Start With the Learning Goals

When conceptualizing a training or L&D intervention, it’s tempting to start by thinking of all the topics and information that belong in it. After all, most of us are passionate about our fields and enjoy sharing our knowledge.

The risk with this approach, though, is that you often end up with more information than is really necessary, including information that is unmoored from any tangible purpose, which can have the effect of:

  • Intimidating and overwhelming learners, due to length and information density
  • Demotivating learners, who will sense that some of what they're being asked to do is not relevant or applicable
  • Obscuring information that is more relevant and worthy of retention
    • It's similar to the principle of, "if everything is highlighted, then nothing is highlighted"
      • If all information is presented in a similar fashion within a product, learners may assume it's all of equal importance, inhibiting their ability to recognize and prioritize more important information
    • Remember, one of our main goals with retention is ensuring that the most important information is that which is retained

Start by assessing and developing your learning goals: that is, what you hope to achieve with what you’re creating. Learning goals are most often learner-centric, capturing what you want learners to know and/or know how to do upon completion. They can also relate to the organization’s goals, such as demonstrating compliance with a mandate to provide information or training to all employees.

Approach planning and early development with this three-tier pyramid in mind:

  1. Learning goals serve as the bottom tier
    • They're the foundation
    • Everything you include in the product you're developing should directly relate to your goals for the product
  2. Information constitutes the second tier
    • Only information that supports achievement of learning goals should be included or made mandatory
    • Information that doesn't support the learning goals should be left out or relegated to an optional side path
      • Evaluating information in this way will sometimes help you identify and winnow out unnecessary/excessive information, while other times it will help you realize that you need to add to or modify your learning goals to capture needs related to key information
  3. Assessments and activities account for the third tier
    • They help assess, demonstrate and hone learners' achievement of the learning goals
    • Learners must be given the appropriate information to complete them successfully
      • Evaluating assessments and activities in this way will sometimes help you identify where you are not providing enough information in order to support achievement of the learning goals

Infographic illustrating the pyramid described in the preceding list