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December 13, 2019

Regardless of Training Method, Ensure Consistent Learner Experience

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Today's learners like to have a choice of learning format and delivery method. Offering learning materials in text, video, microlearning and additional channels ensures that learners will engage with and retain their training. Regardless of the training method, though, your messaging must be consistent.

Multimodal learning is more engaging

Providing learners with a choice of training method and media is important for several reasons.

A multinational company might have employees or channel partners with varied levels of fluency in the training languages. Offering learners captioned videos, text, infographics and other forms allows them to choose the most comfortable training format—or review the content in several modalities.

Organizations that work with partners or train clients and customers might also offer training at different depths for different audiences. Not all learners need to master all material to the same competency level, but they all do need clear and consistent training materials.

Providing content using different training methods optimizes individual choice as well as accommodating personal preferences. This makes materials easier to access and encourages learners to engage with them for longer. It's also consistent with principles of the Universal Design for Learning, which emphasizes offering learners different ways to access information and show their mastery.

Whatever your reasons for providing content using different media, it's critical to ensure that learners receive a consistent message in every format.

Consistency builds trust

Consistency across platforms reduces learner confusion and builds trust.

Businesses and media organizations—including eLearning designers—have used style guides for generations to ensure consistency. Style guides focus on minute details, like punctuation usage, as well as higher-level issues, like use of brand colors and logos. Ensuring consistency in this way shows attention to detail and regard for the quality of a company's products. It also shows that materials have been planned carefully and checked for accuracy.

Inconsistent or untidy visual presentation and contradictory or unclear messaging across training materials will leave learners wondering whether their managers agree on company priorities. Those learners are also less likely to remember and act on conflicting information.

In contrast, consistent, high-quality materials reflect professionalism and expertise, giving them an aura of credibility—and building trust with learners.

Consistent messaging aids learning

Reinforcing content and messaging across learning platforms aids retention, too. A study published by the National Academy of Sciences explored ways to optimize long-term retention of material by varying the number of repetitions and the spacing, or time between them.

Repeating information in slightly different ways—whether using variations of questions or activities to check recall or teaching the same content across multiple training methods—is key to retention. Repetition piggybacks on the known principle that, in the researchers' words, "Our ability to remember a piece of information depends critically on the number of times we have reviewed it."

When changing delivery format or varying training approach, be sure to maintain a consistent learner experience. According to Training Industry, "Drastic changes in how content is organized, accessed or delivered from event to event can confuse learners and lead to poorer retention and transfer of knowledge and skills."

Create consistent training

Simple tools can help ensure consistency across training media. A training management system might encompass devices, job aids and practices for training developers to follow. Simple ways to get started include adopting a style guide and adding organization-specific entries to ensure consistency in usage of industry- or company-specific terms and abbreviations or creating checklists and templates.

In addition, training designers and developers could brainstorm creative ways to produce multimodal content that conveys a uniform message while providing an accessible, engaging and consistent learner experience, no matter the training method.