As the failure of traditional MOOCs suggests, e-learning models as we’ve been knowing them, where learners navigate content in isolation, have lost their efficacy – or maybe they never had it.
However, we all know how the challenge of making online and blended learning more efficient can be overwhelming. Time constraints, a shortage of L&D professionals, and strict deadlines are just a few of the hurdles to overcome. But what if there was a way for team leaders, corporate instructors, and managers to access a streamlined and ready-made course design solution, one that really engages team members and drives skill growth?
To answer all these questions, we had a chat with Marion Trigodet, the Head of Learning and Community at Tomorrow University, the online university dedicated to closing the skill gap with a challenge-driven pedagogical approach. In this blog, we delve deep into Tomorrow University’s unique method of learning design, exploring how this new paradigm can empower anyone to elevate their teams’ intrinsic motivation, and adaptability through a learner-centric, challenge-based approach to learning design.
Marion: We are well aware that we can no longer simply throw texts and videos at learners and expect them to navigate the content diligently. That’s why, at Tomorrow University, we have worked for a different path when crafting learning experiences.
First and foremost, we embrace the Flipped Classroom model. As the term suggests, this methodology flips the traditional lecture format, channeling home time for knowledge acquisition (theory) and reserving classroom time for hands-on activities (practice). This approach empowers learners to browse pre-selected lessons at their own pace, and then convene during in-class sessions with teachers and peers to deliberate, discuss challenges, practice, and deepen their understanding.
A significant portion of the process revolves around peer-driven work, with our experts adopting the role of facilitators.
Marion: Essentially, the Why question serves as a “jobs-to-be-done” tool. It recognizes that people aren’t learning for the sake of learning. They’re aiming for broader goals. This could be a desire for career advancement or specialization in a new tool, for instance.
It’s essential to realize that learning solely for the sake of learning is quite a privileged notion, and that most individuals are pursuing knowledge with life-changing purposes in mind.
Focusing on the “job to be done” is a practical way to maintain focus and alignment.
Marion: The “Backstory” question entails a critical examination of the learner’s existing experience. Often, in corporate and educational settings alike, individuals are already grappling with challenges when they embark on the learning journey. Therefore, it’s imperative to assess and observe what they’ve attempted before and why it did not work out for them so far.
Marion: Lastly, at Tomorrow University, we opt for agile, iterative processes. We believe in launching three-week challenges as swiftly as possible to gather extensive feedback. Our approach is characterized by a commitment to refining even the smallest components of our learning experiences. In essence, it’s all about iteration – a single question in mind: how can we make this better as quickly as possible?
This approach aligns seamlessly with our structured atomic model. In other words, we defined the standalone component of our learning journey that can be experienced independently (for us a three-week challenge). Every single challenge built is directly offered to our learners with the aim of building a complete path.
Marion: When it comes to the practical implementation of this learner-centric approach, two crucial considerations emerge in the design and delivery process:
These considerations pivot on prioritizing the learner at every stage. As for the first question, learning engineers are ideally suited to take a holistic perspective and develop programs aligned with an organization’s strategic objectives.
On the other hand, delegating certain aspects of the process to individuals within the company – such as managers or senior team members – enriches the learning experience by factoring in real-life experiences, challenges, and considerations closer to the skill gaps.
To successfully translate training into skill development, it’s essential to have learning engineers who possess sufficient experience and expertise at the learning architecture level. This goes beyond merely creating content; it involves developing a competency framework for the company or specific job roles and assessing needs of teams based on their on-the-job constraints.
The competency framework involves job responsibilities and different levels of expertise for each with objective standards. Learning architects then collaborate with managers and team members to design content in alignment with the required competencies.
Learning engineering teams possess a unique skill set, bridging the realms of learning science, learner-centricity, and learning analytics. This synergy is pivotal for equipping teams with the skills they need.
Equally crucial is establishing a learning framework that engages every individual as a contributor to the learning experience. Decentralization is key to overcoming bias and embracing a more learner-centric approach. In development teams, there’s often a tendency to believe that “we’re the ones with the knowledge, so we should build everything ourselves.” This perspective can be limiting.
A formidable challenge is to provide a framework that allows anyone, be it a manager or team member, to actively contribute to the learning journey of their team.
This decentralization won’t materialize without trust and training for managers to assume this role, co-create frameworks, and delegate learning responsibilities to non-traditional roles.
Marion: In the realm of modern corporate learning, two fundamental types of learning experiences are essential:
- This approach involves structured, ongoing learning activities designed to build competence over time, often with assessments and feedback. For instance, retros and collective strategic watch are Learning-as-a-process initiatives.
These are discrete learning experiences that occur during specific events, like conferences or workshops, providing concentrated knowledge exposure and inspirations.
Effective learning management entails integrating both process and event learning strategically. For instance, taking a team to a conference (learning-as-an-event) can be followed by structured learning sessions (learning-as-a-Process) to apply newly acquired knowledge. This balanced approach simplifies workplace learning and enhances its impact.
Marion: The first thing is to address whether training is what your team needs the most right now. We tend to apply learning and training because it sounds nice, but we need to make sure it’s needed as sometimes teams just need better prioritization, better processes, or less workload. But if you do need it, go with this:
- This doesn’t mean you have to solve them immediately, but it gives you visibility of where people are at: Are they great at all their competencies or just a few? Are they aware of their areas of improvement at all? What are the differences within the team?
- Corporate growth works when it is designed for both the individual and company. For example, if the learning wants of an employee are aligned with company needs, a specialization position can be built for them to step into.
- What are the competencies in our job? What are the tasks we’re doing? And from that job task, What are the competencies we need? Start from these questions, then write standards for different levels. This doesn’t have to be fancy, it can be as simple as an Excel sheet.