What comes to your mind when you hear the word content? In simple terms, it’s nothing but a combination of information. This information is the bedrock of the internet. In the process of surfing across different websites and webpages on the Internet, you engage in the consumption of content, though in several formats. Similarly, you engage in the consumption of content in any Learning & Development program. It represents a curriculum through which you learn new skills whether technical or personal, that are required for your role in the organisation.
As the Learning and Development function evolves with time, a consequent evolution in the field of content has also been witnessed. The major reason behind this is the advancement reinforced by the new-age science and technological developments. Innovative content solutions backed by technology are being increasingly utilised as a part of the modern-day L&D program. As a result, the importance of content has multiplied manifold. In fact, it is now considered to be a ‘game-changer’ in the L&D domain!
Importance of Content
Why is content important? How does it work to be the ‘game changer’ in the L&D domain? The reason behind this rising importance of content can be attributed majorly to a shift in approach that caters more than ever to the consumer’s requirements. The consumer or the trainee has evolved in their thought-process. Their expectations are different than they were back in time. So are the expectations of organisations from them.
A long-term holistic approach is what an organisation follows with respect to their new employees. It becomes pertinent to have content that suits and inclines well to their needs. Such consumer-centricity offers a lot of benefits in the long-term. It eventually translates into results in the form of better understanding and application of the learnt concepts. Else the training program stands wasted if content hasn’t been adequately focussed upon.
In the past, employee trainings were majorly undertaken in a manual format. There was a limited use of technology with respect to content. Printed materials such as books and texts were the most prevalent form of content used in the past. Similarly, physical classroom sessions were the most important mediums for the consumption of content.
Fast forward to the modern times, we live in an era where almost everything has transitioned into an electronic form. Why would Learning & Development stay behind? Today, a lot of L&D programs are conducted over E-Learning platforms.
E-Learning covers a wide set of applications and processes such as web-based learning, computer-based learning, virtual classrooms and digital collaboration. The need for a physical presence stands nullified under an E-learning set up. For it, all you need is a device, a platform and an internet connection. Anytime or anywhere, you can progress as per your discretion. The learning content is well-structured and takes into account the objectives of the organisation while shaping it in a way that not only enhances flexibility, but also aims to achieve the training results in an effective manner.
The relevance of content under E-learning stands increased since most of the time, it becomes a single guiding force for a remote learner. Content can be delivered under an E-learning set up in diverse forms using internet, intranet/extranet, audio/video, satellite broadcast, interactive televisions, text/images/infographics etc.
E-Learning content can be classified on the basis of interactivity. Interactive content enhances the user engagement, it is a two-way flow of information. While non-interactive E-learning content, on the other hand, is a one-way flow.
Interactive E-learning content includes web-based training solutions. They are further split into levels based on their extent of interactivity. Mobile Learning is again, an interactive E-learning content medium. It typically includes content in the form of nuggets and flashcards that may include small images and videos. Technology has led to the development of content in the form of gamifications that includes game-based applications with an aim to increase the attractiveness of the content by introducing a fun element or an element of contest.
On the other hand, non-interactive content includes presentations, infographics, videos, images, application simulation and telestration etc. Each of them offers their own set of advantages.
You certainly can’t expect your employees to get the best out of a run-of-the-mill training program that lacks attributes of modernity with respect to content. The recent trends in the domain of content have seen the rise in prevalence of the following factors, it’s important to assess your content based on them to reap the most out of your program.
There has been an enhanced focus on personalisation of content. What’s relevant for you might not be relevant for the other. The content needs to be structured in a way that takes into account these differences. It should aim at eliminating redundancy. Personalisation can enhance the accuracy levels and at the same time diminish the wastage of time and effort.
The prevalence of content-diversity has increased over the period of time. The E-Learning programs now serve content in multiple formats such as videos, podcasts, infographics, presentations etc. This fosters the learner-interest because content on a single format becomes monotonous after a point of time. This also works on the principle that certain learning material is suited to a certain content format. Similarly, there is a diversity with respect to the mediums that serve content such as Instructor Led Training (ILT), Virtual Trainings, M-Learning, Non-Digital etc.
Visual representation of content has been proven as an effective way to entice the attention of learners. It improves engagement, at the same time, it enhances information retention. According to studies, the human brain processes visual information in a much faster way than textual information. As a result, it’s important to explore a wide range of available visual options such as illustrations, infographics, high-resolution videos etc.
E-learning content is a flexible type of content. It can be used as per your discretion. You can go with your own flow. This is of particular importance since trainees have different information grasping abilities. It gives them a free hand and as a result they feel empowered to consume such content. The availability of progress trackers in-built in the medium makes it easy for them to work at their own pace.
Another application of E-Learning content is the availability of analytics that works on data. The real-time data with respect to the consumption of content is a resource that guides both the user and the organisation. Availability of content-assessment keeps a check on the effectiveness of the program.
Content Development Process
Development of E-learning content follows a structured process. It is one of the most important modern L&D functions and takes into account the intricate details with respect to the organisational requirements and training objectives. While undertaking a training project, the first step is to analyse the needs of the training, the audience, the organisation, the context along with mapping the Key Result Areas (KRAs). Next up, storyboarding takes place. It includes organising graphics and displaying illustrations in a sequence for the purpose of pre-visualisation.
The client is then asked to review. The changes are accommodated and production of content begins. The content is then tested based on Quality Assurance (QA) that defines the standards and outlines the process to meet the same. Further, the content is delivered for a final client review. Fixes are made after seeking final recommendations from the client. Finally, the project goes live and is ready for consumption by the trainees.
A Few Recommendations
- The content should be well-researched. It should be highly relevant with your training objectives. Attempts should be made to reduce redundancy.
- The Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) should be consulted and their recommendations should be included while designing content.
- The content should be based on the outcome-based learning objectives.
- It’s important to include progressive complexity in terms of levels for an enhanced understanding. The content should be broken down into simplified fragments for high information retention.
- The content should incline the company values with the training objectives. It should be devoid of any sort of bias, discrimination, stereotypes etc. At the same time, it’s important to be sensitive with respect to culture, gender, policies etc.
The Future of Content
The future of content is being shaped through the application of augmented and virtual reality. Virtual reality creates an immersive world in a virtual format. It is being increasingly used for simulations in the L&D industry. At the same time, classroom content can also be consumed through VR without any external distraction.
On the other hand, augmented reality superimposes digital elements such as images, videos, infographics, animations etc in the real world. Usage of AR in content provides a high-quality experience to the trainee who gets the opportunity to learn through enhanced participation. It allows the learner to apply the learnt skills without any physical intervention. The capability of breaking down complex learning information into simple and easy to understand terms remains one of the biggest advantages of these two developments.
Content isn’t just learning material. It is a guiding force. It can make or break your training program. Any new employee seeks guidance with respect to their role in the organisation. High quality content serves as a facilitator that directs the new hires towards the attainment of desired skill-sets.
One of the major deficiencies of any training program is the failure to generate learner interest that reinforces attentiveness. This is majorly a content-related problem. At times, the content lacks engaging attributes making it difficult for the learner to concentrate. The result is a completion of a training program without the accumulation of desired skill-sets. The modern advancements in the realm of content are a perfect solution to this problem. Content has increasingly become consumer centric with the advent of distinct visual formats. These formats aren’t just highly captivating for the learner’s mind, they also present a complete range of other benefits such as personalisation, flexibility and analytics etc.
Consuming content is now quite a smooth process and as a result, it not only reflects in self-fulfilment through the achievement of training objectives, but also works well for the organisation in terms of extracting the best out of their trainees in the long term.