Adapt, pivot, re-imagine…you can pick whichever buzzword you like to describe the L&D reaction to COVID. The truth is, even prior to the virus, the industry was already heading towards a significant transformation. Savvy CLOs knew their clunky LMS was broken, generic content libraries were not upskilling anyone, and their own teams lacked the skills needed to support a modern learning culture. Now that we are relatively adjusted to work in a pandemic, leaders are re-examining their EdTech strategy and their own team’s bench strength.
So, what does this mean to the average learning professional? Mainly the L&D skillset long considered the standard in the industry will diminish in job postings. New roles that could be filled by people without a learning background, such as data analyst, marketer, or UX designer, are already emerging. The traditional ID is increasingly undervalued and less sought after.
This is not to say instructional design is no longer a skill needed in the L&D function. It is most definitely required. Expertise in solid learning methodologies and theories is fundamental. However, the skills of an ID need to evolve. They can no longer be course developers focused on templated click-next-to-continue elearning modules. Rather, there needs to be a shift towards taking the principles of instructional design and applying them to increasingly digital experiences expanding across multiple platforms and spaced intervals.
Enter the Learning Experience Designer
This is more than just a clever rebranding of an ID. Rather, an LXD combines the roots of an instructional designer with the principles of User Experience Design. They consider the overall learning arc from the learner’s perspective, both technically and experientially. Whilst an LXD may develop courses, they often build resources and give careful consideration as to when and how they will fit into the learner’s work. Designing learning experiences also means including points of application and practice, yielding better results and retention.
Learn from marketing
So, how does an ID earn their LXD wings? Probably the best way to begin is to start with an industry well-versed in user experience: marketing. No, this is not about how to effectively market your course post-design (although, that is not a bad consideration). Marketers consider the entire process from prospect to buyer, and everything in-between. They choreograph a dance between content and individual; informing and educating with a goal to change behaviour. To learn more, check out Bianca Baumann and her free eBook “Little Black Book of Marketing and L&D” (you’ll like her – she’s a learning person).
If you really want to get ahead of the curve, go deeper and learn marketing automation. Right now, EdTech providers are adding in the same functionality used by marketers to build campaigns that nurture learners through responsive, paced, learning experiences, personalised based on data and actions. If that sounded like a lot, it is. Don’t stress yourself out. Here’s a great summary post, plus a free guidebook with everything you need to get started with marketing automation. Remember, you do not have to become a full master of marketing automation to apply any of these concepts to L&D. Rather, learn a few of the basics and do your own experimentation.
One of the most in-demand roles in L&D is Learning Community Managers. Jam Pan saw an increase of 375% in demand for this skill from Q1 to Q2 this year. Many investments have been made in EdTech but engagement can often remain low. The LCM keeps the party alive by seeding conversations, connecting individuals, developing drip content strategies, and using the data and analytics to get the maximum out of the platform and ultimately, build a great continuous digital learning experience. Again, this is a role stolen from the world of marketing. There are a lot of courses on LinkedIn Learning focusing on Community Management (you can get a free 30-day trial). Pick one that sparks your curiosity.
Focus on your writing style
Tired of hearing about how L&D needs to learn about marketing? Writing for digital media might be more your cup of tea. Most learning professionals have been taught to write in a textbook format. Whilst this has some benefits, such as clarity and chunking, it can be too sterile. In a world of digital content, establishing trust and respect through the screen is critical. This can be accomplished through taking some of the tricks of the trade from digital media writers and journalists. Have a look at the inverted pyramid where you begin with the conclusion. This is a golden rule when you have nanoseconds to capture attention.
While you are here, consider a scriptwriting course. Video content has proven its staying power but L&D writes to appease learning objectives rather than depth and realism. The latter are what take learning experiences to an impactful and meaningful level. Your local college or university likely offers a course or two on the topic (stay home, save lives – take it online). Or try this screenwriting course from FutureLearn and the University of East Anglia.
There’s more to LXD than an authoring tool…
Finally, before you think about investing your time into deepening your Storyline skillz, it might be worth picking up graphic design tools, such as Adobe Creative Cloud. This will expand your capabilities into in-demand requests for more resources rather than lengthy courses. Infographics, dynamic PDFs, and job aids are all part of the modern learning experience. Increasing your versatility is a large part of becoming an LXD and also an LCM.
The rapid change in the world of learning over the last 10 months means we’re on the look out for LXDs to join our network. So, if you’re an ambitious, talented Learning Experience Designer – create your free Jam Pan profile today (and get exposure to global businesses searching directly for your skills).
About the author
Lori Niles-Hofmann is a senior learning strategist with over 20 years’ of L&D experience across many industries, including international banking, management consulting, and marketing.
Her specialisation is large-scale digital learning transformations. She is passionate about helping companies navigate through the ambiguity of change and acts as a trusted adviser to Fortune 500 CLOs around the world.
She is the co-founder of NilesNolen and can be found at www.loriniles.com