Bridge the Right Gap – Knowledge, Skills, or Motivation?
Why do learners need the training you plan to deliver to them via an e-learning course? This is an essential question to answer before any design work begins. This is because the answer will determine the direction of the design, the content of the course, and, ultimately, the final product.
There are three main answers to the question why learners need training:
- They need knowledge – there is a knowledge gap
- They need skills – there is a skills gap
- They need the right motivation – there is a motivation gap
If you don’t understand why learners need the training, it will be much more difficult getting them to where you want them to be. Let’s look at this in more detail.
The knowledge gap is sometimes called the information gap. It is where you need the learner to have knowledge they don’t currently possess. This could be anything from staff policies during the onboarding process to details of a new product to information about a new regulatory change that will impact your business.
Crucially, however, giving the learner the required information – the knowledge – is not, in itself, enough. For example, simply listing all the features of a new product is unlikely to be effective. A better approach is to outline to your salespeople the types of customer who will want to buy the product and why they will want to buy it. This is in addition to explaining what the product is and what it does.
In other words, you give the learner knowledge about the product, but you also show the learner how to use that knowledge.
Skills gaps and knowledge gaps are often confused. There is a simple method of determining whether the objective of your e-learning course is to fill a skills gap or a knowledge gap:
- If the learner requires practice to become proficient in what you are teaching them, you are filling a skills gap
- If the learner can put the training to immediate use without practice, you are filling a knowledge gap
The difference between the above is critically important to the success of your e-learning course. This is because you will not achieve the best outcomes, or return on investment, if you don’t give learners the opportunity to practice when the objective of the e-learning course is to fulfil a skills gap.
This is a unique but important scenario that doesn’t fall neatly into either of the two categories above. It occurs when a learner has the information and/or skills required but doesn’t use them. There are multiple reasons for this occurring including:
- The learner doesn’t agree or buy into the objective you are trying to achieve
- The learner doesn’t understand the objective
- The learner doesn’t understand why the objective is important
- You may not have communicated the objective clearly enough, causing confusion
- The learner may be afraid of change
- The learner may be resistant to change for reasons other than being afraid
- The learner was delivering before so knows what is required, but has lost focus
- There is a lack of commitment or interest on behalf of the learner
- The learner doesn’t understand what is in it for them
It is difficult to change the learner’s perspective or opinion with some of the above, but it is possible in many situations. Understanding what you are dealing with, however, is crucial to getting the structure, content, and tone of the e-learning course right.
How to Bridge the Gap
Once you understand the gap your e-learning course aims to bridge, you can start adding elements, learning techniques, and design styles to your e-learning course to ensure you achieve your objectives. Here are some examples:
- Using scenarios to help learners understand how they can use the knowledge they have gained by completing the e-learning course. Scenarios are modern, e-learning versions of role-playing activities that take place in traditional classroom-based training environments.
- Adding gamification elements to give learners an opportunity to practice the skills they’ve learned from the e-learning course. This takes the imparted knowledge to another level by getting the learner to put that knowledge to practical use.
- If the gap you need to bridge is a motivational gap, you will need to ensure you include content that deals with whatever motivational issue you face. This could be, for example, explaining why the course is important to the learner, or it could involve clearly explaining the objective of the course. In addition, making the course as interactive, interesting, easy-to-use, relevant, and engaging as possible will also help to overcome motivational issues.
Effective e-learning is not about going through the motions of making the right information available to learners. Instead, it is about understanding your objective and the nature of the gap that is preventing learners from getting there.