Government Elearning! Magazine

FALL 2015

Elearning! Magazine: Building Smarter Companies via Learning & Workplace Technologies.

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Tips Tips Government Elearning! Fall 2015 47 How to Tackle External Audiences Training THERE'S NO ONE ANSWER, SINCE AUDIENCES ARE DIVERSE. BUT THERE ARE PITFALLS. BY MATT GILLEY Many organizations ofen want to explore how to engage, com- municate and train "external audiences." Generally, requests are focused on students, or potential students, who are not employees of the company and reside outside of the organiza- tion's physical footprint and technological infrastructure. Tis scenario certainly presents a series of unique challenges. Five common misconcep- tions and pitfalls that, when avoided, lead to much more successful external programs. #1: DON'T RECREATE THE (CONTENT STRATEGY) WHEEL Companies sometimes over- analyze the needs of their ex- ternal audiences. Tey mistak- enly assume external audiences require a level of engaging, en- tertaining content that is some- how diferent from what they provide their internal audience members. Before you worry about internal versus external audiences, you should develop an over-arching content strat- egy that results in creative, modern, engaging training ma- terial. Ten you can determine how to present the appropri- ate content to the appropriate audience. If you're considering content for external users that is superior to the content you present to internal users, you're doing something wrong. #2: DON'T IGNORE STUDENT SEGMENTATION Even the organizations with great content strategies some- times neglect to plan ahead when it comes to segmenta- tion. You would be surprised by the number of companies that allow external students into their learning environ- ments without a clear way to identify or track them as such. If you can't tell at a glance which students are internal and which students are exter- nal, how can you expect your learning management system to deliver the appropriate content? Develop an efcient way to designate a new user as internal or external during the registration process. You cer- tainly do not want to try and identify them once they have become active users. If security becomes a big concern, you can consider pushing the two audiences into separate ac- counts. Over-complicating the structure and security require- ments of a single learning envi- ronment in order to accommo- date both internal and external audience members can divert attention away from the pri- mary training mission. Instead, think: "Same great content, same variety, same over-all ap- proach, diferent accounts." #3: DON'T OVER- COMPLICATE REGISTRATION Te registration portal is the frst thing external students encoun- ter. It should mirror the kind of simple, clean and intuitive experience the entire learning environment ofers. Too ofen, registration pages and processes are bulky and confusing, forcing external users to jump through too many hoops before accessing the learning content. Difcult registration processes will result in signifcant drops in user activ- ity. Consider the simplicity of the registration process for the majority of the consumer apps we rely on everyday. Are you thinking about single or social sign-on to simplify registration? You should be. #4: DON'T UNDERVALUE THE USER EXPERIENCE A large number of external train- ing initiatives rely on the "self- paced" model, allowing students the freedom to move through topics and access modules at their own speed. Amazingly, many organizations do not consider the student's actual experience when they build out an external, or even internal, learning envi- ronment. Students expect to fnd the content they are looking for immediately, and with little efort. Tis means search functionality must be exceptional. Key words, course descriptions and sum- maries need to be less clinical and neutral, and much more strategic and engaging. Te afect that im- ages have on user engagement numbers, positive or negative depending on the quality of the images, are staggering. It's time to ditch the outdated clip art in your catalog and course descriptions. Work with marketing to develop an image strategy for the entire learning environment that not only aligns with your content, but helps "sell it." #5: DON'T FORGET TO ASK, "WHY?" External is defnitely "trend- ing up," but frst, companies should really evaluate what they are trying to achieve. Perhaps more importantly, why? Some organizations have the kind of content that external audiences are already demanding. Some companies view external training and ed- ucation as a way of strength- ening or securing their already strong brand ties and audience relationships. Either way, these organizations typically have external audiences in place, audiences that already per- ceive value in the content and justify the required resource investment. If you don't have a good answer for why the content should be ofered to students outside of your orga- nization, there is no reason to further explore the how. —Te author is the CRO for Intellum. More info: www.intellum.com

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