eLearning Accessibility: A Critical Business Mandate

eLearning Accessibility

Accessibility is increasingly becoming a non-negotiable mandate when it comes to eLearning. And rightly so.

Understanding is intrinsic to learning. Equal opportunity to learning is a fundamental right of every individual irrespective of his/her physical disposition. This is the premise on which the entire online accessibility movement began.

Accessibility in simple terms is a concept that advocates inclusivity and universality in whatever you create. This implies, whether it is a product or a service, everything that you build should be made in such a way that it can be used by everyone, regardless of how they encounter it.

This is especially valuable and relevant when it comes to eLearning or online web content. Accessibility ensures that online learning is delivered by an organization with such care and consideration that even the employees with special needs can access it without much hindrance.

eLearning Accessibility is therefore a very critical consideration when it comes to online training or web content.

Disability is diverse

Numbers in the United States tell a compelling story. 61 million adult Americans have some form of disability according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The same study reinforces that, 26% or 1 in 4 adults in the United States have special needs due to challenges ranging from mobility, cognition, hearing, vision or learning impairment.

Disability is Diverse

As defined by CDC, “a disability is any condition of the body or mind (impairment) that makes it more difficult for the person with the condition to do certain activities (activity limitation) and interact with the world around them (participation restrictions).”

Interestingly, the spectrum of disabilities is quite broad and diverse when it comes to accessibility considerations. These could broadly be categorized as:

      • People with permanent disabilities (we usually associate the term ‘disability’ with them)
      • Disabilities due to age (everybody is vulnerable here)
      • Situational disabilities (temporary in nature)

Some of the common physical disabilities that cause barrier to normal functioning of an individual include vision (inability to see objects, perceive light or color, judge distances, or access information in visual media like print, images or video), mobility (inability to use hands, feet, arms, or legs), auditory (total inability to perceive sounds and access audio-based information presented in media), neurological (restricted sensory perceptions, mental processes, or motor functions), cognitive (loss of memory, reduced attention span, restricted intellectual development, limited problem-solving skills), medical (restricted endurance, attention, or mobility), Psychological (memory loss, reduced attention span and so on).

(Reference: Types of disabilities: Understanding accessibility: Accessibility: Indiana University (iu.edu))

Transitions can occur due to the stage of life that one is in. Age related disabilities like diminishing vision, cognitive degeneration, loss of hearing, in short physical, mental or sensory impairments may require special support or assistance.

Sometimes disabilities can also be temporary in nature. One could label them as situational disabilities. For instance, pregnancy in women may mandate special kind of support due to the physical condition for a particular duration, an accident may lead to physical inability for some time, an ear infection may impact the hearing ability and so on.

“Beginning in the early to mid-40s, many adults may start to have problems seeing clearly at close distances, especially when reading and working on the computer”.
– American Optometric Associati

The realm of accessibility therefore is very broad. A wide canvas has to be considered for drawing the blueprint to make an online learning program or solution accessible. Accessibility not only ensures inclusivity by helping learners with disabilities but in the larger context it brings benefits to everyone. In other words, lack of accessibility can impact anybody. eLearning Accessibility therefore is no more a ‘good to have’ feature but a fundamental necessity.

The eLearning Accessibility Approach

Thinking accessibility in online learning mandates two basic requisites:

      • Familiarity with accessibility standards issued under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG – including WCAG 2.0, 2.1, 2.2) and,
      • Keeping pace with the changing technology

The above standards and technology together drive how eLearning content is accessed by people who have disabilities. Accessibility support with WCAG 2.0/2.1 standard is therefore critical when it comes to eLearning.

The WCAG guidelines are built around four core principles:

      1. Perceivable – so people can see the content or hear it
      2. Operable – so people can use the computer by typing, or by voice
      3. Understandable – so people get clear and simple language
      4. Robust – so people can use different assistive technologies

The first three principles – Perceivable, Operable and Understandable – focus on the end-user while the last one, Robust, focuses on the technology that delivers this content to the learners.

It is important for these assistive technologies to use the eLearning content that organizations produce and reliably deliver to the learners according to their accessibility preferences. The content therefore has to be robust and compatible with current and future technologies.

Core principles of elearning accessibility

eLearning Accessibility Business Considerations

From the business perspective, there are three primary motivators for organizations to ensure that the content that they create is accessible:

      • From the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion standpoint it is important to ensure that each and every employee in the organization gets an equal opportunity to access the content that is created.
      • Accessibility is also important from the standpoint of increasing overall usability and experience of the product. A universal design that makes content more user-friendly is certainly a plus. Afterall, access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.
      • Many governments across the world are coming up with accessibility standards and legislations. Therefore, accessibility is a significant mandate from the compliance perspective as well. So, the aspects to check are, “are we complying with the local regulations as also, are we meeting up with our clients’ compliance needs?”

