Neuroscience: Applying the Same Principles to Learning Content Strategy, Development, and Delivery

Understanding how people learn is almost as important as deciding what they should learn.

Research from Bersin by Deloitte shows that high-performing learning organizations are 92 percent more likely to innovate across several business areas. This doesn’t happen without a cohesive learning strategy that ensures content is not only created to align with business objectives, but also that learning content itself is high impact and relevant to the needs of the modern learner.

One aspect of learning gaining prevalence in recent years is the exploration of neuroscience as a contributor to learning success in the workplace. Understanding how people learn is almost as important as deciding what they should learn. Currently, three principles of neuroscience have high relevance for Learning professionals:

  • Attention
  • Memory
  • Exploration

Each of these is connected to segments of learning content strategy to demonstrate their practical application for Learning professionals, including content alignment, structure, user experience, technology, purpose, and governance.

Taken collectively, these segments support an enterprise-wide content strategy that delivers results, is strategically aligned, and meets the needs of the modern learner.

Why Attention Matters in Content Strategy

Neuroscience demonstrates that people don’t pay attention to boring things; that’s why learning content needs to meet the minimum threshold of being “not boring” as we aim to create and deliver content experiences that grab attention and drive desired behaviors.

It’s best to ensure the “why” behind your content is apparent. All too often, we take for granted that learners will understand why we’re sharing with them, but that link may be tenuous at best. In addition, it’s critical to go beyond a standard e-learning course or lecture, focusing on learning experiences that encourage interaction, application of skills, and better outcomes for learners. An ad hoc approach can’t deliver outcomes or content that engages learners, so businesses need a content strategy in place to properly identify and target opportunities to help capture learner attention.

Specifically, attention affects the following core segments of content strategy:

  • User experience: How content is presented can either greatly enhance or greatly detract from the ultimate experience it creates for learners. Understanding unique paths learners take and how to leverage them when planning out your content development, deployment, and management will drive the most attention to the places it is most required.
  • Technology: The technologies you leverage in content development and deployment can enhance learner attention. By leveraging multiple delivery technologies, you can reach learners in ways that align with their preferences, whether video, mobile, or traditional courses.
  • Governance: Planning ahead allows you to plan for the desired outcomes of your learning content. Governance plays a role in this by helping determine how to strategically garner the right attention and how to measure the results and outcomes of learning. Governance also helps to ensure that learning assets are refreshed as appropriate to remain relevant and valuable for learners.

Why Memory Matters in Content Strategy

Neuroscience demonstrates that people forget most of what they are taught. Learning is about multiple touch points, not a single data download, especially if you are trying to drive behaviors. Create content, but also look for ways to repurpose smaller pieces, add in assessments or other interactive elements, and continuously keep concepts top of mind so learners can move from understanding to application, cementing the learning. An overarching content strategy can help frame out how to capture initial learning experiences and how to tie in opportunities to boost key learning objectives over time.

Specifically, memory impacts the following core segments of content strategy:

  • User experience: Creating a memorable experience is the key to learning success. If learners fail to remember the content they consume, it’s a wasted investment. Therefore, user experience is critical.
  • Structure: When learning is structured properly, it’s easier to remember. By incorporating several touch points into an ongoing plan to keep key concepts top of mind, leaders can create more memorable learning experiences that deliver results.
  • Content alignment: Ultimately, it all comes back to purpose. While content itself may be valuable, helping to connect those assets with the greater purpose and value of the content will help add weight and credibility from the learner perspective.

Why Exploration Matters in Content Strategy

Given the right motivations and environment, our workforces are self-developing. Gallup research indicates that nearly 90 percent of Millennials crave development opportunities in the workplace. This means Learning leaders can leverage and nurture this innate desire to grow and develop. It’s best to give people opportunities to consume content in a variety of formats and channels. The best content comes back to practical application, giving learners the opportunity to draw direct parallels between the content and the workplace. Additionally, informal experiences, collaborative interactions, and mobile learning all offer opportunities to leverage other channels for exploration.

With a content strategy in place, Learning and Development leaders can ensure each of these types of learning paths is available with adequate content to support all options learners can pursue.

Specifically, exploration impacts the following core segments of content strategy:

  • Structure: Content searchability, or the ability for users to find and connect with content they need, is critical to exploration. Instead of searching and failing to connect with meaningful, valuable content, employers with good organizational structure behind their content can serve up the right piece of learning content at the right time, adding further value to the learning experience.
  • Technology: Every learner population has preferences for types of content to consume. Using varying technologies allows employers to meet exploration needs in a tailored way.
  • Governance: When learners find stale, outdated, or irrelevant content, they move on and the learning opportunity is gone. Governance, as a part of content strategy, allows employers to maintain a schedule for content refreshing, ensuring available resources are always up-to-date. As learners embrace the natural exploration instinct, they are rewarded with high-quality, relevant content that helps them perform better.

While many Learning leaders believe strategy or engagement is a challenge, the biggest challenge for Learning leaders today is changing the perception of the rest of the organization. Learning isn’t just about creating more content or training delivery—it’s about delivering targeted business results through key behaviors and knowledge sharing. The best way to ensure those kinds of results in your business is to use a proven approach to learning content strategy. By creating a learning content ecosystem that meets the types of needs inspired by neuroscience principles, Learning leaders can not only deliver more value to the workforce, but also higher value to the business.

Skip Marshall is vice president and chief technology officer, Human Capital Management (HCM), for Tribridge, a DXC Technology Company. In this role, Marshall manages the solution architecture, product strategy, and overall technology strategy for Tribridge’s HCM business group. Marshall previously served as vice president of Professional Services for Intelladon, a talent management firm that was acquired by Tribridge. In that role, he was responsible for ensuring customers received the appropriate solution to address their business needs. Marshall has extensive design, development, and deployment experience in instructional programs, enterprise talent management initiatives, and the technology infrastructure to support them. He has implemented courseware development processes using SCORM and AICC e-learning standards and specializes in designing technology solutions to address complex business issues within the HCM space. He is a former faculty member at the University of South Florida and a teaching and technology fellow at the University of Florida. Marshall holds an MBA and a Master of Education degree with a focus in Educational Psychology, as well as a Specialist degree in Instructional Technology, all from the University of Florida.



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