How and why fast-moving organizations should reimagine e-learning
E-learning is not what you think it is
What is e-learning?
E-learning has been a buzzword in the L&D sphere for quite some time. The abbreviation in full stands for learning by electronic means.
Traditionally, e-learning has existed in two main forms:
- Online courses taken at your own pace. Like reading a book on your computer.
- Virtual training held with a group. Like being in a classroom on your laptop.
As largely passive experiences, these traditional forms of e-learning have struggled to create engagement. That's why e-learning has developed a bad rep—especially within the workplace. By associating e-learning with online courses and classrooms, we have unfairly narrowed the definition of e-learning. Yet the reality of e-learning today is actually very different.
What is e-learning really?
Just like regular learning, e-learning happens everywhere within an organization. It happens during an online retro, when someone asks a question over chat, or in any other interaction where we exchange ideas and knowledge online.
The faster a company grows, the more knowledge it produces. The more knowledge it produces, the most scattered that knowledge becomes.
Harnessing all this knowledge is the key to unlocking the true potential of e-learning.
Great e-learning starts with overcoming the great content scatter
What is the great content scatter?
The faster a company grows, the more knowledge it produces and amasses in more places. Think about all the tools your organization uses to share knowledge and information informally:
- PowerPoint presentations
- Notion and other Wiki docs
- Slack messages
- Zoom meetings
- Google docs
- Miro boards
- PDF files
And the list goes on.
There is a wealth of expertise living inside these tools. The sum of all this content is the collective intelligence of your organization. That collective intelligence is worth more than its weight in gold. But you can't realize its value because your knowledge is too scattered.
This is what we mean by the great content scatter. These tools might not be formal e-learning tools, but they are where your organization's learning happens.
How do you overcome the great content scatter?
The great content scatter is costing you time and money. Consider this scenario:
Your newest sales rep wants to check your company expense policy before inviting a prospect to lunch. They remember seeing a slide during an onboarding session, but they're not sure where that slide lives. So they DM your finance manager and wait for a reply. Imagine 100 of these micro-moments happening across your company every single day.
When your content is scattered, the people looking for answers spend more time than needed searching for them. And those holding the answers spend too much time answering them. That's precious time everyone could be spending on the task at hand.
The six-different-platforms-solution is neither structured nor scalable. It might suit a five-person startup, but it will hinder a five-hundred-person scaleup. To harness the power of your organization's collective knowledge and expertise, you need to simplify. You need one home for all your e-learning.
The e-learning solutions of the future make all your knowledge and learning content dynamic. Everything should be:
- Editable: Anyone should be able to update content in real-time
- Queryable: Everyone should be able to search for what they need when they need it and receive the right information
Once you have this foundation in place, the fun can really begin.
First simplify e-learning. Then make it engaging.
With an e-learning solution in place, it's time to take the next step. E-learning needs to be engaging to be effective. At Sana, we believe that learning is most engaging when it's personalized, collaborative, and interactive. Here's why and how you can make the most of these learning modes.
(a) Personalize courses to make e-learning more relevant
Everyone's knowledge level and learning needs are different. That's why individuals experiencing learning that adapts to their needs outperform those that don't.
Sana is one of the few platforms using Artificial Intelligence to deliver personalized learning experiences at scale. Thanks to smart features like placement tests, Sana will assess the knowledge level of everyone starting your course and skip each person past what they already know. Then Sana will tailor quizzes to each person's knowledge gaps to increase knowledge retention. So whether your team is taking a course in compliance or coaching, the experience will feel relevant to everyone.
(b) Run collaborative sessions to make e-learning more active
Active, hands-on learning with peers is one of the most powerful ways to grow. We form new perspectives and ideas when discussing, debating, and applying our knowledge. That collective experience boosts knowledge comprehension and retention.
Sana's natively-built live experience makes it easy to bring your remote or hybrid teams together. Kick off your topic with a video, follow up with a poll to gauge opinion, then split the group into breakouts based on those poll results. Use those breakouts to facilitate deeper discussion or work actively on solving a problem. Reflection cards and chat threads are always there to engage those less confident in speaking up.
(c) Make all learning experiences interactive to boost performance
Studies from Carnegie Mellon University have shown that we learn six times more with interactive e-learning versus a regular online course.
In Sana, you can make any type of learning experience interactive. Polls, quizzes, reflection cards, and more are available for both self-paced courses and live group sessions.
Any of these ingredients will spice up your e-learning. Combine all three, and you've made the magic recipe.
Build a continuous culture around e-learning
Tools will only get you so far. The most successful e-learning strategy combines innovative technology with an open-minded culture. And that culture has to come from the very top. Unless your leaders prioritize learning, the rest of your organization never will.
Here are two tips to set you on the right path.
1. Establish informal learning rituals
Rituals are recurring activities or interactions that help employees connect. They are the glue that holds team culture together.
At Sana, we use learning rituals to lower the knowledge-sharing barrier. One of those rituals is the Lunch and Learn. Twice a month, a member of the Sana team will deep-dive into a chosen topic of interest or expertise. We've had subjects range from understanding effective communication to identifying eight types of bears. Then we have our Last Week I Learned, aka LWIL. LWIL takes place every Monday All Hands meeting. Someone takes three minutes to share something interested they learned during the previous week. It's a popular ritual because it lightens up an important all-company gathering while also being light on the preparation. Naturally, we run all of these rituals directly in the Sana platform.
2. Role-model knowledge sharing and lead by example
We cannot be what we cannot see. If leaders want their teams to make the time to learn, leaders must make time themselves.
One tactic is to become the ambassador for your e-learning platform. Use it in team settings as much as possible, show others how to use it, reinforce the benefits. At Sana, we use our own platform to host everything from our company handbook to our daily standups.
Another simple way to lead by example is to block out your time. If your company has an open calendar policy, set a recurring "learning time" invite for yourself. When a conflicting meeting comes up, say you'll have to reschedule. By building a learning routine, we form a learning habit. And habits are more reliable than motivation. The more people see you sustaining your learning habit, the more inspired they will be to do the same.
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