Making eLearning Accessible to Everyone

There is a lot of careful planning, design deliberation, knowledge of accessibility principles, and implementation experience that goes into making content really functional, easier to perceive, quicker to understand, and intuitive to navigate.

Making eLearning accessible to everyone, especially people with special needs, is not only essential but also mandatory from a legal perspective. This is an obligatory effort that helps in creating great learning experiences for everyone. It makes learning inclusive, effective, easy, and fast.

Whether you are a catalog company, a large enterprise, or a medium business, one thing is for sure – you would want to get your ‘accessibility’ quotient right.

Decoding the design element to making online courses accessible

The introduction to digital content and eLearning courses has moved the entire process of learning and development to a virtual space. But now we have an indispensable need on our hands to make eLearning accessible and accommodate all types of learners.

As explained earlier, millions of people have some or the other form of disability. The disability could be permanent, temporary, or situational. Whichever the case, only a few people with a disability have access to assistive technology.

To mitigate this gap and make information available to all, it is essential to design content as per eLearning accessibility standards. Remember, enabling ease of access and accessibility in online learning is not an option anymore, because we aim to promote an inclusive environment.

The world of assistive technology

Assistive technology is a concept that enables and promotes inclusion and participation, especially of people with disabilities, the ageing population, and people affected by chronic diseases. The primary aim of assistive technology is to improve or maintain an individual’s functioning and independence.

Additionally, assistive technology aims toward promoting a productive and independent life, mainly for the specially abled. But according to the World Health Organization, only 1 in 10 people in need have access to assistive technology. Therefore, it is a great move to include accessible design while creating digital content to make it easily accessible and useful to all.

The need for accessibility in online learning courses

Accessibility is for all. It is not limited to any one disability. It is a concept that focuses on enabling users with disabilities to understand, perceive, interact, and navigate information like everyone else. This helps the users contribute and learn equally without any barriers.

However, to give everyone a great learning experience, it is important to consider accessible design when creating online eLearning content.

Recommended eLearning accessibility guidelines to follow

The core of any learning material is its usability. To engage and benefit more learners, including the ones with disabilities, it is important to make the course content accessible.

Accessible eLearning must include a design that benefits all types of learners. The courses must be designed in a way that makes them easily accessible to learners with disabilities. At the same time, they should be inconspicuous, so that a normal learner would not notice it.

1. Write clear and simple

One of the primary recommendations to create accessible courses that will benefit every learner is simplicity. Be sure to use active voice and eliminate unnecessary verbiage in your eLearning content.

When writing assignment instructions, use imperative statements and organize the information in a clear hierarchy. This practice will help learners, including the ones who make use of assistive technology, to easily navigate through and consume your content in less time.

2. Make your content visually aesthetic

To make your eLearning content visually aesthetic, choose a design that is pleasing to the eye and avoid causing any discomfort to the learner.

3. Present an uncluttered screen

The learner’s screen should not be filled with too much information. When planning the design aspect of accessible eLearning content, consider arranging your content in a way that makes It is easy to find it, whenever needed.

4. Use the right color coding

A rule of thumb for producing accessible eLearning content is to limit the number of colors. Besides, see to it that you strictly avoid using bright or shady colors in your content. Don’t forget to have enough contrast between the text and background to enable learners with visual impairment to easily read your content.

The W3C accessibility guidelines on color contrast instruct eLearning content creators to not use color alone to convey any kind of information or meaning. This is because learners with visual impairment could miss out on such distinctions in the content.

5. Avoid using distracting images

One of the most critical eLearning accessibility design recommendations is to do away with rolling, flashing, or visually disturbing images in your content. This could not only ruin the experience of learners with a disability, but it could also annoy other learners.

6. Enable keyboard operability

As per a WCAG recommendation, keyboard operability is extremely essential to making digital content accessible. This functionality is vital to ensure every user has access to your eLearning content without the need for a mouse.

To enable this, your eLearning content must have a visible keyboard focus and tabs must be set in an appropriate order. Besides, there must be no navigation barriers when using a keyboard interface.

Just as we have provided accessible eLearning design recommendations here, you can learn about eLearning accessibility business considerations suggested by Harbinger.

Accessibility guidelines for live eLearning courses

Live online learning courses are an interesting way to impart knowledge. It’s literally like attending classroom training without having the need to travel. But is it possible to make these learning sessions accessible for all?

