Too often, associations interested in establishing new online learning programs focus first upon technology. That’s an eLearning strategy misfire. Technology should support the intended online experience – which means we need to first ask:
- What is our primary target audience for this program (singular)?
- What is our secondary target audience for this program (may be plural)?
- What ideal experience do we wish to offer them?
- Is this vision in alignment with our target learner’s tech profile?
Why? Because the answers to these questions will help you prioritize the technology capabilities you need to invest in (leave other bells and whistles behind) and clarify how to design a vital learning experience your members will stampede for.
If your team is not sure how to answer the fourth question, your program may be at risk.
What’s a Learner Tech Profile?
If you’ve stratified your target audiences and specified the ideal experience you’d like to offer, you’re ahead of the curve. But identifying these important points is useless if they are not figured into the program design.
Three key considerations for fleshing out your target learner’s tech profile include:
- Attitude. Hold your prospective audience in mind and ask: on a scale of petrified to proficient, where does our audience land? Pew’s latest report on Digital Readiness shows there are several factors that play into whether an adult learner is ready to learn online – and attitude is not strictly generation based. Knowing where your learners fall on the spectrum of unprepared to digitally ready is critical to designing a welcoming online learning environment. Overly complex or simplified interfaces will not impress target audiences.
- Preferences. As you continue to think about your prospective audience, ask: how do they use technology to find information, solve problems, and introduce new efficiencies at work? Your learners’ tech preferences lend valuable insights into the formats and digital learning features they will most easily gravitate toward. The Minnesota Soybean Growers Association members love Twitter; failing to incorporate social media with online learning would be a fail. Medical societies note their physician members are accustomed to accessing information across devices; online learning that is not optimized across laptop, tablet and smartphone interfaces is a fail.
- Capacity. Once more thinking about that prospective audience, ask: what is their capacity to try new things? Likely your association has introduced innovations and has developed keen insight into the predicting how new programs or technologies will be embraced. If you’ve come to expect anxiety, you know stepping out change over time is key. If your members are interested in new ways of doing things when properly prepared, you know tutorials and FAQs will be important components of your new online learning program. If your target learners are ready to strike out and explore new territory, you have much greater leeway to pilot creative learning environments.
Fleshing out your Learner’s Tech Profile addressing attitude, preferences, and capacity prepares your association to design online learning that will feel like home to your members. And make the most of your investment.
King is chief learning strategist and founder at InspirEd. She is an author, speaker and education thought leader in the association space. Read her blog Tracy King EdThreads.