How To Create a Learning Experience Strategy in 3 Parts

April 25, 2024

When building an online learning experience, it can be tempting to start with the technology first – pick a learning management system (LMS) or platform (LXP), then design content to fit its structure. If you’re not quite sure what you need, using the constraints of your chosen platform can feel like a good way to provide direction. However, we find this often leads to extended rounds of design, more work and unhappy clients, as they try to fit their requirements into an uncompromising platform.

At Studion we use a three-part strategy to create effective and engaging digital learning experiences. Our strategic approach will simplify your decision-making process and set you up for long-term success. It starts with taking a step back to understand why you’re building a learning experience in the first place. 

This approach is valuable for those building a digital learning experience for the first time and also for organizations at an inflection point with their program, whether that’s the need to scale or change course to address shifting needs. 

Part 1: Strategic Analysis 

This first step creates a strong foundation that enables you to measure the success of your program and make confident, strategic choices as you evaluate a wide range of options. If you already have a digital learning experience, use this as a chance to revisit and evolve your strategy, incorporating what you’ve learned so far. 

What are the use cases for an online learning experience? 

Conduct a strategic needs analysis of both internal and external uses of an LXP. If multiple apply, prioritize your highest needs first. If you know you want to expand your online learning experience to serve additional use cases in the future, keep that in mind as you evaluate platforms. 

Internal use cases could include training for:

  • Employee on-boarding

  • Internal software systems and tools

  • Call centers / Help Desks

  • Culture and norms

External training opportunities could include:

  • Customers and end-users

  • Strategic vendors

  • Partners

What is the potential ROI of an online learning experience? 

To calculate the business benefit from successful training, identify a business challenge that you want to overcome or an opportunity to capture and a metric that will measure progress toward that goal. 

ROI could be calculated by measuring: 

  • Reduced turnover

  • Faster ramping

  • Increased productivity

  • Customer retention

  • Vendor productivity

  • End-user satisfaction

If you can clearly articulate the business value, you’ll be better equipped to compare that benefit to the cost of an online learning experience – and to argue for the funding required. 

How might we secure funding for an online learning experience? 

Not all projects with high ROI potential are necessarily funded. Identify executive sponsors and understand how investment decisions will be evaluated so you can align your arguments with the considerations of your decision makers. 

Strategic analysis in action 

One of Studion’s medical device clients saw an opportunity to improve customer satisfaction and sales by educating their end user – surgeons – on the latest surgical techniques and instruments. The company hoped to increase their reach to more surgeons and reduce the cost of training. 

Studion worked with the medical device company to translate a limited and expensive in-person educational symposium to a flexible, doctor-centered online learning experience. The first digital session reached 800 professionals, double their in-person reach over the last three years, and garnered overwhelmingly positive feedback. 

Part 2: Highly engaging learning design

It’s not enough to just deploy a training platform. Learning design, content, and engagement strategy are all critical parts of the system, and a holistic approach is key. The most effective online learning experiences are highly engaging ones that include the learner at each step.

What makes an online learning experience highly engaging? 

While you might recognize a great learning experience when you see it, it can be difficult to translate what makes it great into factors you can apply to your own learning experience. So we’ve done the work for you.

Studion’s 5 ingredients of highly engaging learning experiences: 

  • Learner-centered content: Focuses on the needs, desires and abilities of the learner

  • Active learning: Motivates engagement through a variety of active and applied dynamics

  • Unbounded Inclusion: Supports all identities and experiences to create belonging and deepen learning

  • Community connection: Leverages people beyond the instructor to motivate and scale learning

  • Real-world outcomes: Enables learners to apply course learnings to their real-world challenges

How might we apply elements of engagement to our online learning experience? 

Identify what differentiates your organization from the competition and the strengths you bring to the table. Then dive deep into user research to understand your learners’ needs, challenges, and desired outcomes. 

Pair those elements with constraints like budget and timeline to help you prioritize the elements of engagement that will add the most value to your learners and be the most relevant for your brand. 

At Studion, we conduct a strategic benchmark assessment for our clients using the five elements of engagement. This creates a clear understanding of market opportunity, current state, and target state. 

Highly engaging learning design in action

The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants & the Chartered Institute  of Management Accounts (AICPA & CIMA) is a global nonprofit organization serving more than 500,000 finance and accounting professionals. Studion designed, built and implemented a digital experience for their CGMA Finance Leadership Program.  

Expectations and required competencies vary significantly across financial services organizations. To address this challenge, Studion and AICPA created a customizable and learner-centric experience via a three-pronged approach: 

  • Personalized Learning: Tailoring the learning pathway based on the learner's prior knowledge, speed, and employer’s priorities. 

  • Learn-by-Doing Pedagogy: Business simulations of increasing complexity were used to reinforce learning, focusing on integration and application of skills.

  • Customized Platform: A sophisticated dashboard provided a user-friendly interface, showing learners their progress and what to focus on next. The platform supported various learning assets like videos, interactive activities, and assessments.

Part 3: Effective execution

While we don’t suggest starting with platform selection in your strategic process, it is absolutely an important piece of the puzzle. It’s critical to choose the right technology to deliver learning for both learners and the bottom line. There is no one-size-fits all LMS. 

What learning experience platform development approach best meets my needs? 

You could build a custom LMS, buy an off-the-shelf LMS…or both. The development approach you choose for your learning experience platform will depend on several factors, including the amount of customization you need, your budget, timeline, and growth plans. 

Your options take three forms: 

  • Off-the-shelf LMS: While it offers speed-to-market, off-the-shelf usually is not ideal for enterprise customers due to high licensing fees tied to usage volumes, the need for additional customization, and unsupported integration with enterprise systems. 

  • Semi-custom LMS: This can be a sweet spot that uses off-the-shelf or (lower cost) open source modules as building blocks for a total solution.

  • Fully custom LMS: A sensible choice when semi-custom solutions don’t provide the opportunity for maximizing the ROI for your organization and its learners.

Our guide on how to choose the right learning experience platform provides a detailed breakdown on comparing off-the-shelf solutions. 

What features and capabilities do I need in a learning experience platform? 

Platform selection must start with a careful analysis of requirements:

  • Number of projected users

  • Type of learning experiences to support

  • Integration with internal or external software systems

  • Plan for legacy systems

  • Desired feature set 

  • Ease of use for content authors and administrators

  • Data tracking and insights

  • Implementation requirements like role types 

What is my plan for maintaining and growing an online learning experience? 

A digital learning experience is a significant investment with high potential ROI. Content, learning modalities, tech stack, and external integrations must be built into, monitored and maintained to continue to capture ROI. 

Think about what your program might look like 5-10 years from now. Can your LMS grow with you? When evaluating development partners, look for someone who will keep up with the latest technology and be a thought partner in evolving your platform over time. 

Effective execution in action 

A global marketing organization wanted to leverage the incredible library of marketing case studies and success stories generated from its prestigious awards program. Studion partnered with them to run an intensive user research and design process and set a program strategy. The resulting required feature set was typical for most off-the-shelf systems, and the organization had a tight timeline for going live. As a result, a semi-custom platform development approach worked best. Studion was able to design an implementation plan that allowed both careful platform choice and high quality, individualized learning. We were able to implement V1 of the program on budget in a matter of months.

Ready to create an effective learning experience strategy for your organization? We’d love to hear what challenges we can help you address. 

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