The New-X: Three Ways to Strengthen Enterprise Learning User Experience

In the last 5–7 years, enterprise learning professionals have seen almost all the rules change for delivering effective training. It was not long ago that the L&D department could adopt and master a mainstream rapid development tool like Captivate or Articulate or (name your weapon of choice), pump out elearning modules, load them into the Learning Management System (if it worked) and then let the learners learn. Tight schedules and growing workloads meant publish it and forget it. Today, that approach is becoming increasingly inadequate.

Today there is a New-X™ in the enterprise. It’s not a new series of superhero comics. It is a recognition that the key components of user experience — Audience, Context and Technology — are rapidly evolving and that learning providers need to understand and respond to those changes. I have called these components the ACT Connection to draw attention to their importance in powerful EUX. Let’s take a look at three considerations that are vitally important within the ACT Connection and that can have a great impact on end users.

Let’s get small. Many people think we are in the golden age of comedy right now but there was a time when certain comedy sketches were as popular as hit songs. One of those was from Steve Martin called, “Let’s Get Small.”

Warner Bros. Records

That’s good advice for anyone considering delivering training content in a “time of need” context. When you think of how we search for information in our daily lives, we usually look towards technology to provide something specific and then we move on. That instant knowledge retrieval is part of the New-X™. We get the weather update, we check on the baseball score, we see the restaurant menu, we learn the movie director’s name and we get it all in a relatively seamless way in the flow of our day. The desire is so provocative and useful that people reach for it even when it is against the law (see the person driving next to you). How can these same results be achieved in a performance support mobile context? Create a mobile resource that has information easily searchable and relevant to an employee’s workday. Make use of location- or time-based notifications that are specific to the end user’s situation. There is a current wave in enterprise learning right now called microlearning — short bursts of information each with a single learning objective. Think of a 1:00 Tasty video on Buzzfeed (oh man, Mac ‘n Cheeseballs). This trend is going to continue to get smaller where a one-minute video will seem onerous at times. The point is to think small and deliver, specific and timely content that is useful. Let’s get small, shall we?

Personalization. Enterprise learning tends to take a carpet bombing approach and drop lots of information on many employees knowing that there will be instances of comprehension. It’s like saying in the opening narration, because it includes audio, of course, “In the following 30-minute learning experience, you will find up to 3 points that will actually help you do your job better.” But, there are so many opportunities to make the very same training personalized for the specific users. If you have a login of some type you already have the blessing of the user who has given thumbs up to reveal their identity. Your MDM/MAM solution has user & device authentication. If we know so much about our users, why don’t we leverage the profiles and tailor the training just for them? If I am a Level Three Machine Technician in the Albany, New York facility, can’t I receive only my resources that are applicable to my situation — position, location, and context? Yes, yes and yes. Don’t make the employee sift through lots of unnecessary irrelevant content just to get to what they need. And, make sure what they are looking for is as specific as possible.

Artificial intelligence is playing an increasingly important role in the area of personalization. As machine learning monitors and “understands” the performance of a user or a group of users, it can then respond with high potential associated content that can help the employees reach the desired business goal. For instance, an employee could take a short assessment and then based on the accuracy of the responses, several short microlearning videos could be pushed to him or her. AI is becoming more accessible through APIs and cloud services so you don’t have to be a tech guru to make learning experiences highly personalized. Whatever the tools or technology being used, part of the New-X™ is to design as unique of experiences as possible for each user.

Think hands free. When the Apple Watch came out I thought it would be more of a game changer for mobile performance support. Here was a way to deliver timely (no pun intended) information without holding a device in the palm of the hand. I envisioned use cases with checklists and notifications and other simple but useful data popping up either automatically or by the user’s touch or swipe. Why not do an entire machine safety inspection armed only with a watch? Perhaps these use cases are happening but I haven’t come across them, have you? Making a hands free UX should be a priority in many performance support situations. If the goal is to deliver information into an employee’s workflow in a frictionless fashion, explore ways that don’t require a grasp. This, too, is a component of the New-X™.

Perhaps the reintroduction of Google Glass, this time for the enterprise, will elevate hands free training to more businesses. The focus of Glass this time is factory workers who are constantly using their hands to complete tasks. Having timely information appear in their field of vision can result in a more productive and safer worker. Then, add the rapid growth of the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence and the possibilities of effective hands free training seem limitless. Another key technology here is voice recognition allowing the user to speak what is needed to a smartwatch or smart glasses. Add all of these technologies together and perhaps the employee will never again need to check all their pockets for their mobile device.

These are three considerations that need to be part of any mobile design strategy. The New-X™ requires that you understand the audience, the context and the technology — the ACT Connection — before you deploy a solution. If you can deliver a highly targeted or “small,” personalized and hands free product, you might have that impact on your users that you have been searching for all along.