, considering, and talking about who we are solving for, we’re helping to build that empathy.”



Would you like to learn more about best practice design principles? Join us for a free webinar!

Transforming Leadership Development: From Design Thinking to Digital Integration

July 24, 2024, 7:00 a.m. Pacific Time

In preparation for the 2024 Blanchard Leadership Summit, Blanchard design experts will be offering sneak peeks into their topic presentations using short, ten-minute presentation formats to share insights and actionable strategies in four key areas.

    1.  Leveraging Design Thinking for Leadership Development: Discover how design thinking can help you create structured, innovative, and scalable development experiences. Innovation and design expert Britney Cole will share how to consider the who before the what to build programs that are resource efficient and adaptable to various organizational contexts.
    2. Maximizing Your Investment: The Five Drivers of Learning Impact: Learn how to ensure development investments turn into meaningful results. Blanchard solutions architect April O’Malley will share the Five Drivers of Learning Impact that promote behavior changes and skill application.
    3. Building Powerful Curated Content Designs: Explore leveraging curated content to create personalized and impactful leadership development experiences. Ann Rollins, Blanchard’s VP of custom solutions and chief solutions architect, will show you how to effectively integrate curated content into multi-modal, spaced learning.
    4. Integrating Technology into L&D Designs: The rapid pace of technological advancements presents unique challenges for L&D professionals. Technology expert and Blanchard solutions architect Betty Dannewitz will share best practice strategies to effectively integrate technology into L&D designs.

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn practical strategies and walk away with actionable insights to enhance your organization's learning initiatives. Join us for this fast-paced, focused showcase designed for HR and L&D executives, instructional designers, and delivery experts. 

Register Today

About the Author

David  Witt

David Witt is a Program Director for Blanchard®. He is an award-winning researcher and host of the companies’ monthly webinar series. David has also authored or coauthored articles in Fast Company, Human Resource Development Review, Chief Learning Officer and US Business Review.

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