Well, there is a considerable difference in pre-recorded and live sessions. The following points can come in handy in making a live session accessible:

      • Switch on the auto captions mode
      • Use a consistent rate of speech with enough pauses
      • Maintain uniformity in layouts
      • Use descriptive wording for hyperlink text
      • Add captions to videos and transcribe audio content
      • Include sign language experts
      • Accessible eLearning design aspects for usability

Having a good design is not enough to make eLearning courses accessible. Creating a great accessible course requires integrating it with elements that not only make it accessible, but also add value to learners with disabilities.

Doing so would help learners with disabilities take the course and perform the same functions as any other learner. Here are a few tips that can enhance design usability:

      • Avoid complex interactions wherever possible
      • Use large fonts to accommodate learners with a poor vision
      • Use ALT tags to describe every image and diagram (you can skip decorative images)
      • When using audio or video content, make sure to provide captions or transcription

When an online learning course is being designed for accessibility, the primary motive should be to make it accessible to as many people as possible. This means your eLearning content needs to accommodate different kinds of learners, even those with a disability and regardless of the type of their disability.

7 quick tips to achieve eLearning accessibility

By now, you may have realized how important it is to ensure your eLearning content meets critical compliance standards like WCAG, ADA, and Section 508. eLearning accessibility should be a top priority of your organization if you are keen on offering an inclusive learning experience to your learners.

In 2020, digital accessibility lawsuits increased to over 3,500 cases, that’s almost 10 lawsuits filed every business day in the US.

Accessibility experts at Harbinger Interactive Learning have given out some practical advice to design and implement accessible eLearning content faster. Harbinger has tons of experience and a wealth of knowledge to enable online learning accessibility in different industries.

The following actionable tips and best practices will come in handy to make your content compliant and accessible to all types of learners, especially those with disabilities. So, let’s dive in.

1. Choose a design that supports accessible eLearning

Ensure your eLearning templates are designed to implement accessibility. This is highly recommended for enterprises that produce content in volume. Be sure to use a design that will require no to minimum usage of mouse to access your content.

Don’t forget to evaluate the accessibility of your design. For this purpose, you can use tools like WAVE and Color Oracle.

2. Improve the readability and structure of your content

Accessibility in eLearning has a lot to do with enhancing user experience. To make your content more readable and easier to consume, use header tags in the text when applying custom HTML5 development. Remember to move consequently from one heading level to the next, without skipping.

71% of website visitors with disabilities will leave a website that is not accessible.

To improve the learning experience, also ensure your tab order is visually organized, alt text is added to all your content-enhancing images, and the asterisk convention is avoided.

3. Create a foolproof link strategy

Use a link text that clearly and accurately conveys the link’s purpose. Even when read out of context, your link text should indicate its purpose or destination.

A descriptive, non-identical link text also supports screen reader accessibility. It proves to be extremely useful for screen-reader users who may need to move from one link to another when navigating pages to access your content.

Here is a comparison between bad and good link texts:

      • Ordinary link text: “Read more” or “Click here”
      • Great link text: “Learn more about the Interactive Design Foundation”

4. Make it easy to interpret your content

Sometimes, eLearning designers excessively focus on content creativity and attractiveness that they tend to ignore accessibility requirements. For example, you may use multiple colors or those very similar to each other, or complex graphics as part of your content creativity. But learners with a visual or cognitive disability will find it challenging to interpret or consume your content.

That is why it is so important to offer visual cues (like a PDF icon), underline links, and allow menu links to highlight during mouseover events. To improve content visibility, use intelligent color selection and enable high contrast.

5. Produce screen reader-friendly content

As per accessibility guidelines for online learning, your eLearning program must accommodate learners with special needs, including the visually impaired who use screen readers.

92% of screen reader users use the assistive technology due to a disability.

Considering the need for screen readers among online leaners, it makes sense to produce eLearning programs that work with screen readers as well. See to it that the functionality of your program and your content layout are keyboard friendly. Besides, carefully consider how screen readers handle forms. Properly label forms and provide descriptions to screen readers via tags.

6. Check cross-browser compatibility for consistent experience

Make sure your eLearning content functions and can be viewed consistently across different web browsers. Errors in your HTML code and scripts could cause accessibility issues in online learning like duplicate “id” attributes and missing alt text. They could also cause assistive technologies to misbehave or interpret your content differently.

Therefore, be sure to validate markup using tools like W3C to ensure all browsers can read your code. You can also check your Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) for errors using the W3C CSS Validator.

