5 tips for learner-centric design that makes your training worth it

5 tips for learner-centric design that makes your training worth it


Create engaging, immersive and effective learning experiences by adopting a learner-centric approach


A new IT system is implemented in your organization. Your role is to train the Sales department on the system and the new processes that come with it. Where would you start?

  1. Scope the list of hands-on exercises learners will need to practice on the system?
  2. Create an outline to structure the content into topics?
  3. Write down learning objectives of what your learners will need to know?
  4. Create flows to document new procedures?

If you thought the options above were good starting points, read on. This article will give you techniques to do less and achieve more by placing your learners at the center of your training approach.


1. Include the learners from the start

A bad habit we regularly see on projects is to delve into the content we intend to serve to our learners, rather than finding out what their day jobs really look or feel like.

Years ago, on my very first project, I spent 3 months developing courses to train call center agents on a new system they were going to use. I created very well structured courses that contained all the information from the process design documents and all the details the SMEs wanted to include. Training went so well, I thought…

But a few weeks later, during floor-walking activities to support the agents at go-live, I realized my help there was limited because the questions they asked, the real cases and exceptions they had to deal with were too remote from anything I’d seen thus far on the project. Why didn’t I spend time with them upfront? I remember thinking.


project team/training team working in isolation from the target audience


So, forget the content for a while and meet your learners first. Spend some time with them on their job, see what a typical day entails, identify what their challenges are, and find out concrete scenarios they’re having to deal with. It will save you having to invent fake ones for the training and it will make your design more relevant to the audience. Involving the learners early on is also a powerful way to get them on-board and engaged with the program, from the start.


2. Give them more control over their learning

Adult learners are…well….adults. As such, they like to be in charge of their own learning so give them options to do so.

If you are designing instructor-led courses, consider alternative delivery methods such as flipped classroom: provide resources for self-learn first (e.g. articles, videos, simulations, podcasts, etc.), give them assignments upfront where they can practice a new skill with their own examples/scenarios, and then gather to review the learning in a physical or virtual classroom.

If you are designing for eLearning, think micro and mobile: offer learners a variety of bite-size resources that they can easily access on the go because this is how we learn things these days. Also make the content adaptive to their progress. This is more complex to design but there are solutions out there to do just that. With Assima Train for example, you can create branches so that, the content displayed to the learners varies based upon their answers to critical questions.


adaptive e-learning with branching in Assima Train


You can also unleash new learning objects based upon a learner’s progress during the learning event so learners who whiz it will unlock the next level; while learners who struggle will receive supportive content to help them progress.

Empowering your learners to decide what, when, how and how long for they learn will get their buy-in and they will be more eager to learn than if they were made to.


3. Design immersive learning experiences

One of the most powerful techniques to use in your design is to parachute your learners into a real-life situation and let them figure out what to do. Give them some resources to help them solve the challenge and then provide feedback based on the decisions they made. My favorite example is the one used by Cathy Moore.


learner-centric scenario


This technique provides your learners a safe environment to experiment, see what happens and reflect on their choices. Immersive learning at its best!

It’s real life, it’s relevant, it’s challenging, thought-provoking, engaging, fun, memorable and ultimately, it’s effective.


4. Ask for feedback and adjust 

You’ve involved your learners at the start of your journey, great! Keep involving them throughout in the design and development phases. Rather than building a learning solution in full and releasing it only when it’s complete, chunk down the content and release it in phases. Create some prototypes that a chosen set of learners can test and feedback on, and adjust accordingly. Then do another review cycle, with different learners. This agile approach, being incremental and iterative, allows teams to react more quickly to feedback before publishing to the wider audience.  

And once the solution is fully deployed, put mechanisms in place to gather learner’s feedback for continuous improvement. Questions to ask include: Is the content useful? Is it relevant? Does it help you perform your job?

Assima solutions for example offer learners opportunities to rate and submit feedback on content items. The ratings and reviews can be made visible to the rest of the community which is a great way to make sure the content hits the right notes and is valuable to the most important people: the learners.


Learner feedback with Assima Train


5. Cater for social learning

20% of our learning comes from interacting with others so let’s not neglect that. Focus less on the formal learning (which only accounts for 10%) and make room for social learning.

Again this is a way to empower employees to collaborate, actively share information, problem solve together and learn in the process. Peer learning is also effective because we, as instructors, have had time to research, practice, absorb and reflect on the subject we are teaching and it’s easy to forget what it was like to learn the subject for the very first time. Explanations provided by peers facing similar challenges, using the same jargon and having similar mental representations may resonate better amongst fresh new learners.

Social learning is not something you can control or manage but this is something you can enable. In a formal learning context, you can for example give learners a challenge they need to solve together or let them ask and answer each other’s questions before asking the trainer. In an informal learning context, Communities of Practice, where people can share knowledge, tools, strategies, ideas, experience, best practices on same topic are very powerful. And there is a plethora of technologies available: WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yammer groups, collaborative platforms, forums...have your pick!


Learner-centric design summed up

By putting the learners at the center of your approach, you are empowering them as individuals, and as groups, to learn on their own terms, with their own scenarios and context and ultimately to better transfer the learning into their workplace. You are also involving them in the authoring process and allowing more space for social learning. This means you are designing more effective learning experiences with less effort…who wouldn’t want that?

Speak to us about our immersive learning solutions. 


solene kremerSolene Kremer

Learning Lead, Assima

Solene delivers global learning at Assima. Her mission is to raise the standards of learning and performance programs that actually improve the way people do their jobs. Solene was previously recognized for excellence in the field with the LPI Silver Award for Trainer of the Year.