How can we apply Amazon’s mission to the development of learning solutions?I like to wear what I call my “learner advocate hat” as an instructional designer. I believe that the learner should be at the forefront of learning design. That sounds like a no-brainer, but too often I see learning solutions (and have been required to design them myself!) in which it’s obvious the learner was not the primary consideration. Too often we design learning solutions because we perceive a need for them and we haven’t (a) made an observation that validates that need or (b) surveyed or assessed our target audience to gauge their motivation to learn about a topic.
I have a dream that learning design—and maybe even LMSs—will turn to Amazon for inspiration. Amazon’s mission is “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.”
Wow! With this stated mission, it’s no wonder Amazon is one of the most successful companies on the planet. In my dream, just as we consumers are driven to shop at Amazon, instructional designers would develop solutions that keep learners coming back for more.
Here are a few ways in which we can be inspired by Amazon’s (very) successful model:
#1. Design the most learner-centric training you can. Be obsessed with making YOUR customers happy, like Amazon is. And by customers, I mean the end users … the learners. Sure, someone else may be footing the bill for what learners too often have to suffer through, but it’s up to us, as instructional designers, to advocate for learners and eliminate their suffering. Breathe life into your learners by breathing life into your learning solutions! You can do this with a thorough front-end analysis and by asking the right questions to learn as much as you can about your target audience. Then keep what you’ve learned in mind as you design and develop the solution.
#2. Personalize it. Recommend learning solutions based on profile, preferences, tracking, and ratings. If you have shopped on Amazon (and, really, who hasn’t?), you know that the store is continually customizing your experience. The interface shows you comparable products, who bought what, what you might want to buy next, how people rated the products and whether they recommend them, and the list goes on and on. What if our learning management systems did a similar thing? What if learners could rate the courseware and recommend it (or not) to others? I bet there would be a trend toward better design if learners were offered a public voice, as they are with products. I would be up for that level of accountability for my learning solutions. How about you?
#3. Have what learners need when they need it. Amazon’s website is similar to just-in-time learning. I can think of anything (anything!) and probably find it on Amazon. If I have Amazon Prime, I can have it quickly and with perks. (I won’t get into the rewards program that is Prime, but it warrants further consideration as inspiration.) Not only can I search for and find almost anything, the site is smart enough to make recommendations and customize my interface and my shopping experience. What if learners could go to their learning portal, and the LMS would customize their experience to the degree that Amazon does? What if, on top of that, the learner could (and would want to) search for other training of interest? I have a dream.
Shauna Vaughan joined SweetRush in November 2014 as a lead instructional designer, and we are thrilled to add her voice and experience to the team. Shauna is excited to push the envelope on learner-centric experiences in collaboration with the SweetRush team and our clients. You can find Shauna on LinkedIn and Twitter—she would love to connect with you! If you would like to learn more about SweetRush’s instructional design approach, check out our page on Effective Learning Techniques.
Photo Credit: Nic Taylor, Flickcr.com Creative Commons.