7. Allow easy interaction with audio and video content

To design accessible eLearning programs, you need to understand that your audience with special needs could have varying disabilities. Some learners could have difficulty hearing or understanding sounds, while others could have a visual impairment.

That is why you need to ensure learners can easily interact with your audio and video eLearning resources. For this purpose, you can offer transcriptions for audio content and closed captions or subtitles for videos. You can also use a separate transcript field to add subtitles to your multimedia content.

Designing accessible eLearning content not only helps accommodate learners with disabilities, but it also enables great learning experiences for everyone. The accessible eLearning best practices and tips discussed here will help you achieve exactly that. Importantly, you will be able to offer a personalized, engaging eLearning experience to all types of learners.

If you want to learn more about eLearning accessibility and how to create an inclusive learning experience, we suggest you watch our recent Power Hour webinar. The webinar featured Dr. Vikas Joshi, Chief Executive Officer at Harbinger Group in conversation with accessibility experts Devon Frame, Business Development Manager at Frame & Associates Consulting and Shalaka Bhor, Accessibility Design Consultant at Harbinger Interactive Learning.

Want to Know More About eLearning Accessibility?

Emerging eLearning Trends That Will Shape 2022

Emerging eLearning Trends That Will Shape 2022

There is no doubt that eLearning has made tremendous progress in the last couple of years. While the global pandemic of Covid 19 forced the entire ecosystem to look at innovative ways in which learning could be imparted; educators, technologists, and eLearning companies rose to the challenge with unforeseen creativity and innovation. What seemed to be an unsurmountable barrier at the outset, turned out to be one of the biggest opportunities that transformed the paradigm of learning like never before.

The Year 2021 was certainly an eventful year in this context. Harbinger Interactive Learning (HIL) has been on the forefront of this transformation helping eLearning companies worldwide to deliver impactful, modern learning experiences.

Poonam Jaypuriya, Vice President eLearning, who heads the business operations, strategy, and sales planning at HIL is an established eLearning leader of repute. Her strategic expertise coupled with an extensive experience of steering the eLearning line of business makes her an authoritative voice on emerging technologies and trends.

We round up the year with a quick one-to-one with Poonam to explore the possibilities and prospects that the Year 2022 holds for eLearning. We are happy to share the following insights from our eLearning Leader Poonam Jaypuriya.

Q:  What are some of the emerging trends that show promise for improving the learner experience and engagement in the coming year?

Poonam: Based on our conversations and project experience with customers, here are a couple of emerging trends which seem to hold a lot of promise in 2022:

      • Competency-based learning to help upskill and reskill employees.
      • Content curation for selecting useful content based on immediate business demands.
      • Just-in-time learning with AI based solutions like chatbot and nudge-learning.
      • AR (Augmented Reality) which is poised to get more mainstream in eLearning.
      • VR (Virtual Reality) may still be limited to specialized skills considering budget constraints.

Q:  What according to you is the NEXT BIG thing in learning?

Poonam: Today, most companies are struggling with skilling and reskilling of employees owing to new business needs. With the rate at which technology and business demands are changing there is no doubt that this is going to be an ongoing requirement. L&D leaders will be forced to strategize a long-term solution for this business imperative. Obviously, the traditional way of developing eLearning does not have the potential to support this for a sustainable period of time.

According to me, thinking of a new way of upskilling people using competency-based learning – focusing on competency vis-à-vis skill gaps – is a solution that can give targeted learning results. This will be central to most of the eLearning strategies, moving forward.

Q: Will content curation be integral to L&D strategy in 2022?

Poonam: Yes. In the current scenario, businesses, job roles, and expectations from employees are undergoing huge transformation. A lot more is expected from an individual and that too at lightning speed. L&D leaders will not only have to look at the current skill required of employees, but they may also have to factor future needs of the business. The traditional process of identifying the need, creating content with the help of SMEs, developing elearning, and then delivering over a period of weeks before someone can start performing in a role, will have to change.

In the new scheme of things, the role of L&D is gravitating towards making relevant content available right at the point of need. And content curation would be an integral part of the L&D strategy to help achieve the evolving business objectives.

Q: How is emerging technology making personalization and tailored experiences a reality?

Poonam: Using data to track learner actions, and AI to make intelligent recommendations based on common patterns, are the two key drivers that are helping deliver personalized learning experiences.

Earlier there was limited tracking of information in terms of score and completion of learning. However, with the use of xAPI and new age analytics one can track various parameters and learner behaviors which can be used to deliver interesting experiences.

