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Applying the principles of advertising to learning design
Like Brexit plans and which foods give you cancer, the job of the elearning designer is always changing. It wasn’t too long ago that we would take a policy document and refashion it into a passably attractive set of side-scrolling pages; nowadays, we can call on everything from chatbots and gamification to interactive videos and branching scenarios.
At Learning Pool Towers, however, laurels are rarely rested upon, and recent projects have brought a new dimension to how we design and implement workplace training. It’s no longer just about creating a self-contained elearning module – we’re now putting together little advertising campaigns to roll out alongside training, to raise employee awareness and reinforce key messages.
A case in point: when a client recently tasked us with devising a new health and safety course, our proposed package included elearning and online games, but also short trailer animations and workplace posters. We came up with a catchy slogan and visual theme to unite these strands and to help create a sense of constant, gentle reinforcement; before we knew it, we were ‘doing advertising’. We might as well have been in 60s-era Madison Avenue, chain-smoking and getting drunk at lunchtime.
A repeated exposure to key messages obviously helps the content to stick. However, marketing tactics can also answer a familiar lament of Learning and Development departments the world over: ‘how do we get staff excited about this training?’. You know the score: you work tirelessly to create a new course, only for learners to react like a former student who hasn’t been invited to the class reunion. Well, it may be that the solution lies not solely in the learning itself, but in how you sell it to your audience.
In particular, we’ve noticed an increasing demand for standalone animations and videos, as organisations seek to add a bit of verve to internal communications. Where once a company-wide email would let people know about the launch of a new initiative, firms have found that a well-executed video on their intranet can create a genuine buzz amongst staff. The speed and cost at which high-quality video can now be created – coupled with our extremely accomplished creative department – has helped clients to push out the pizzazz boat.
Another big advantage of applying advertising principles to workplace training is that it forces us to distil the content down into a slogan or tagline – a ‘big idea’ for the learner to take away. We’re talking ‘super ultimate high level’ here, the shorter and catchier the better: Heinz did it in three words with ‘Beanz Meanz Heinz’, while Ronseal made the jump into everyday vernacular with ‘does exactly what is says on the tin’. It may seem reductive at first, but it’s actually good learning design; we’re always encouraging clients to strip away the flab of their existing training material and get to the point more quickly. A good elearning module will tell the user what they need to do (as opposed to what they allegedly ‘need to know’) and have them practise that. Everything else is usually superfluous.
The overlap between marketing and elearning should come as no surprise, of course. A good advert will capture our imagination and build awareness, which is exactly what we want to do with workplace training: keep the learner engaged while we make them aware of what they should be doing. Why don’t you try it yourself? The next time you sit down to plan a course, begin by coming up with a tagline – besides everything else, it will get the creative juices flowing and it’s a bit of well-deserved fun (because, you know, you’re worth it…)
About the author
Ryan’s dedication to innovative and engaging learning design is matched only by his keen writing skills and eye for detail. He places the customer at the heart of the process, working closely with stakeholders to analyse performance needs and create enduring, effective learning solutions.
Ryan joined Learning Pool in 2015 and has since contributed to a variety of solutions and projects for organisations as diverse as the Houses of Parliament, KFC, Royal Bank of Canada, and the Special Olympics.