Learning platforms have grown in leaps and bounds since people started to take learner engagement more seriously. On the back of game-changing developments in social learning, a new creature has emerged…
What Is a Learning Campaign?
In the past, training developers have overlooked something important: Learning doesn’t happen in one event. It’s a journey that takes place over time as information is absorbed, contextualized and put into practice. Because of this oversight, when people hear the words eLearning or online learning, they imagine huge units taking anywhere between 20 and 60 minutes to complete.
Learning campaigns flip the old model on its head. Instead of ineffective information dumps, the content arrives in smaller, bite-size chunks.
The easiest way to picture a learning campaign is to look at another type of campaign with a long history of success: the marketing campaign.
Marketing to Your Learners
The purpose of marketing is to make potential customers aware of a product or service and then move them along to making a purchase. Marketing managers seek to engage these customers and speak to them in a language that’ll resonate with them. Similarly, training managers need to engage learners and encourage them to change their behaviour. This process happens through four stages:
First impressions are important. You need to “hook” the learners and secure their buy-in. Your campaign needs to stand out in a world of information overload. Prominent banners and high-impact visuals will help grab attention. It’s up to you to create a sense of urgency and emphasize the need for the campaign, highlighting what your learners can gain from it.
Once you have your learners’ attention, you need to give them a reason to keep returning to your platform. For real success, you need to account for the way the learners access the content. Because most people today prefer to use mobile devices than desktops, mobile learning should play a major part in any learning campaign.
In marketing, a conversion means that the customer has bought the product at the centre of the campaign. In learning, you need to ensure that the material in the campaign has triggered a change in behaviour. Unlike their clunky ancestors which relied on formal content, learning campaigns focus on social learning and knowledge-sharing. This is a cornerstone of any advanced organizational culture, but it also lets the training managers see how the learners are applying the training.
In a learning campaign, the result goes beyond simply communicating a learning objective. Continued learning is the mark of real success. With each campaign you create, you need to be open to the possibility that a community of learning might develop. Once you have a group of learners discussing the topic and helping each other, your learning campaign has done its job!
Learning Campaigns and Behaviour Change
Another way to view learning campaigns is to look at how ideas spread throughout a group of people. Everett Rogers came up with his Diffusion of Innovations theory in 1962, but it’s still relevant to today’s information-rich culture. His theory describes the process by which any new idea is adopted (or not) by the people in a social system.
According to Rogers, there are four things that impact the rate of diffusion:
1. The Innovation
In L&D terms, you can think of an ‘innovation’ as the change in behaviour needed to satisfy the goals of the organization. This can cover all kinds of new learning objectives, from simple policy refreshers to major changes in processes.
2. The Communication Channels
In a learning campaign, your communication channels can take many forms, both physical and virtual. As it’s such an important element in driving innovation, you need a social platform that everybody can contribute to, and engage with.
Not everybody will adopt a new behaviour at the same time. This is a fact that one-off training interventions tend to ignore. Reinforcing these behaviours over a set period means that your learners can gradually form new habits.
4. The Social System
In the world of training, the social system refers to the culture of the organization. A campaign-based approach to training lets you encourage a culture of learning and knowledge sharing that will make it easier to implement future changes in behaviour.
In a learning campaign, the learner goes on a journey, at the end of which they accept the new behaviour and incorporate it in their daily lives. Along the way, these intrepid learners will encounter five key milestones:
First, the learner will encounter the new learning objective. They might receive an email notifying them of a new piece of training material, or see a custom banner on the dashboard of their learning management system. In larger campaigns, this message could even be reinforced by physical posters, or fliers displayed prominently in the workplace.
The next step is to convince the learner to act. You need to make sure that they don’t simply ignore the new training initiative. This was a lot harder to achieve in the old days of once-off learning interventions, but with learning campaigns, you get multiple chances to encourage everybody to participate.
Once they’ve consumed the learning content, your learners will decide whether they will change their behaviour as a result. You need to show them the value of the change and make them understand what they can gain from it. Make sure your learning objectives can easily be tied to the individual’s professional goals. If they can see the link between the training and some future promotion, your learners are more likely to engage with it.
One of the most effective ways to communicate the value of a behaviour is to show it in action. Ask your learners to demonstrate the learning objective, by posting a short paragraph or even a video on your social LMS. This gives you a wealth of highly relevant assets that your learners can relate to and identify with. Once they’ve seen the new behaviour in action, there’s a better chance of your learners trying it out for themselves.
At the final stage of the process, your learners have seen what the new behaviour means in practical terms. They can now decide whether to adopt a change in behaviour or disregard it. If they take the lessons on board, you can feel free to celebrate, but it’s not the end of the world if they don’t. Since you have an entire campaign’s worth of learner interaction to analyse, you have a better chance of figuring out why the new initiative didn’t have the desired impact.
It’s an exciting time to be involved in learning and development. There are more ways than ever to engage learners and secure those all-important changes in behaviour. At the same time, learners’ demands and expectations are changing and we need to adapt to give them what they really need.
Learning campaigns don’t have to replace your current approach – they can in fact become the ideal partner, raising awareness and reinforcing your key messages. If you want to know how to turn your learning programme into a viral sensation, click the button below to check out The Knowledge Arcade: a micro learning app for the mobile generation!