For example, if the learner is not making any progress for a certain amount of time, or one is doing back and forth on a screen or video for multiple times, or skipping certain pages, or clicking on certain specific points or tab multiple times, then such cues can be used to make intelligent learner behavior interpretations to deliver personalized learning experiences.

Q: What is your ‘eLearning resolution’ for the New Year?

Poonam: : My role primarily revolves around designing eLearning solutions with appropriate use of technology and instructional solutions. Technology is evolving at rapid pace. And as a solution designer it is critical for us as an organization to be on top of these evolving technologies. This would help us design and deliver right solutions rapidly and at scale for the modern-day learners and help our customers achieve their business demands.

So, my resolution would be to keep learning and be on top of these technology changes. And also continue to imbibe a learning culture in our team to deliver these solutions at scale.

Expert Perspectives on Content Modernization

Expert_Perspectives_on_Content_Modernization

Business ecosystems are very dynamic. In a growing organization, everything from tools and technology to delivery platforms, to distribution methods, to tracking and compliance methods and last but not the least modern-day learners’ expectations, demand continuous change. In addition, there are also compelling situations like the Covid 19 Pandemic that accelerate this need further.

The L&D teams can ready their organizations for the future by ensuring that the learning experiences they create are contemporary, align with the needs of business/learners, and are integrated with the flow of work. Creating new content every time is obviously not the right approach. The solution lies in Modernization.

Modernization is an intelligent strategy that helps organizations reuse, repurpose and re-design existing content to make it relevant, effective, engaging, and attractive to the current learning preferences. In this post, I bring you excerpts from my conversation with a ‘modernization veteran’ Dipti Jana, Delivery Manager with Harbinger Interactive Learning who comes with an enviable reputation of leading a variety of successful modernization projects.

Based on her in-depth on-the-field experience, Dipti (DJ) gives a comprehensive 360 view on modernization.

Why Modernize?

Q: What are the compelling reasons for organizations to modernize their content?

DJ: I have worked with various customers to help them modernize their content. There seemed five key common reasons why they chose modernization as a strategy.

  • Compliance – Need to make the courses compliant to newly mandated/revised regulatory compliance standards.
  • Rebranding – Mergers and acquisitions drive the need to change the look and feel for better and aligned learner experience.
  • Maintainability – Unavailability or limited availability of people, technology, course packages, or other resources to maintain legacy courses. For example, old content being in Storyline 1, Lectora 11, Flash or even older versions of LMSs (learning management systems) which are notsupported anymore.
  • Dated design and user experience – Need to align learner experience with the expectations of next generation of learners.Design style changes every few years. So, keeping the visual design of the courses as per new standards rather than making the course look outdated is critical for off the shelf content.
  • Investment – Cost of redeveloping the courses from scratch while the legacy content is still relevant.

Choosing the Right Partner

Q: How should content modernization implementation partners be evaluated?

DJ: A smart, thought through approach to modernization certainly includes paying due attention to getting the right partner onboard. Here are some of the important attributes that may help you decide who to go with.

“We at Harbinger have designed a comprehensive modernization framework. This includes processes perfected over time, rich library of automation tools to handle various challenges of working with legacy content, custom trackers and reporting mechanism, standard communication protocols, standards checklists, guidelines, a strong core team of modernization experts, and a scalable pool of resources who have been working on multiple modernization projects.”

The first and foremost thing to watch out for, according to me, would be experience. This is to make sure that the team is capable of handling various challenges like non-availability of legacy course packages, handling of obsolete technology, conversion of interactions which are not supported in new tools/technologies without compromising learners’ experience, and so on. Experienced partners also tend to engage for longer durations, hence providing better predictability.

Another important aspect would be to check for the availability of tools and techniques for handling volumes. Efficiency building tools and techniques like automation frameworks, asset re-use, and well-established processes involving sprint-based development, continuous feedback and tracking mechanism, are crucial in success of modernization projects.

It is also necessary to assess whether your partner has the ability to scale up and down as often as required – Modernization, as a business strategy, requires ability to convert in batches. These batches could vary in size depending on the go-to-market strategy. Maintaining fixed size team at all timeis not cost effective.

Modernization Benefits

Q: You have helped multiple companies with their content modernization efforts. How have companies/learning organizations benefited from this exercise?

DJ: Harbinger’s xSMART framework is specifically designed to address large scale modernization requirements in a cost-effective and rapid manner. Our customers have reported multiple benefits on completion of their modernization projects. I am happy to bring to you some of these numbers here.

By improving visual and instruction design and enabling courses to open across range of smart devices and platforms, the learner engagement is reported to increase by 25-30% after modernization.

