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The learner experience

Podcasts and Audio | 25.01.2018

Join the team as we chat about the themes emerging from this year’s Learning Insights report. Based on interviews with our clients we consider personalisation, changing learner demands, and how we change our design styles and tech delivery to meet them.  

Jenny Lycet  0:00  

Hi, welcome to Kineo stream of thought. I'm Jenny Lycet, marketing director at Kineo. And this time we're going to talk about the learner experience. Today I'm joined by: 

Rory Lawson  0:17  

Rory Lawson account director, 

Liz Smith  0:19  

Liz Smith, lead solutions designer,

James Cory-Wright  0:21  

James Corey-Wright head of learning design. 

Jenny Lycet  0:24  

So the starting point of today's conversation is the launch of our latest learning insights report. And we're going to have a look at the themes and what it means for us in l&d. A massive theme that came out of this year's report was personalisation and power to the learner. So we're gonna have a look at what that means in several areas. What does it mean for the learner experience? How do we deal with that in l&d? What does that mean for how people learn from each other? And do our platforms and systems have the ability to cope with what we need to deliver? What do we think about those themes this year?

Rory Lawson  0:55  

I think the insights that came through this year were great. Looking back over the years, I've been involved in this process, I thought the marketplace had really matured. A lot of what was being said was really up to date was really insightful, and really, I think will help people in other organisations get insight to other organisations in terms of what's actually occurring within our industry and what learners are looking for. So I pulled that one out of the bag, because I think it's one of the main themes that's come through. And I guess, Jenny, that's kind of why we came up with the title as well this year, because it is all about power to the people. learners are really kind of saying what they want and are starting to demand what they want from their l&d teams and from their learning experience at work. And I think all of the themes kind of support that. So I think it was really nice just to see kind of things like personalised learning coming through as a key expression. And I think we've seen that externally as well. And what others are saying is that personalised learning journeys, and portals that help them or learning experiences that help them meet their aspirations on their career journey is really what people are saying out there in the marketplace. And that's coming through the l&d teams as they're listening more to their end audience. 

Liz Smith  2:23  

Yeah, I think it's a big tie up between everything kind of people listening more to the trends that are going on in the industry and being more aware of the different advances in the technology and what's increasing, but also listening more to their learners. And recognising that people have that familiarity now from going online, using the web, you know, and bringing that into learning as well, recognising what those expectations are, and trying to meet them in a learning environment as well. 

James Cory-Wright  2:49  

Yes, I wonder it's quite a challenge, though, isn't it getting close to the end users? Because it is very remote? Over the years? I wonder if we know what the you know what, what people said they were doing about it to get closer to their users?

Jenny Lycet  3:05  

 Yeah, that was one of the interesting things for me from this year's report. And we asked the people who took part to say, what do they need to be able to fulfill their learning goals for the coming year? And only 57% said they needed information from the learners and for me, that's just not enough. You know, how did the other 43% know what it is that they need to deliver? If they're not actually asking the learners in the first place?

Rory Lawson  3:29  

Yeah, from speaking to clients, it's one of those challenging areas is actually to get to the front line, how do they do it? How do they make time for those people to actually step forward and say what they need, how they want it, and all the rest of it. And so I think we have a role from a supply base to coach them in the art of possible around this. So you know, what type of techniques are there that we use when we're interviewing our clients for learning needs, and, you know, aspirations around learning, design, and so on. So I think there are some very simple things that we could impart to our clients in terms of helping them do that.

James Cory-Wright  4:08  

Yeah, I think that's all part of the design thinking and UX sort of agenda that we're sort of pursuing more vigorously this year. It's all a manifestation of that. It's about trying to get close to the to the end user. But that actually means talking to them having conversations with them. But crucially your right is access to them. And most projects don't sort of I think there's a perception, there's not enough time, or there isn't the opportunity to talk to those end users. And it's a luxury, but actually it isn't. It's the opposite.

Rory Lawson  4:37  

It's a necessity. Yeah,

Liz Smith  4:39  

yeah. And I wonder if it could be done at an earlier stage because one of the other themes that came up in the report was about being a consultant for your internal client. And people definitely saw the worth in that from looking upwards, I think to senior stakeholders, and teams higher up in the business getting them engaged early on, but there wasn't so much of that looking out at the learners and see getting them engaged in that process as well. So I wonder if that, you know, being a consultant is is also for your learner's as well as for your stakeholders and kind of encouraging that message with our clients as well.

