Team development

The secret to developing digital training that succeeds

When designing training programs to develop teams, lead with people; not technology

In the era of digital transformation, organizations are increasingly leveraging technology to deliver training programs to support employee development.

However, it's harder than it looks to successfully digitize courses and learning initiatives. The peer pressure - and excitement - to adopt certain technologies as soon as they're available is real, but is it a good idea? 

Insights Discovery Architect, Dr Tanya Boyd recently presented at the ATD 2023 conference in San Diego. Her presentation shed light on the common pitfalls organizations find when digitising their programs, and she offered a practical model to create digital training programs that truly work.

This article examines the key ideas that Dr Boyd discussed. It also provides guidance on how to construct effective digital training programs that prioritize learners over technology.


Insights took our programs digital; we learned from our mistakes

Before the pandemic forced most organizations to shift their training online, Insights had already ventured into digitising our programs.

Initially, our attempts fell flat, but by the time the pandemic arrived and we were forced online, we had learned from our mistakes and were able to move swiftly.

The pandemic and post-pandemic digital versions of Insights programs, initially intended as temporary fixes, turned out to be hugely successful and now constitute a significant portion of our overall program delivery.

Technology-based training methods are commonplace for employee learning and development. But are they effective? it depends on their design...


Why use a learning model to design digital programs?

  1. A learning model addresses the challenge of when to use digital and when not to. It helps L&D pros resist the allure of flashy tech and keep the focus on learners
  2. A solid learning methodology can be used to evaluate existing content or build new content
  3. The right model will identify areas where your programs can activate awareness; greatly enhancing the quality of learning


The secret to successful digital learning programs: keep people at the center

The learning model we’re sharing today has been tested with diverse internal and external audiences, different types of programs, and under different degrees of pressure!

And in all cases, this model has empowered programs that work for learners.


What underpins this learning methodology?

  • We focus on the learner, not the content or technology. First we identify what employees feel is most valuable about the course
  • We consider digital tools carefully, prioritising relevance and need. We also consider how well the tools can support learners, instead of going for what looks cool or what is technically possible
  • We look for ways that digital supports what learners most value. For Insights, it was personalisation; activating each learner’s awareness about how the material was relevant to them personally.

Digital learning design model


When designing digital employee training, start with learners


The learner is at the center

Ask: What are the learners' needs?

Learner may refer to individual employees or a team.

In theory, most L&D pros understand that this is important. Yet, when transitioning to digital, we often focus on content, technology, or the trainer's preferences instead.

By putting the learner at the center of our model (literally), we remind ourselves to start there. What does the learner need to be able to do and why? What do they want?

Just as a side note here, there's an interesting paradox with the learner and digital technologies.

If we fall into the trap of putting digital capabilities at the center, i.e., ‘lets build this cool new thing because we can…’ it won’t work.

However, it’s often those “cool new technologies” that, when properly leveraged, let us meet the needs of each learner.


Move to awareness

Ask: Which types of awareness are most relevant to achieving the desired outcome?

They key to building high-performing teams is awareness.

It's critical to build awareness into the learning model; to build awareness into your programs. But how?

Insights own research suggests that there are four kinds of awareness that are useful to consider when designing programs:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Awareness of other people
  3. Situational awareness
  4. Awareness of future opportunities

We must ask which types of awareness are relevant and helpful for a learner when developing a program, then, look for ways to activate them into the design.

To learn more about these four types of awareness, continue here


Consider approach

Ask: What is the appropriate mixture of Resources to Experiences for this program?

Most L&D professionals are likely familiar with the terms Resources and Experiences. They come from Nick Shackleton-Jones affect model for learning, described in his (highly recommended) book How People Learn: Designing Education and Training that Works to Improve Performance (2019).

Shackleton-Jones suggests that when people care about something, they will find a way to learn it. When people don’t care about something, they won’t learn it, so our job, in this case, is to provide Experiences that help them care about it.

Considering the learner -and what they need to learn - can give you an idea of the most effective mix of Experiences and Resources for any solution.


Identify learning principles

Ask: Which of the learning principles should we (and can we) implement in this program?

The next ring has seven learning principles that are supported by research; none of these will be a surprise to most L&D professionals (particularly those who design training programs).

The point is to ask which will be most useful for your learners and focus on those few.

The seven principles are:

1.      Space learning

2.      Interleaving

3.      Direct instruction with worked examples

4.      Assessment

5.      Scenario-based practice

6.      Effective feedback

7.      Social learning


(Finally, the moment your technology consultants have been waiting for) Identify tools

Ask: Based on the previous answers, which tools will we incorporate?

The outer ring, which is the most dynamic, includes a selection of tools that could be used in a learning solution.

If you’ve followed the model in order, the info you glean in each inner ring will drive which tools you choose.

You will notice that “digital” is not specifically mentioned in this model. However, it could be anywhere in this model, depending on need and availability.

The learning methodology helps us identify what the learner needs to be able to do, and then consider the best way to achieve that outcome.

Where digital tools can be used to enable that outcome, they are the right choice. Where it does not, then it would not be the right choice.


Insights Digital Learning methodology in the workplace

This post is about "going digital." However, digital should be used for a specific purpose, it should not lead the way.

Once you have identified what your learners need and the types of awareness you want to activate, only then does it make sense to consider how digital can help.

For example

  • Profiles like Insights Discovery can be digital and easily accessed and shared anywhere
  • Digital nudges can remind learners of their personal goals within a learning offering
  • Recording powerful expert stories can make them available to more learners
  • Digital simulations can provide valuable practice (without risk)

This Insights digital learning model will benefit your learners and your organization by leading to success learning outcomes and increased learner engagement  - Dr Tanya Boyd


Digital program design outcomes

We completely understand how, when you're sitting in the boardroom with IT and exciting digital ideas and possibilities are being tossed around, it's tough to ground that conversation.

However, if we focus too heavily on the next digital “thing” we risk forgetting to activate the one simple thing that accelerates learning outcomes: awareness

We send you on your way with this learning methodology template, and the questions to activate awareness.

Trust us; this learning model will benefit both your learners and your organization. It will lead to successful learning outcomes and increased learner engagement. 

To learn more about how Insights can help you activate awareness and see better learning outcomes across all your teams, reach out today