Enabling micro learning has increased ROI on modernized courses as the same content can be distributed in multiple modalities. In one of our projects, we modernized 600+ hours of learning, and client was able to create more than a thousand microlearning nuggets.

Harbinger’s xSMART framework helps address the challenge of volumes very strategically. Volume conversion helps bring modernization cost per course down by almost 75-80%. With technological enhancements in the courses, overall reduction in maintenance costs for the courses, and the number of support tickets has come down to the tune of 60-70% for our clients.

Last but not the least, with Harbinger’s xSMART framework, modernization time for each course reduces by 60-70%.

Success Factors

Q: What does it take for content modernization projects to be successful?

DJ: Our experience of handling a variety of clientshailing from multiple domainsover the years, has given us a good understanding of what it takes to handle different levels of legacy content. Irrespective of how the content gets generated in the organization and where it resides, here are some fundamental hygiene factors that ensure successful implementation:

  • High level of collaboration – All stakeholders need to be closely in-sync and should be able to take quick decisions. This reduces the turnaround time.
  • Proper investment in the design phase – Design phase sets the stage for volume conversion. Deciding on templates, features, processes, quality parameters, development checklists, automation, all are very critical to build in efficiency in the volume development phase.
  • Dedicated team, with flexibility to scale up and down – volumes thrive on efficiency. Having a dedicated team helps build this efficiency.
  • Framework of automation toolkit, processes, standards, skills, collaboration tools, which can address the challenges of modernization.
  • Experience – teams who have handled several modernization projects are more aware of the problems which can arise, and have quite a few tools and workarounds in their kitty to overcome these problems.

Dipti Jana, Delivery Manager with Harbinger Interactive Learning, is a seasoned veteran in the IT spectrum and comes with an overall experience of 26 years. Having worn several hats in her professional portfolio, Dipti has harnessed her experience to add great value to the knowledge and learning business domain.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/dipti-jana-78582912/.

Additional Resource:

MicrosoftTeams-imageYou may also read: https://harbingerlearning.com/ebook-why-modernize-learning-content-things-need-to-know/

Cultivating a Learning Culture with an AI-powered Virtual Coach

Companies are increasingly putting themselves in the shoes of their employees to develop strategies that would result in a more committed and productive workforce. Cultivating a learning culture can be a constructive step in this direction. Prioritizing learning with a significant focus on upskilling and reskilling is the need of the hour.

Talent retention was never easy, and the global pandemic has made this all the more challenging. According to a study, 38% of employees are engaged and 13% are actively disengaged at work.

Transformation of a workplace culture into one that promotes continuous learning doesn’t happen overnight, but some steps can be taken to get started. To begin with, organizations should start focusing on delivering better learning experiences.

Unique learning experiences – The secret sauce

With a focus on making this cultural transformation successful, organizations are required to captivate learning into their core values and build a firm belief of leadership support among employees. The crucial part is to design a top-notch learning experience. It can be easily done by prioritizing the following key components.

  • Make learner-centered strategies a priority
  • Make learning available in the flow of work
  • Include rewards as a key component

AI is everywhere, and it has a lot of potential in the L&D world. We discussed the significant role of AI in ‘making learning an everyday work’, in full detail in one of our previous blogs. In case you missed that one, read here.

AI bots for close interactions

For quite some time now, many companies have been using AI bots to provide cutting-edge digital customer interactions. According to research, consumer retail spending via chatbots is expected to reach $142 billion by 2024. Chatbots encourage engaging dialogues, and AI allows the bot to be responsive, agile, and adaptable. Chatbots that are more advanced learn from each conversation, identifying preferences and providing recommendations based on previous requests. Chatbots enable collaborative working practices by facilitating information exchange, makes learning an everyday part of the workflow, and providing a training experience that is similar to conversing with a colleague…a few of the many ways chatbots make meaningful interactions by providing efficient learning support.

Furthermore, AI-based bots can readily adjust to each person’s learning demands and help them attain a more meaningful learning experience.

However, every organization has its own distinct and structured work ecosystem, which cannot be denied. The integration of AI-coach into an existing workplace ecosystem is what the L&D leaders are concerned about.

Integrating AI in an existing workplace learning ecosystem

AI is increasingly being adopted and implemented into businesses of all sizes, to increase revenue, lower operational costs, engage with customers, and automate day-to-day tasks. HR professionals are using AI to speed up the sorting and filtering of resumes, onboarding candidates, creating new roles and altering organizational structures. Also, HR leaders need to respond with effective and adaptive learning and development programs that will not only help train people but also lead to measurable payoffs.

