Learning content is the essence of every learning platform, corporate academy, and employee training and development initiative.
But creating learning content that is truly valuable is challenging.
Time, didactic know-how, experience and much more are required.
In this article we would like to reveal our best recommendations on this.
1. determine the objectives of the learning content
"Setting goals" always sounds good, but in practice it is not easy.
To find the right targets, it is worth starting from a simple question:
The answer to this and the associated key figures are usually very different.
Here are some examples:
1.1 Frequent learning content objectives that can be measured in the short term
Short- to medium-term measurable goals for continuing education that we at MaxBrain often work on with our clients:
Provide must-have knowledge, e.g. on topics such as occupational safety, data protection, compliance or IT security. Very simple, binary key figures count here: Has an employee completed these courses or not? - How many employees have completed the mandatory courses XY by when? etc.
Optimize onboarding and time to competency: Make training new employees faster and more efficient. An increasingly common key figure for this is "Time to Competency". It shows how quickly competencies are acquired and, for example, how quickly new employees are fully operational.
Train existing employees on new products or work tools: This objective often involves all departments from Marketing, Sales, Customer Support, Finance, Human Resources, etc. - The metrics associated with product training can be very diverse and measured differently depending on the function of employees.
Increase sales performance: Increase sales through better trained sales staff. The goal here is usually clearly defined: Increase sales per sales employee.
Reduce support costs: Some of MaxBrain's business customers systematically reduce support costs with learning content and our learning platform. Here, the learning content does not primarily serve the employees, but the customers and partners who have to use and maintain the product - e.g. a complex robotics application. The goal is to reduce the number of support tickets.
1.2 Common longer-term measurable objectives of learning content
Longer-term goals, on the other hand, are usually more abstract, less clearly measurable and aimed at strengthening the foundation of a company. If a company wants to position itself sustainably, however, such goals are often essential.
Common examples at MaxBrain:
Improve employer branding: Companies that make an effort to train employees attract more talent, which is often characterized by a desire for further training as such.
Establish a shared learning culture as a general, long-term concept for success.
Strengthen employee motivation through inspiring new insights.
2. define and understand target groups
Good learning content is based on its target groups.
Even this simple recommendation can become challenging to implement:
Depending on lifestyle, length of service, department, prior education, age, language, gender, experience, interests, perceptiveness, or even technical capabilities, target groups can vary widely.
For example, there are occupational groups - such as those in logistics, production or field service - who, in contrast to their colleagues in the office, hardly need their own desktop computer for their work, follow a tightly scheduled daily routine and can be reached digitally almost exclusively via mobile devices. For these target groups, only shorter, quickly consumable learning content that can be accessed via mobile devices comes into question.
Colleagues who sit in front of a wide screen all day, on the other hand, are more likely to be motivated by learning content that takes a little longer and is optimized for desktop computers.
What is the best way to solve the problem of diverse target groups?
3. set teaching method
The creation of learning content should keep in mind the teaching method or form of instruction.
There are three different types of learning:
1. pure online learning, also called e-learning: Learners attend an online course regardless of location and time.
2. pure face-to-face teaching: learners are taught at a training location by instructors, teachers or experts.
3. hybrid forms of teaching, also called "blended learning": Learners can attend courses online and are accompanied to varying degrees of intensity by instructors, teachers, or experts.
Depending on the teaching method, different learning contents make sense.
For pure e-learning, it is important that courses and learning content can be completed independently and completely by learners. The balance between "too easy" and "too challenging" must be maintained: Both extremes can quickly lead to learning content being negatively evaluated by learners.
Face-to-face instruction or blended learning, on the other hand, enable learning content in the form of individual explanation by teachers. The balance between "too easy" and "too challenging" mentioned above is less critical.
4. create learning content
After working out the above objectives, target groups and teaching methods comes the more extensive work:
Creating learning content that inspires.
Of course, there is a whole bouquet of recommendations that we at MaxBrain could present from our work with clients.
The most important and exciting recommendations are only briefly outlined here:
4.1 Relevance for learners is priority 1.
Learning content that is not relevant for learners will hardly ever inspire: everyday life is too hectic, there is too little time for trivial things.
Relevance of learning content is the first priority when creating learning content.
Learning content gains relevance by helping learners advance; professionally, personally, or both.
What "moving on" means in the context of the relevance of learning content can be visualized in a learning curve:
It is important to understand this state of knowledge precisely:
If you do not correctly assess the learner's level of education, you run the risk of offering learning content that is either too mundane or too challenging. Both extremes directly lead to learning content that is not relevant.
