Why Learning Designers Should Become Marketers


When I was at school there were some subjects I just struggled to get any interest in.  I would have to force myself to stay awake or at least look like I was awake while drifting off into another more interesting pursuit.


Many of us will have experienced these memories from our high school days.  Students get disinterested, teachers get frustrated because very few are paying attention, and the students’ retention of knowledge remains very low in the long term.


Today we have left behind the chalk and talk culture of the “old days”, but many of us carry over the same approach to learning that our high school teachers once bored us to death with.  It’s not intentional – we spit out information and pack it in to our programmes because it’s often the fastest way by which we can meet the minimum requirements for communicating content.


This default approach is hardly good enough.  The discipline of marketing is based on making information compelling and presentable so why don’t we look to them for clues on how to do the same for training.


Here are some strategies from the world of marketing that can make your e-learning courses more engaging, more memorable and more digestible.


Contextualize learning needs

Today when people want information they generally go to Google.  To overcome this unfortunate and not necessarily efficient methodology learning designers are starting to contextualize their content in more meaningful ways.  What do you know about your learners’ unique needs?  What expertise do you have that will help your learners apply their knowledge?  How can you convince them that the content they are learning is both important and interesting?  Answering these questions is the best way to establish the context behind your content.


Become personally interested

The best teachers show genuine excitement about the subject they are teaching.  It doesn’t matter what you are, if you teach, you need to become a marketer . . . if you’re not personally sold on your product, then other people won’t be either.  To sharpen this interest, do your homework before embarking on a project.  Do research, think about what’s at stake, and work out what it would take to convince yourself that the learning objectives are important.  Once you believe in it yourself, you can focus on convincing others.


Keep it short

Human beings have incredibly short attention spans these days.  Digital marketers know that in order to get their message across, they need to keep things brief.  The advent of just-in-time learning has highlighted the importance of “short and pertinent”.  Get to the point quickly and only use content that is really relevant to the learning objectives.  Forget huge blocks of text and 15 minute videos, they don’t measure up any more.


Use a variety of media

Marketing in the digital age is a juggling act that involves many different types of media.  To capture attention it’s best to have a diverse marketing strategy that includes traditional methods like print ads and billboards, but new options like online ads, social media engagement, blog content, and video are just as essential.  Likewise, incorporating a variety of media in an eLearning environment breaks up the flow of information, giving learners much-needed breaks and opportunities to interact with the material in different ways.


Marketers are experts at identifying and optimising the expectations and needs of their target audience, and if learning designers can do the same, they will be able to create courses that better capture the needs and expectations of their audience better than ever before.


The field of marketing has a lot to offer the field of learning design, especially when it comes to eLearning.  As the pace of our digital media consumption increases, the pace, interactivity, and diversity of our eLearning models must also grow.

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