Rory Lawson  5:09  

So there are some very strong themes coming through in the marketplace. And what I was picking out of the report was, people have this notion of what an agile l&d is. So I think it's about trying to define that from a perspective of what are all the different components that an agile l&d team does or will do going forward? And what type of services will it employ? What type of platforms Will it have? What How does it deliver a more responsive service to learners. So when we look at thinking about getting in touch with learners, there are some very agile things that you can do around that space, whether it's interviews, surveys, group discussions, working groups, working lunches, to kind of delve into what their needs are around a given topic, I think it's thinking about that and arming people with the right tools to be able to interview and assess needs within the business.

Liz Smith  6:08  

Definitely. And it's about using the platform and the elearning to feed that information back and we've talked people about how they use last year's cohort to kind of re re assess the learning and see what's going to happen in the next year. And I think we can collect more of that data through the platforms and through the systems, you know, from people completing a quick survey when they finish the course, you know, there's methods of doing that which can be incorporated, which aren't just about proving their learning and that particular subject, but will help improvements for the future and for future peer groups as well.

James Cory-Wright  6:38  

And from our point of view, it may mean that constitutes data driven design. And yes, it should drive the designs that we do, and there's so much data out there, but actually not really looking at it. And using it to shape the learning experience. The data that you gather from the actual courses being put out there, you know, can be really granular. But then also there's loads of stuff in other people, what what do people search for? I mean, so we're drifting into the area about when it'll give end users, and personalisation end users can drive their own personalised learning. In some cases, depending on how much power or how empowered they feel that they are within the context of the workplace.

Liz Smith  7:24  

Yeah. And it's also about time spent, isn't it? So it's how much time they might spend looking at particular different media types may be you know, if they spend more time looking at video than they do with interactions on a screen, that's an indication that, you know, that video is engaging them. And that can be a positive thing, so that more of in the future. 

James Cory-Wright  7:40  

And by the same token, where do they drop out?

Liz Smith  7:42  

Yeah exactly. 

Jenny Lycet  7:44  

So if that's the case, and we want our learners to be, you know, we're talking about self directed learning, we want to be able to personalise and give some some sort of power back to the learner. So they're in the driving seat. So we need to make sure that our infrastructure is set up for that. And you kind of touched on it there. What do people search for? If they search for something? Can they find it? And if they find it, is it in the right format for them? And how do we go about, you know, what's the what are the challenges there that we need to be aware of?

Rory Lawson  8:12  

So in one of the interviews, I conducted as part of the insights piece, there was a phrase that came out within one of the audience profiles, which was that technology has changed what they do, and they've become very impatient. So when searching for information, searching for learning, and if they can't find the answers quickly, they won't use whatever products or solutions in front of them, they'll just abandon it straightaway. And so I think the design of learning has to kind of adapt now to think about that. It's no longer the case that you can create large solutions, where you bury the answer in the content, you have to break it apart, you have to enable learners to be able to find the information quickly make a choice quickly, so that they can get what they need, and then move on with what they're trying to achieve.

James Cory-Wright  9:07  

Yes, you have to sort of bring it up to the surface. Over the last 20 years we've interact with designers essentially been about burying stuff behind links or behind hot graphics, and so on and so forth. All that is just dead. And you're absolutely right now, when a learner goes in to some content, they need to see what it is that's available in order to be able to make a choice.

Liz Smith  9:29  

Yeah, I like using the metaphor of Spotify and the idea of creating playlists, because I think it works well in terms of if you know what you're looking for, it's really easy for you to go, you can search you can gather that you know the tracks that you like and add them to your playlist. If you don't know what you're looking for, you know, you don't know what you don't know, as they say. And you might need some curated content for you or a pathway made for you so that you can do that as a first pass and kind of do that and then as you go through, you're learning more about Okay, so I'm particularly interested in this or actually I've got a bit of a gap in my knowledge here, and then that can help to build up your own personalised journey. But I think I think it's great for people to be able to search and find what they need, I just think we need to remember that that's not everybody's learning style, and some people will want to be guided a lot more, and those that are, you know, more junior, or, you know, it's their first experience will need a little bit more guidance. So it's also important to have those curated journeys available.