To understand what the knowledge level of learners is, it is worth asking them.
However, the level of knowledge is only the starting point for determining relevance.
A classic example: sales training
When you offer cooking classes to your sales team, you do provide direction. At best, however, the learners will eat better and at best increase team spirit.
Selling better and more - probably the more attractive goal for your organization - is unlikely to make these learners better with cooking classes alone.
Let us assume that the goal here is defined as follows:
The sales team should sell better and more thanks to further training.
If necessary, you can even define concrete figures here: XX% more turnover per sales employee per quarter.
Next, check the knowledge level of your salespeople:
You find that the basic features of their products are already mastered, every member of your sales team has strong communication skills, and knows that the goal is to offer benefits to customers.
If you offer courses or learning content to this group about the importance of selling customer value, the learning content will likely be judged too mundane and immediately lose relevance.
However, in the course of discussions with sales managers and individual salespeople, you find that specific topics are still insufficiently mastered.
For example, the sales team is still somewhat under-trained in specific steps in the sales process such as objection handling, price negotiations or closing techniques concerns.
In this case, the creation of learning content will be fully focused on these topics relevant to the performance of your sales team. - This will inspire your learners and bring you much closer to your goal of increasing your company's sales.
4.2 Relevance for your organization: The pyramid
In addition to relevance to learners, relevance to your organization is key.
In our discussions with organizations from a wide range of industries and cultures, we at MaxBrain almost always rely on visualization via a learning pyramid.
This then looks like this, for example:
The learning pyramid organizes the knowledge an organization needs along two dimensions.
a.) A vertical dimension that differentiates between must-haves, expertise, soft skills and values.
b.) A horizontal dimension that distinguishes whether the knowledge is company-specific or generally applicable. - This distinction is relevant later when it comes to the question of whether learning content can be produced individually or purchased on the market. More on this below.
It should be common knowledge that people like stories. They prefer stories to endless, theoretical treatises.
"Storytelling" is on everyone's lips.
What makes a good story is somewhat less well known.
A good story is usually characterized by the following factors:
Setting: a specific setting or background in which the story takes place.
Characters: The heroines or heroes, as well as secondary characters with whom you can identify or at least understand well.
Problem: The problem or conflict that the characters face within the setting.
Solution: The general solution to the problem.
Plot: The way characters concretely implement the solution.
Next time you watch a movie, read a news story, or take in a novel: Pay attention to these elements. The mainstream always defines a good story by these components.
The same applies to the "story" of learning content:
4.4 Bring examples, examples, examples
Explanations work best by example. When you get a chance, pay attention to how you explain something to someone:
The theoretical basics, causes, reasons, correlations may be clear to you.
Once you share them with others, often only concrete examples help to communicate their theory effectively.
Our clear recommendation:
4.5 Surprise learners with new, original learning content.
"I've heardthat before" feedback can be devastating to the acceptance of learning content and the enthusiasm of your learners. Banal common-sense learning content immediately discredits all your efforts.
Inspirational learning content usually has the following characteristics in common:
1. relevance: Inspiring learning content is relevant. To do this, consider the comments above, which automatically lead to content being new.
2. emotional: Inspiring learning content is emotional and tells stories. See storytelling above.
3. reasons: People love reasons. The Why of a thesis therefore helps to make a thesis sound more inspiring. A thesis with poor or superficial reasoning is still more inspiring than a thesis without reasoning.
4.6 Provide structure: learning content along varied learning paths
People like structures; without them they quickly feel disoriented.
Structures make sense for all of the above, especially for relevance.
With learning paths you define the path of a course; step by step from simple to challenging learning content.
The learning content along a learning path is also welcome to vary in your format.
Offer text followed by images and videos. Create quizzes from time to time to ensure that the basics are mastered before more challenging learning takes place.
Provided you use a modern learning management system (LMS), such formats and learning content are easy to combine.
4.7 Short and sweet: Learning Nuggets
Time and patience: two scarce commodities in our society.
So-called "learning nuggets" are becoming increasingly popular at MaxBrain: short, exciting learning units, summaries or short versions of more comprehensive courses.
In any case, make sure you offer enough learning nuggets.
The majority of learners will be grateful.
Those who prefer in-depth and detailed learning content won't complain about a Learning Nugget in between.
4.8 Provide interaction and dynamic learning culture
Countless organizations today rely on static PowerPoint presentations or PDFs for employee training.
Whether and how well employees learn the contents of such static documents, whether the contents inspire, how quickly knowledge is acquired, what it brings and many other questions are hardly answerable.
