How To Make Your eLearning Irrelevant

How To Make Your eLearning Irrelevant
Summary: What if I told you that getting your eLearning effort to become irrelevant would add value to your organization? By designing a learning solution that ultimately "improves performance" your eLearning should become irrelevant over time...and that should always be your objective.

Making Learning Relevant Through Irrelevance

"Irrelevant"...not something any learning practitioner, especially Instructional Designers, ever want to hear about their courses. The word "irrelevant" is a death knell for any learning effort, because once labeled as such, it becomes an insurmountable obstacle to remove this label from the minds of decision-makers and stakeholders. Many practitioners already face a "credibility chasm" in their minds about the tangible results their learning efforts deliver, so irrelevance is never welcomed.

It's obvious that eLearning courses (or any learning effort) must align with a company's needs and goals to demonstrate relevance and tangible outcomes. Without this alignment, learning initiatives are useless and a waste of scarce resources, such as time and money, that could be used to deliver value elsewhere.

But what if I told you that getting your eLearning/learning effort to become irrelevant would add value to your organization? What if I said you're doing an exceptional job, if your learning efforts become irrelevant? It sounds counterintuitive, but trust me, this is exactly what you want to do...make your eLearning/learning irrelevant.

Make eLearning Irrelevant To Ensure Its Continued Relevance

1. Solve The Problem

Your stakeholders—you know, the ones using and paying for you to develop eLearning—consider your efforts one source for improving employee performance. Here's an unspoken management thought: "improve performance" is also code for solving problems. If you design and develop a learning solution that ultimately "improves performance" (aka: solves the problem) your eLearning should become irrelevant over time. When designed and targeted well, there will come a time when your learning is no longer needed or warranted...and that is your ultimate objective. But how do you determine the problem to address?

2. Begin With The End In Mind

It's simple: begin with a thoughtful and deliberate investigation. How do you do this? By leveraging your subject expertise and conducting a needs or skills assessment. But don't try to shortcut the assessment. A critical part of the assessment, which designers often leave out, is acknowledging business and operational objectives. It's more than asking or analyzing what skills employees are lacking, it's about what skills they require to achieve performance expectations.

The gaps you discover between the expected results and how employees accomplish their tasks will reveal the underlying issues and problems. Now, these problems may or may not require a training/learning intervention; you need to determine if it does or does not. If it's clear learning isn't necessary, then have the courage to say so, while providing supporting evidence.

3. When Learning Is The Answer

Learning, or "training," as stakeholders see it, is instinctively the first solution that comes to mind for many, and internally your efforts are increasingly deemed an operational necessity. But like every other operational activity, your efforts must deliver two things: 1) purpose, and 2) value.

Purpose is about addressing and/or solving the issue(s). It's essentially about learning relevance. It speaks to making connections between expected objectives and skills development. Entrenched within purpose is value, which is about serving the organizational needs effectively and efficiently. Accomplish both purpose and value, and you've designed irrelevance within your eLearning efforts.

You see, if you've solved the problem (purpose) in a manner that maximizes the use of scarce resources (value), then what purpose does it serve moving forward? The problem or concern is solved, and your learning is no longer needed. You did your job and, by accomplishing this feat, you did your job well.

4. Find Relevance From Irrelevance

While you may strive to make your learning and eLearning efforts irrelevant over time (and I encourage you to strive for it), the learning components within your initiatives aren't irrelevant, and should be repurposed. This is where the value for learning grows in relevance.

As mentioned earlier, your stakeholders have access to limited resources, no matter the scale of the organization. Whether you're managing learning for a Fortune 500 company or one with a staff of 500, decision-makers must appropriately allocate available resources to deliver maximum value for the organization. What does this mean for your learning efforts? It means you must strive to be self-sufficient. You never know whether you'll have access to these resources, or even if your stakeholders will allocate any your way.

This is where your eLearning efforts make sense and deliver exceptional value. Whether it's an on-demand course, LMS, microlearning, or gamification tool, you have the opportunity to repurpose these digital elements/assets. You can create your own digital learning resource repository and draw upon them for a renewed learning purpose.

By making use of what you have and doing more with less, you demonstrate to decision-makers your operational agility and adaptability. This speaks volumes to your ultimate objective of demonstrating sustainable learning relevance while recognizing the value of making eLearning irrelevant.


Moving toward a digital and agile learning environment is something you have no choice but to embrace, especially in a post-COVID-19, hybrid work environment. Doing so allows you to rapidly identify, address, and resolve employee development needs in a timely and targeted manner. Doing so, you ensure learning relevance through making your efforts irrelevant over time. When you make learning irrelevant for the right reasons, you've contributed to moving the organization forward through appropriately upskilling employees. At the very least, break out of the status quo and rethink how you approach every learning effort. You have much to offer that your organization desperately needs.

Please share your thoughts and feedback with us. We would enjoy hearing about your efforts. And who knows, it may be the topic of our next eLearning Industry article. Also, please check out our LinkedIn Learning courses to learn more about developing business credibility for your learning efforts. Please share your thoughts and remember #alwaysbelearning!

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