Have you ever thought about how you learn? Do you cram for a test by reading materials repeatedly, or are you someone who makes dozens of color-coated flashcards? How about when you want to develop a new skill: does it work for you to read directions, or is it better for you to watch someone else show you how it’s done? What about visuals: do pictures, diagrams, and videos make sense to you?
How about where you learn: do you need total quiet to concentrate or can you learn in a bustling coffee shop? What’s your preference: a packed classroom, one-on-one with a partner, or an instructional video? A little bit of all?
Part of my job as Senior CRM Specialist at Highland is to train our clients on the systems we create for them. While I’ve created trainings and learning presentations that cover all the points of the system, recognizing how the attendees learn is a new idea for me.
What is the Learner Experience (LX)?
I recently had the opportunity to attend a training conference where I was introduced to the concept of LX, the Learner Experience. I am familiar with CX and UX (Customer and User Experiences) but had not considered that the tools from these disciplines could be transferred to how I train my users.
Need a reminder about the differences between UI, UX, and CX? Here is a helpful breakdown on ‘What the Heck is CX’ and a real-life example involving a treacherous toaster.
One of the tools in LX is creating ‘Learner Personas.’ You profile your learners (in our case, clients, customers, or our own staff) to gain insights on how they learn best. Here, I’ll review some of the key questions you might ask in the process of creating your Personas. I found that there are five essential questions:
1. How comfortable are you with technology?
Five people sit at a table all on laptops | Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
If possible, determine your learners’ experience with the tech before the training. Assign a self-assessment or a pre-training task to complete ahead of time. If those tasks aren’t complete or they’re struggling, it will help you know what to expect — that way you can anticipate the needs of the group.
For the Persona who is very comfortable with tech, they are sometimes prone to working ahead and checking out early. Be sure that they don’t fall into that pattern—keep the training challenging enough for them. You might consider recruiting them to help. It’s helpful to pair someone who is familiar with the technology you’re using with a person who struggles.
For the person who is not very comfortable with tech, make sure to check on them often during the training, but don't let them derail the entire class. We’ve all likely been in trainings with someone whose persistent questions stole the focus from the teachings at hand. Pair this persona with a tech-savvy learner or the second trainer.
If there are enough people who are struggling, go backward and review, or do extra work during the break. We can’t have the whole group stop unless it’s a significant amount of people who aren’t getting it. If this happens, it’s important to look at the training again and see if it’s assuming too much.
Two people look at a monitor and a laptop | Photo by NESA by Makers on Unsplash
2. When stuck, are you willing to ask questions?
The “yes” person will raise their hands all the time. The danger in that Persona is that they have a tendency to overtake the class—they want you to walk them through every single thing. Pair them with someone who rarely asks questions. As a practice, we do ask people to stop us if they’re stuck. We don’t want them to sit there and fall behind.
There are Personas who won’t ask, even when they’re completely lost. They’ll sit quiet and fall behind. A solution for this person is going around during breaks and checking the work. This allows the more tentative Persona to get one-on-one help that doesn’t call them out in front of the group.
Ultimately, you have to be aware of peoples’ feelings. Someone might think that asking nonstop questions fills the space. Another might not be raising their hands because they’re embarrassed. There’s also the culture you’re training in to consider. Does the culture consider it rude to interrupt? Those students will not let you know if they fall behind because of it.
3. When you get frustrated, do you check out?
Person biting their pencil in frustration | Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash
The frustrated Persona who stays invested will typically be the ones who are asking the questions. That’s what you want! Encourage people to ask questions at the appropriate time — sometimes someone is one step ahead, has a question you’re about to cover. Make it clear when the space is suitable for questions, and when it’s time to pay attention to the trainer.
The Persona who doesn’t ask questions is the same one who will likely check out. Or they’ve asked questions and they’re still not getting it. They tell themselves “it’s just not making sense to me” and resign themselves to the idea that they’re not going to get it. You can recognize this by physically walking around. Allow them to see that another trainer or someone they know in the room is getting it. It’s important to stay engaged with them. Be empathetic in helping them get back on track. Try to adjust or find another way for them to stay committed. Being the only trainer in the room is never going to work, you need an assistant, whether it’s your student or your second trainer.
Pointing at image on the laptop screen | Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash
4. Do you need quiet or solo time to process?
Classes and group trainings are inherently interactive. This Persona is more of a personal trait. This person may prefer to process solo, and may be quiet during group activities. Consider sharing the material to follow up with, so that they can review outside of the training.
Help people become aware of their learning styles and the best time of day for them to learn. This will set them up for success with the follow-up materials. There’s always the ability to share a PowerPoint and links to videos.
When I identify the individuals who are just not getting it, I let the client know that they are going to need some additional help after the training. I always offer an extra supplement for them or assist the client with a followup training.
Person reading and highlighting solo | Photo by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash
5. Does a little competition help you engage?
Gamification of training popular right now. Sales people are VERY competitive! Something I like to do to engage this Persona is to ask questions the next day based on the previous training. I give out treats to whoever answers correctly. It’s also a great way to see what’s been retained.
Creating a game helps spark a different part of their brain. Triggering one part of a brain with another helps participants remember the content.
Who doesn’t love the promise of candy?
There’s a lot of room for creativity. Just make sure you’re not overdoing it and they’re not able to focus on learning. A game can be a good way to express what they’ve learned.
Jar of candies | Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash
How do you engage all of these Personas at once?
As you answer these questions, you begin the outline of your Personas. These different types of learners will then inform how you create your trainings. You can have video for those who learn best through repeated viewings, documentation for learners that need the time to sit and think about how to do something, or a game in the middle of training to keep learners engaged.
The best practice is to create trainings that speak to all of the different styles of LX. You’re always going to have a mix of learners in a room. It’s good to be prepared to accommodate all of the different Personas.
Keep asking yourself as a trainer, how do you learn? Be aware of skewing your trainings in the way that suits your Learner Persona. While I’ve only touched on the topic of LX, a quick search on the internet will lead you to videos, documentation, and even a game or two to uncover how you learn best.
How do I learn? I learn best when someone shows me how in person. I like having the materials available so that I can reference them later. I also need quiet and minimal distractions.
And I learn best when I have to teach others.