On the other hand, anyone who wants to build a dynamic learning culture that shapes the success of a company in the medium to long term now relies on interactive learning platforms with quizzes, learning checks, learning paths, certificates and much more. In the blog post "What makes a good LMS? (for 2023+)", I outlined what a good, interactive learning platform must be able to do.
The fact is that interaction leads to a much higher "engagement" of the learners. Instead of just passively consuming content, learners are challenged, can see their own learning progress, are rewarded for it, and are thus much more motivated.
The key figure of "Time to Competency", i.e. the time an employee needs to learn a new competence, which is important for many companies, is optimized through interaction.
4.9 Repeat, repeat, repeat
You may remember your school days: learning needs repetition.
Except for a privileged few with photographic memory, most of us cannot memorize learning content at a glance.
And if you don't remember a learning content later, you don't learn it.
As was the case with cramming school material, repetition in varied form is crucial for learning success in continuing education.
4.10 Offer summaries
Summaries are popular learning content, both before as well as after a course.
Our clear recommendation is therefore:
Make life easier for learners by offering summaries to quickly capture what the key learnings of a course are.
4.11. Learning objective tests and quizzes
In my youth, it was still called "examination" or "exam". In the meantime, the somewhat broader term of "learning objective control" has become established in Swiss schools.
"Learning objective checks" or - more playfully formulated - "quizzes" offer both learners and teachers the opportunity to better understand whether learning content has been successfully mastered or not.
Learning objective checks or simple quizzes are thus among the most important interactive learning content.
The tool we recommend for this is Classtime.
There are also very useful systems that provide immediate feedback on each task and help learners to identify their mistakes right away. The tool recommended by MaxBrain for this is TaskBase.
4.12. Motivation: Convey a good feeling
Learning content should motivate and inspire.
Aside from the ideas above, there are numerous other factors to make learning content feel good. For example:
Language: Use positive, constructive language as much as possible
Create variety by combining text, images, video, quizzes, etc.
Explain relevance: Provide brief explanations of why a learning content is important to the learner.
Praise: Explicitly praise learners for their learning progress from time to time.
Offer certificates for completed courses or learning units that learners can be proud of.
4.13. Design visualizes qualityDesign is a critical factor in how the quality of learning content is perceived. A top design gives the impression of quality more quickly, regardless of all the points mentioned above. - Conversely, very good learning content can be perceived as inferior if the design looks inferior. It is therefore worth paying attention to fonts, colors, imagery, and investing in graphic consistency across all learning content. Our two recommendations:
4.14. Optimize learning content: Collect, evaluate and utilize feedback
Good teaching content is the result of experience and, in some cases, years of optimization.
Organizations that employ many people and have already established a learning culture optimize learning content "on the go". This means that learning content is first tested in smaller, representative groups.
Thanks to systematic feedback, the learning content is optimized.
Subsequent learners thus benefit from a "proof of concept", high quality and practical relevance.
In my experience, getting feedback on learning content is always worthwhile:
The professional training centers that work with MaxBrain in particular prove this every day: companies such as WEKA, Goethe Business School or VEB.ch all consistently rely on feedback after each course.
Technically, tools like SurveyMonkey combined with a professional learning platform offer an easy way to collect and evaluate feedback.
5. build or buy? - you don't have to create every course yourself!
There is now a whole industry of providers offering learning content or suitable intermediate solutions.
(A) Public platforms: Platforms like YouTube or Udemy inherently offer a seemingly endless selection of learning nuggets. However, the vastness of the offering there is a challenge: picking out the really good, original learning content can quickly become challenging.
(B) Specialized general knowledge providers: For their part, providers like GoodHabitz or Elucydate offer high-quality, out-of-the-box e-learning. Unlike YouTube or Udemy, the course offerings are more focused on organizational success. Moreover, learning content is carefully curated and optimized over the years.
(C) Educational centers: Institutes for professional development such as WEKA, Goethe Business School or Digicomp train tens of thousands of people each year on specific job-related topics. In addition to classroom instruction, such organizations also offer hybrid teaching formats such as blended learning and organize individual in-house courses at organizations themselves as needed.
(D) Specialized agencies: Agencies specializing in learning content, such as Somedia Learning in Switzerland or ML Gruppe in Germany, create didactically high-quality, individual courses for organizations, industrial companies and government agencies. So if you need individual, company-specific courses, you can commission them there.
In addition to saving time, when you purchase learning content from external providers, you benefit from their years of experience and quality proven through practice.
Questions for you:
Now I would like to hear from you:
Which tips from this article do you find most valuable?
What other recommendations would you make for creating learning content?
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