AI integration into the workplace is surely going to unravel unexpected benefits. Organizations can make AI integration successful by taking the following four areas into their consideration.

    • Identifying the sweet spot inside an existing ecosystem where AI can be implemented. For instance, let us suppose a company adopts Microsoft Teams as a productivity tool. A layer of AI-enabled virtual coach could be introduced in the Microsoft Teams environment to assist the users.
    • Delivering content at the point of need with the help of an AI-enabled virtual coach. For content to be AI-ready, it must be searchable, accessible, integration-friendly, and include meta tags for media material to facilitate access. When a learner seeks an answer to a question without going through the complete learning material, an AI-enabled virtual coach can provide an answer within a matter of a second.
    • A virtual coach, by gauging numerous learner metrics and learning patterns, can measure the learning outcomes. The outcomes-based learning approach is an effective way to build specific competencies in a learner, to master several skills. This can increase employee motivation and can instill trust in employees.
    • AI-powered chatbots can double employee engagement by helping organizations to stay connected with their employees through continuous feedback capture and handling various aspects of an employee’s learning lifecycle.

What is it about this coach that makes it so effective? Undoubtedly, the ability to deliver personalized learning experiences. The image below depicts a high-level workflow of a virtual coach in the flow of work.


(AI-enabled Virtual Coach Workflow)

Perhaps AI is on its way to becoming the next technological advancement, and this has already started. By combining big data and other machine learning technologies, AI-powered virtual coaches can bring a multitude of benefits to the table.

Proactive support to the learners, understanding learning preferences, and keeping learners up to date are some of the benefits of the AI-powered Virtual coach. It also generates an ecosystem of nudges to boost learning and supports ongoing performance management.

Organizations are moving from a culture of training to a culture of learning. Technology has an important role to play here and AI is on its way to becoming the next remarkable thing in L&D.

Are you planning to incorporate AI into your workplace to improve learning and development?

Get in touch with us to discuss more!

Don’t Create, When You Can Curate

in_conversation_with_joti_joseph_banner

This blog post transcribes my conversation with a Learning Leader who believes that ‘Content Curation’ and technology are imperatives to deliver continuous value enhancement in today’s world. The 3V model that she prescribes provides a winning framework for an impactful content curation strategy.

I met our guest Joti Joseph recently in a Harbinger organized Power Hour discussion titled ‘Designing L&D for Success in a Post-Pandemic World’.

The role of L&D (Learning and Development) has clearly expanded, pivoting around the new paradigm of ‘Learning’. In the post-pandemic world, the L&D teams will have to do things differently in order to meet expectations of the business. While upskilling and re-skilling are going to be an ongoing ask, the learning teams will have to transform themselves into a strategic, responsive, and leaner engine that speaks the language of business, uses technology to provide scale & experience, and is able to deliver visible/measurable impact.

One of the ways in which L&D teams can help organizations prepare for the future is by creating personalized experiences and integrating learning in the flow of work. Content curation is a very effective way to accomplish these goals, our guest believes. I explore the topic further with her:

Q: There was a pre-pandemic world before 2019, and shortly there will be a post-pandemic world that we will have to deal with. What will help businesses cross the chasm?

JJ: All professionals need to have the ability to understand and manage opposites.

What I mean by that is, we have to know what is changing rapidly in our world, the impact that technology is having on our systems, our products, and our stakeholder expectations. We have to acquire the skills to respond to the change before it descends on us.

Having said that, what is also important is to have the clarity on what is not changing. Some business fundamentals like clients wanting to be able to trust people, ‘simplicity will always be king’, are some of the dictums that will never change. We need leaders, managers, experts, peers, graduate trainees, and new joiners who do not get paralyzed by paradoxes but energized by them.

Q: Upskilling and re-skilling are clearly the top priorities for organizations across the spectrum now. What are the new learning initiatives that organizations can adopt to cover the ground?

JJ: Kill the learning function. What I mean is stop the traditional approach of looking towards the learning and development function for your development needs.

There is power in co-creation because it leverages diversity. Put together an expert in Artificial intelligence, a Learning Design expert, a Data Analytics expert, and a client interfacing professional, who are passionate about sharing their insights with their peers; facilitate the transfer of knowledge; and you will get a magical learning solution that delivers greater impact than if those four worked in silos.

The learning function needs to improve its capability about tools and platforms that empower experts in the organization to craft learning. And let`s not chase perfection – after all learning is at the heart of experimentation and experimentation is at the heart of learning.

