Project Name: Unspoken Rules
I approached this project applying Understanding by Design Principles (Wiley, 2019), working backwards to clarify the desired results first, then compiling needed evidence, and ultimately coming up with recommendations for a learning plan. My project was aimed at designing a digital learning solution and assessment tools for The Unspoken rules: Secrets to Succeeding in Your First Job, a book to be published under the Harvard Business Review Press. Ideally, the set of solutions would be presented to management consulting firms in their new hire onboarding process.
Originally, my goals coming in were:
To express my creativity through a project in digital, blended education.
To better understand the current digital learning / leadership development strategy landscape.
Have effective command of business terminology and conduct research from a business angle.
Acquire the knowledge and dynamics of thinking like and strategizing for a large organization.
Learn to implement and distribute digitalized learning at scale.
In order to meet my goals, I began to conduct research based on the following questions:
What are the best practices of workplace learning?
How effective would a blended approach be in providing training services?
How receptive are organizations to implementing a product like this with no precedent?
Reports (Van Dam, 2018) and articles (Lundberg & Westerman, 2019) provided me with keen insight and a bird’s eye view of the kinds of transformation occurring in the 21st century Learning and Development (L & D) landscape. Learning was increasingly digital, learner-centered, and accessible anywhere and everywhere. (Workplace Learning Report, 2020)
Millennials who made up an increasingly large proportion of the workplace were wired differently; they were hungry to learn and collaborate to drive team success. A successful learning curriculum meant providing a space that appealed to the learner’s intrinsic motivation, giving them control over their experience, establishing connections with others, and promoting different levels of achievement were crucial. (Fromm, 2016) Moreover, workplace training should similarly be focused on cultivating 21st century skills, capabilities, and attributes. (Franklin & Lytle, 2015)
How People Learn
I began an investigation of how people learn and best adult learning pedagogies to incorporate into the design of my learning solution. Books I read (Simpson, 2012, Pritchard, 2014) provided the underlying pedagogy and theories that made up the foundational design of the curriculum. Interestingly enough, best practices in workplace learning were not much different from best practices in K-12. The innovative methods that had been discussed in class were highly sought after in the workplace as well.
Research had informed me to design an entirely digital learning solution keeping up with the evolution of L & D. This would provide the added advantage of effortless scaling and providing easy access to the content. Furthermore, since the average employee had just 20 minutes a day to learn something new (Workplace Learning Report, 2020), the learning solution would have to be short, effective, and engaging to sustain the short lived attention span of these digital natives.
Measuring the Outcome
Next, I began to identify an assessment mechanism to measure the return on investment of the learning solution. If a typical organization spends $5000 a year training each new hire, and this learning solution could provide measurement showing improved outcomes at a fraction of the cost, convincing organizations to employ our learning solution would be much easier.
Consistently, research has shown that measuring the impact of learning was the top focus area of L&D in 2020, but industry standards for measuring impact and engagement have yet to emerge, and nearly a quarter of L & D professionals never measured any learning outcomes. (Workplace Learning Report, 2020) Without a model template to go off from, I decided to categorize my research findings and come up with my own.
In essence, a learning program could be assessed on the following four different levels.
Level 1 Engagement
Level 2 Assessment of skills
Level 3 Employee Performance
Level 4 Overall Organizational Growth
First, the product had to be engaging, and measurements assessing user engagement would attest to the quality of the learning solution and its immediate effect on the user’s experience. Next, the product had to result in increased knowledge. How much of the content had actually registered in their brains? Quizzes assessing content knowledge immediate after, and again 6 months post completion of the program would help measures the learner’s ability to absorb and retain the material. Measurements of employee performance was important because this measured the learner’s ability to utilize the material and translate knowledge (or learning) into action. By initially having just half of the employees use the intervention and compare the win rates and other metrics in the course of 6-12 months, we can understand the true impact of the treatment by comparing the data with the remaining ‘control’ group who did not undergo any treatments. Finally, by assessing the overall growth and heath of the organization, we aim to ultimately prove useful to the organization aid its strategic targets. We can attempt to measure the association of our learning product with the overall growth and health of the organization by collecting the data of all the aforementioned categories and conducting some statistical modeling and regressing variables to see if any statistically significant associations could be found.
I suggest launching a website featuring user-oriented interface that is easy to navigate with minimal videos on any page and minimal clicks to get to them. A user-friendly web page made the difference of 10 times more traffic and engagement to the learning solution. (Van Dam, 2018)
The website would feature a series of digital videos, a year-long digital curriculum that could be personalized according to one’s interests and skills. The videos would be short for impact with speed adjusting capabilities as well as an available transcript for learners to follow along for maximum learning impact. A written transcript additionally allows learners to search for key concepts. Learners are directed to a dashboard that help learners keep track of their progress as well as provide organizations the progress of their employees. Surveys and assessments will help measure the learner’s progress providing a quantifiable measurement of the learner’s performance. Online forums will help learners stay connected to a community of new hires, as well as interact with Gorick himself.
Developing a Prototype
To add an element of fun, and get our creative juices flowing, I decided to engage in a a feedback session with some of my colleagues using arts and crafts.