8 Powerful Ideas To Get To Know Your Learners

Summary: Ever wonder why some learners excel when taking eLearning or instructor-led training (ILT) courses while others don’t? Have you ever put in various interactions and activities in your online training and the learners’ assessment scores come out mediocre? Take a look and see what you may be missing in order to get to know your learners.

How To Get To Know Your Learners

Let's say you're beginning analysis of what to train in corporate and have identified the materials that need to be taught. You have a grasp on the efforts that it will take to compile this information and put it into a solid eLearning or ILT. But do you know who will be taking this training? I mean, really know your learners and understand what motivates them? Knowing your audience and what makes them tick is critical for the development of your training. It's a good idea to ask yourself a few things to get to know your learners better:

1. Have You Had The Luxury Of Sitting With One Or More Learners As They Work?

This is a truly invaluable endeavor. By shadowing a learner before developing the training, you will see what they value most, identify their reactions to tasks and communications, and pinpoint what challenges or successes they currently posess as it pertains to the training. You'll be way ahead of the game by putting yourself in their shoes so you can design training that will hit a homerun with them.

2. Are You Gaining Feedback?

Just as important in sitting with learners before taking the training, it is also just as important to gain feedback from those after the training. This will help you gain a sense of what they connected with and provide you with insight for improvement in editing the content for the next training.

3. Is The Content New For All Participants?

Do the participants know the majority of this training, so it could be a refresher course? Is it a mixture of both where some familiar with the information being taught and others that have just been hired and know nothing of it? It's crucial to identify the answer to this right from the get-go since you may ultimately need to create two curriculums. By shooting for one-size-fits-all, there's a high probability that no one would benefit (seasoned learners could be inattentive and newbies could be lost having the content being over their heads). An idea to minimize this risk is to provide a pretest before the training. Those that pass (the ones with more knowledge) may be able to jump over sections/modules/segments and get right to where they need to be in the training while the newcomer takes the entire course.

4. Are You Also Training The Trainers To Teach The Learners? 

What do they know about the material? Maybe -as in many situations- the Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) are also the trainers. Make sure all trainers are on same playing field with what is being developed in the training.

5. Is There A Generation Gap?  

In most cases, millennial learners are more in tuned to online training structures rather than those from the Baby Boomers' realm that may typically absorb and retain more in a structured instructor-led classroom setting. Keep in mind the generational comfort level when creating your eLearning or ILT, and adjust your training to keep your learners consistently motivated.

6. Are You Keeping The Material Simple And Giving The Learners What They Need When They Need It?

All too often, material can become over developed. This is another reason why it is so important to understand what your learners currently know about the content you are developing. If your material contains repetitive information and content that they already know, eyes will be glazing over in the classroom. And when it comes time for the information they really need to know, they may continue hearing the "wha, wha" (Peanut's cartoon) and miss the content that may be truly important to them.

7. Do The Learners Have Physical Training Needs That You're Not Aware Of?

This could mean an environment that does not have a training area for an ILT course, or a work environment that’s not equipped with dedicated computers for taking eLearning courses. There may even be some people that that are hearing impaired and the eLearning is not 508 compliant with narration text or screen readers. There’s nothing worse than rolling out a large eLearning with audio that took weeks to design/develop and finding out that none of the computers have sound cards.

8. Is The Material Conducive To All Learning Types?  

By incorporating a blend of these learning styles (from the Niel Fleming’s VAK/VARK), you are well on your way:

If you know your learners well, you will be able to keep them better engaged. The more you understand your learners and develop training by putting yourself in their shoes, the more motivated they will be to learn.