Saturday, July 25, 2009

Pointing to the Five Moments of Learning Need

By Jay Lambert

I can remember a project a few years ago where the subject matter expert (SME) fought and fought to include his 20-step process (complete with details and charts) in the course we were developing. He eventually persuaded his boss and won out, so we built the process into the course. Feedback from the learners was not positive and ranged from comments like "what is this and why in the world would I need to know it" on down to, shall we say, less positive remarks.

Obviously a better needs analysis should have been conducted.

And so upon further investigation, the truth of the matter finally came out. Only a small percentage of people really needed to know the full details of the process; most just needed to know that it existed. The course should have simply provided a brief introduction and a link to where to find more information on the company's intranet if necessary. But the SME was so enamored with what he had created that he wanted to share his joy with the rest of the world.

I'm sure that most of you have encountered the same SME.

There are two purposes to this story. The first is to highlight again how important it is to understand what content really needs to make its way into an eLearning course and what is just extra "nice to know." The second purpose is to ask ourselves what should become of that "nice to know" content.

This is where Bob Mosher and Conrad Gottfredson’s great research on their
Performance Support Blog comes in. They've identified 'Five Moments of Learning Need' and matched these needs to their most effective delivery method. Not surprisingly, only two of the five needs call for training development.
Gottfredson’s 'Five Moments of Learning Need'
Note that only Needs 1 and 2 ("when learning for the first time" and "when learning more") require training. The rest is simply information that people need to know at a specific time -- the "what if this happens" scenario. Deeper dive information, such as in-depth details of a process, certainly falls into Need 3 ("when remembering and/or applying what's been learned"). This content can be presented as job aids, as part of an electronic performance support system (EPSS), or simply housed on the company intranet somewhere as long as people know where to find it when they need to do so.

The Moments of Learning Need came in handy recently when we encountered the same SME (different person, but same approach).

After determining that the eLearning course's objective was to provide a reasonable overview and then knowledge of where to go for more information as learners need it, we pulled out the Moments of Learning Need as part of our discussion/intervention with the SME. And he accepted it (people like documented research). The extra details were put on to the company intranet where they could easily be maintained and referenced. And a nice targeted course was developed that included an activity of how to find the extra details when necessary. This is all the learners needed and thankfully all they received.

We'll definitely be keeping the Moments of Learning Need document close by.