Q: In terms of building new capabilities for a learning organization, ‘Curation Vs. Creation’ seems to be catching people’s imagination. You too are a strong advocate of it. Why?

JJ: Because all smart people are lazy 🙂 Why create something when someone has already created it? I would rather spend time adding value to what has already been done.

As a learning professional, connecting four pieces of great content by adding the context of the learner in the mix, is truly delivering unique value. The thread that connects curated content together is value that an “outsider” cannot understand and therefore cannot create. The inside view that a curator has is precious. It creates the potential for exponential impact. So, for L&D it is understanding that curation is not just bundling 1 video + 1 article + 1 podcast but understanding the contextual communication that introduces this bundle, launches it at a critical time when the learning can be applied and wrapping it in a community of practice that then powers the learning without the L&D function being involved at all. Believe me, it works!

Someone rightly said, “the true measure of one`s own success is redundancy🙂”.

Q: Do you have any guidelines or framework to recommend for an efficient curation strategy?

JJ: Sujatha Ramesh, a learning vendor-partner who I collaborated with gave me the principles of 3V – Volume, Variety, and Velocity.

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  • When curating content, manage the volume of content that you are sending in the way of our consumer. Do not overwhelm, don’t starve. Eternally strive for the golden mean.
  • Give people content in different forms. Check your own personal preferences and look at the data, listen to the feedback and make conscious choices about different types of content.
  • Finally, velocity – how are our clients interacting with the content. I know how YouTube and Facebook have driven likes and shares as measures of success. I think we in L&D do need to measure those KPIs, but I would not rush to judgment about the quality of content on the basis of those alone. I would triangulate that with other data on performance.

Q: What are some of the pitfalls that can dilute the impact? Some warning signals that you may want to give to L&D professionals who are keen to venture on the ‘curation’ path.

JJ: Don’t fall in love with your own expertise, content, design, or product so much that it becomes a blind spot. The only advice I will give all professionals including L&D, is “ The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing at all times.” If you really care about the main thing, you will keep observing the feedback and keep asking for it, listening to it, understanding it and then do something about it.

  1. Don’t curate without care and context. Take the time and effort to understand what problem we are trying to solve or what opportunity we are trying to capitalize. Have loads of empathy for your audience while curating.
  2. Be passionate enough to tend to curated content, the way you would tend to your garden. If you neglect it, it will wither and die.
  3. Be humble and keep your ego in check. Creation is always more satisfying for the ego; curation requires us to recognize others. Do not give in to the temptation of creation unless absolutely necessary.
  4. Do not get tempted by duration. The time spent on content has to be a function of the result we are trying to drive and the behavior we are trying to change. You would not want a pilot or surgeon or a teacher to learn their skills in short 1.5 minute videos!
  5. Do not curate without a continuous feedback loop.

Q: How can technology be leveraged to deliver maximum impact?

A human centered L&D practitioner will use technology to craft learning experiences and curate content for people in countries and regions where there is no trainer. Take the ingredients of content from LinkedIn Learning, add a dollop of AI powered recommendations from Degreed or Edcast, wrap it in a virtual 90 minute webex with breakout groups, and close the session with Mentimeter feedback. I, in India or Zurich can do that for my audience in Toronto or Taipei. How amazing is that! Scale and reach should never ever be a problem again.

The other amazing thing about platforms and technology is the power of user and expert generated content. Let’s assume that I as a learning expert co-create a short video with a subject matter expert where I enable her to understand what creates impactful learning. She then shares her expertise in a way that aligns to memorable and applicable learning. Suddenly you are expanding the scope of the learning community not just to “traditional trainers” but to an expert community that trainers used to do annual training needs analysis with! We in learning need to be more curious about platforms, rapid authoring tools, video, and audio capability. The only note of caution I will sound is do not let the tool or the tech take center stage. Then you have missed the whole point. The center stage is always the human beings who we are trying to do something for.

Technology also has taken feedback to the next level. With tech I am not just administering surveys more efficiently, but I am not able to observe your choices and behavior based on time spent on content, actions taken, shares, and recommendations. Because, in my design thinking training, I was taught, what people say, what people do, and what people say they do can be three very different things. Technology helps identify and understand these three things better as compared to surveys that focus only on what people say.


Joti Joseph is strategic learning and development (L&D) leader of global repute, with 26 years of experience in learning and development.

Joti currently resides in the Swiss city of Zurich. She works to foster digital learning transformations by facilitating experimentation with innovative pedagogies.

She has recently started a fresh stint with Vontobel as Director, Talent and Learning.

Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this blog are our guest’s personal views and do not represent any organization or group.