Design Inspiration: Why big corporates shouldn’t necessarily be your inspiration

Luke Farmer | 12/05/2016

Omniplex_Blog_ColorSchemeFonts.pngHit a wall in your eLearning design? Looking for inspiration? Having worked for two global financial giants, I explore why getting inspiration from the big corporates isn’t always the greatest of ideas.

1. Assumptions

Well, you know what they say about assuming… There tends to be an assumption in large corporations that “Senior Management won’t like gamification”, or “eLearning needs to be more serious”. Why are these assumptions made? Have Senior Management ever been asked about their eLearning preferences?

I have had the opportunity to work alongside Board Members on several eLearning projects and was pleasantly surprised by their eagerness to move away from traditional eLearning. When questioned about typical corporate eLearning, some Board Members were honest enough to tell me “I hate it so much, I get my PA to do it for me!”.

When I introduced these senior individuals to more engaging methods of delivery (like scenarios and learning games), they were full of positivity and intrigue. They spoke with excitement about the different ways we could deliver content and were optimistic about the positive experiences eLearning could bring to staff.

The assumption that an individual’s position opposes them to engaging eLearning is wrong and by making these assumptions, Big Corporates close the door on a world of possibilities.

2. Unfunny

When I deliver classroom based training, much of the positive feedback I receive is around my use of humor. Why should eLearning be any different? It’s training after all.

Humor helps learners make an emotional connection to the content. If they do so, recall is improved. So much so that facts presented in a humorous story were recalled by 63% of learners. Recollection of the same facts was as low as 5% when presented in a traditional PowerPoint format. 

There is a tendency to match 'serious subject matter' with boring delivery in Corporate eLearning. I can’t ever remember laughing at a piece of eLearning during my 5+ years in the corporate world. Well, not for the right reasons anyway. Can you? But remember to not let humor overshadow the subject matter, eLearning is to teach, after all.

3. Mobile Addiction

Mobile learning. Yes, it’s a key part of the training-sphere. Yes, it will continue to grow. Yes, it has its benefits. But no, not every single course has to be fully responsive “in case somebody wants to do it on their iPad at home”.

Ask yourself these key questions:

  • How many people are going to complete the course on a mobile device?
  • Is that number worth compromising the entire design of your course? (Responsive design imposes several limitations on interactivity).
  • Would it be better to offer a dedicated version of the course for each platform (PC, Tablet, Phone)?

By insisting that all their courses must be totally responsive, Big Corporates often damage the learning experience for the majority of their learners.

4. Over Accessibility

Accessibility is a vital part of eLearning. We must be offering equal experiences for all learners, regardless of disability.

However, many Big Corporates design eLearning around the ideology of AAA compliance, something you may not need to replicate. Adopting the Big Corporates approach to eLearning will inadvertently limit you to this ideology, restricting the interactivity of your eLearning.

Instead, set the parameters for your organization. Make your own ‘reasonable adjustments’ (as the regulations state). Consider if the equivalent experience can even be found in eLearning. A classroom based workshop may provide a better learning experience for those with accessibility requirements, and allow you greater freedom in your eLearning design.

5. Absolute Pedagogy

By definition, pedagogy is:

The method and practice of teaching, especially as an academic subject or theoretical concept.

So obviously robust pedagogy is vital to our eLearning design. However, Big Corporates often get hung up on the idea of absolute pedagogy. By this I mean discussing (for hours on end) each screen individually and trying to shoe-horn it in to one learning theory or another, so they can document it in a “Strategic Pedagogy” document. Yawn.

Instead, why not go with experience. Design a course which you feel is engaging and effective. Then, trial it on a completely random group of learners. Get direct feedback from them. Ask what they liked, and what they didn’t. After all, everybody learns differently, so there is no such thing as absolute pedagogy. Direct feedback from an actual audience is far more valuable than textbook explanations of how theoretically wonderful a course is.

So, there you go, in terms of design inspiration, bigger companies do not necessarily provide the best ideas.

Want to learn more about eLearning design? Check out our blog “DESIGN: More than color schemes & fonts”.

Design: More than color scheme and fonts

Luke Farmer

Luke is an instructional designer here at Omniplex.