Rory Lawson  10:23  

So I think when we start to summarise some of the things that came out in the report, we saw things like a greater need for performance support materials, those types of solutions are driven by the need to find information more quickly, and also, that they're more effective in helping them apply what they're doing to what they're working on as a job. So another theme around the changing platforms, learning systems. I think what's interesting there is that people have been grappling with this kind of noise around the LMS is the LMS dead is it, you know, there are new platforms coming forward next generation as a term around next generation of learning platform, etc. And I think people are now starting to understand what that actually means. So one concept is that the LMS is not dead actually it's just pushed to the background. And that there is an experience layer that's now in the foreground. So new platforms coming through are bringing together all of the information and surfacing information in a way that's more usable for the end user. So it's driven by that end need to find information more quickly or in a structured way. I think there's concepts also coming through, which is not an old concept by any means is, people want structure, still, they still want things to be time bound. And they still want things to be put into a certain structure to help them on their journey. They want people to be able to say, this is the right information. This is how you can access it. This is your journey, this is your experience through that content, or through that program. Maybe programs the wrong word. And in the future, maybe it becomes more product based as a term. So we start to use external terminology to express learning like product and so on. So I think going forward, we can start to learn about different methodologies, and how those methodologies can be applied to learning development. So whether that's about learning experience, design, whether that's about product design, or design thinking, all of these things become very relevant as we move forward, and they start to create a new skill set.

Jenny Lycet  12:40  

Yeah, and we were hearing in the interviews that some people were talking about the range of technical skills you may need now as an l&d professional, they want to be able to produce some some short form content. So they're having to learn about video editing, for instance, they're having to be essentially a digital producer. And in some cases, hiring people with those specialisms already, and then helping them to learn about learning and development. And so yeah, you know, I think that's something were seeing the sort of, you know, that that jack of all trades thing where you have to learn how to produce content, not just how to make it good learning content? 

James Cory-Wright  13:11  

Yes, we're sort of mirroring that to Kineo, certainly, in the design team, who, you know, currently called the job roles, is learning designers, but it's, they're more becoming digital content designers, possibly, you know, now and certainly in the future. As a result, they're sort of skilling up in sort of specialisms across the team. So anything from curation, to UX, to filmmaking, to audio design, and a whole host of skills, because those are the skills that they're going to need to be brought to bear. The learning is now arguably becoming one of those skills, but not the skill.

Jenny Lycet  13:53  

So just coming back to the platforms, what about what do they need to do?

Liz Smith  13:56  

Yeah, I think in the past, it's, it's taken much more of a point of view that the LMS is where there to provide information for managers and provide a lot of reporting and data. And now people are thinking much more about that user front end experience and how they, you know, go in there get get the information that they need, be able to carry out those searches, and so on. So a lot of people now are using portals, even things like their SharePoint to create that kind of divide between, you know, something that's really engaging learner facing gives you a bit more flexibility in terms of using graphics and video and so on, but then leads into a system which can keep all that data behind it. So it's balancing those two things. Really, for me,

James Cory-Wright  14:35  

that's definitely a theme, isn't it that Rory has touched on it? You've mentioned earlier, a whole thing you know, about this kind of it's, it's a balance. And we must be careful, we don't sort of just zoom straight over to consumer Ville if you like, and just assume everybody wants to sort of access learning in a free and easy way. Then there's this issue of not people not knowing what they don't know. And there's this issue of people Wanting also objectives and sets of structure so that they feel they've achieved something so measurability and all that kind of thing.

Liz Smith  15:07  

Yeah. And in some cases, I think we mentioned that a lot of people that we spoke to in the reports, they're trying to help their end customer with technology in certain ways. So whether that's banking apps or self service checkouts, and things like that, but actually, it's about them understanding technology first. So sometimes it's actually taking a step back and kind of making sure it's easy to understand for everybody, and not having those assumptions that everyone is completely tech literate, and knows what they're doing. And it's going to go into it, you know, all guns blazing, I think we need to kind of be aware of those people as well even

James Cory-Wright  15:39  

enjoy it. Yeah.

Jenny Lycet  15:41  

I think we described that in the report as admiring the newness, you know, let's not just sit around and admire it, because it's shiny, let's actually just work out how it works and what what practical application it has. 

James Cory-Wright  15:51  

Having said that, I must admit to confess to sort of thinking at the moment about possible solutions that don't involve LMS that don't involve anything, don't evolve, adapt, or any of the traditional sort of tools that we use, but solutions that entirely tap into existing apps and social networks, and, and all the rest of it, you know. So if you want to tell the story, you can tell an Instagram story.

Liz Smith  16:18  

Yeah, I think it's about creating experiences, isn't it. So it's about creating, we've had to definitely have some proposals like that lately, where we're trying to create a whole experience that incorporates a number of different activities, using technologies or apps, and so on, that people already have access to in that business, using the social channels that they already have. And just making sure that that experience is, is spread across all those different delivery mechanisms. So it's about all different aspects of communication, and how that digital communication is happening through the different channels that you have available already in your company.

Rory Lawson  16:51  

I think the notion of the changing platforms that's coming through from this kind of user experience layer of this next generation of platform is about bringing together the things that the older generation of platforms couldn't do well. So things like social learning, or the ability to deliver bite sized type learning, with the resource type assets that we're creating, this is a mechanism for helping to get that out in a structured way for the learner. And the social learning channel is about the way of enabling collaboration, it's become less of a buzz term and more of a core need, it's assumed that it'll be part of the solution. And so I think that's starting to evolve and mature quite nicely now within within what people are saying and how they're using it. And that's starting to come through with what people are saying within the report,

James Cory-Wright  17:48  

I guess to a certain extent, then it's about learner power is the extent to which organisations are comfortable to empower their learners. And it's not a, you know, doesn't not a criticism of organisations that don't want to allow their learners, but all organisations are different. So Rory, what do you think that means, and, you know, overall, in terms of a shift in the way things are going,

Rory Lawson  18:11  

my view would be there is a clear shift in how we meet the needs of learners. One is to recognise and empower the learner in terms of understanding what they really want, and understanding what true user centered design actually means. And I think that brings about a really exciting period of change within the marketplace, it's a really exciting time to be involved in that journey, people are really starting to recognise how they can start to empower the learner. And it's exciting because the change is starting to come through, we've seen a lot of noise in the past about all these different approaches to design, whether it's virtual reality, whether it's social learning, all of these kind of terms, micro learning, all of these things have been kind of bounded around the marketplace. And people been confused by which is the right learning strategy for them to employ. And I think what's starting to occur is that all of these things are starting to fall together into one unique kind of learning offer that is driven by the learner is driven by what the learner is actually asking for. And I think the things that we need to embrace as we go forward is to kind of enhance that and enrich that through thinking about things like learner experience, good UI, good UX to simplify products that we produce and simplify the learning offer. And that means about looking at process as well as the content design and all these other kind of things. So I think going forward in this should be good to kind of define what agile learning actually is. And that's something that we can all work together, I think in the industry to help the l&d profession kind of really explore. So I think going forward, we'll be looking at things like simplification, simplicity of design, whether using behavioural science to define some of that in terms of how people interact with products in the learning offer. I think we're also looking at how easy it is to actually undertake the learning and actually drive that forward. And that, to me means it's about good content design, it's about good learning design, it's about the application back to the workplace, that is clear how I would use this learning. And that it's ultimately engaging and useful for the end user. If it's not useful, then I think they will just walk away from whatever is produced, or whatever is out there in the marketplace.

Liz Smith  20:42  

It's been interesting, actually, for me to consider the different visual design trends that we're looking at for 2018. And then thinking about how these insights play into those as well. So it's about thinking, I think the main thing that comes through obviously, it's that user experience is everything. And that you can't make things that look amazing, or, you know, a really fancy but don't have that underlying ease of use by the learner. And also getting to those key messages. You know, we have a different role in learning and that we're really trying to teach people something. It's not just about seeing something and thinking that it looks nice. It's about making sure that people have understood that what lies beneath it and are able to apply that in their real lives. So it's about kind of tying all that together for me.

Jenny Lycet  21:27  

If you'd like to carry on the conversation with us, you can find us on Twitter @Kineo. If you'd like to read the whole of the learning insights report, you'll find it at

Your speakers are

James has over 25 years' experience of instructional design and video scriptwriting. He previously headed up our team of learning designers and consultants, overseeing learning content design across all client projects.
Jenny was Previously Marketing Director at Kineo,.
Liz is a Lead Solutions Designer, working with our solutions consultants to create innovative designs for our proposal offerings. She has worked at Kineo for 11 years and has a background in creative writing.
Rory has over 10 years’ experience directing innovative learning solutions and strategies and is a leading Solution Consultant at Kineo. Helping to define clients’ requirements, Rory works with the Kineo team to produce creative and effective elearning and LMS solutions that meet clients’ needs.