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Integrate learning in the flow of work

In our industry, we commonly refer to our target audience as learners, but it's crucial to remember that they are, first and foremost, performers. They are employed to fulfill specific roles and achieve certain outcomes, and our mission is to empower them to excel in these responsibilities. As learning professionals explore strategies to enhance both organizational and employee performance, we must not overlook the most effective approach: supporting performers precisely when and where their need arises—within the flow of their daily work. This method not only ensures that support is immediately applicable and relevant but also promotes a culture of continuous learning and adaptation.


Through this lesson, you will explore five use cases for embedding learning within the work context, leveraging technology and creative instructional strategies.


1. Embed learning into platforms employees already use to complete their work.


Imagine a new hire navigating through Microsoft Teams, meticulously analyzing a data spreadsheet for their first big project. As they delve deeper, they encounter a complex problem that requires advanced data analysis skills. Instead of pausing their work to search through a Learning Management System (LMS) for relevant training, they simply click an icon within the Teams interface that opens an integrated video library. This specialized library is stocked with upskilling videos focused on data analysis techniques directly applicable to their immediate challenge. With a few intuitive clicks, they discover a concise, targeted tutorial offering the precise insights needed. This direct access to learning materials, embedded right within their workflow, doesn’t just save time; it transforms the learning experience. The employee can immediately apply these newfound skills, significantly enhancing their contribution to the project. This isn’t a future aspiration; it’s a current reality made possible through technologies like Panopto, which offers detailed tracking and reporting even when the learnings assets sit outside an LMS.


2. Transform SharePoint sites into AI learning hubs.


Using SharePoint for performance support is common, yet often underestimated and underutilized. Instructional designers have a golden opportunity to elevate the educational utility of their company's SharePoint site by converting it into a dynamic learning hub. A specific use case involves the integration of Microsoft Cognitive Services to enhance content discoverability and personalization within SharePoint. For instance, by leveraging the Text Analytics API, a feature of Microsoft Cognitive Services, instructional designers can implement an AI-powered tagging system that automatically categorizes learning materials based on their content. This enables a more intuitive search experience for employees, allowing them to find relevant materials quickly based on topics, skill levels, or specific keywords.


Furthermore, the integration of Azure Bot Service can lead to the creation of a chatbot within SharePoint that serves as a virtual learning assistant. This chatbot could use natural language processing to understand user queries and provide recommendations for learning resources directly related to the user’s current project or role. Imagine an employee working on a new marketing campaign who needs a refresher on SEO best practices. They could simply ask the SharePoint-integrated chatbot, which would instantly suggest top-rated resources from the learning hub, streamlining their search process and significantly reducing downtime. This use case exemplifies how specific AI technologies can transform SharePoint into not just a repository of information but a tailored, interactive learning platform that actively supports the workforce's development and performance needs.

3. Deploy performance support tools with enterprise software.


Instructional designers can deploy performance support tools within enterprise software to provide real-time assistance and guidance to employees, enhancing their efficiency and effectiveness in using complex software systems. One compelling use case involves the integration of performance support tools with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. By embedding step-by-step guides, tooltips, and on-screen assistance directly into the CRM interface, employees can receive immediate help with navigating the software, entering data accurately, and executing specific tasks such as generating reports or setting up new customer profiles. This just-in-time guidance minimizes the need for extensive training sessions and reduces the likelihood of errors, enabling employees to become proficient with the software more quickly and confidently.


Another use case focuses on the deployment of AI-powered chatbots within Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. These chatbots can be programmed to understand common queries and provide instant responses, guiding users through complex processes, such as inventory management or financial reporting, with ease. For instance, if an employee is unsure about how to proceed with a purchase order, the chatbot can walk them through the process step-by-step or direct them to specific instructional content within the ERP system. This approach not only speeds up task completion but also significantly enhances the learning curve, allowing employees to master the intricacies of the ERP system in the flow of their work. Such performance support tools, tailored to the context of the enterprise software being used, empower employees to leverage the full capabilities of these systems, ultimately driving productivity and operational efficiency.


4. Develop mobile microlearning for flexible access.


Another effective approach to seamlessly integrate learning within the flow of work is by developing bite-sized mobile learning assets tailored to the fast-paced lifestyle of contemporary learners. Leveraging tools like 7taps, instructional designers can craft concise interactions incorporating text, images, videos, and quizzes, enabling learners to swiftly engage with the content. These compact learning bursts serve as convenient resources for reinforcing fundamental concepts or providing rapid refreshers on intricate topics. Learners can effortlessly access these modules anytime, anywhere, fitting seamlessly into their schedules and preferences. For instance, envision a sales representative preparing for a crucial client meeting; they can efficiently review a mobile module covering new product features or sales strategies during their commute to the appointment, ensuring they arrive well-prepared and self-assured—all accomplished within the brief elevator ride up to the client's office.


5. Enhance hands-on training with Augmented Reality (AR).


Enhancing hands-on training with augmented reality (AR) offers a transformative learning experience, particularly in technical fields where practical skills are paramount. Consider a scenario in manufacturing where employees undergo training on equipment maintenance. By integrating AR technology, instructional designers can overlay digital instructions, 3D models, and interactive guides directly onto physical machinery, providing trainees with real-time visual cues and step-by-step instructions as they perform tasks. This immersive approach allows learners to interact with virtual elements overlaid onto the physical environment, fostering a deeper understanding of complex procedures and reducing the risk of errors during training. For example, trainees can use AR-enabled smart glasses, such as Microsoft HoloLens, to view virtual diagrams illustrating the disassembly process of a machine, while simultaneously receiving audio instructions guiding them through each step. This integration of AR not only enhances the effectiveness of hands-on training but also accelerates the learning curve, ensuring employees gain proficiency more efficiently while minimizing downtime and operational disruptions.


Summary and next steps


Acknowledging our target audience as performers underscores the imperative to support them precisely within the flow of their daily work. By embedding learning into platforms employees already use, transforming SharePoint into AI learning hubs, deploying performance support tools with enterprise software, developing mobile microlearning, and enhancing hands-on training with Augmented Reality (AR), we can ensure that learning is immediately applicable and relevant, fostering a culture of continuous learning and adaptation. To apply these strategies, start by identifying specific needs and opportunities, piloting use cases, collaborating with IT and subject matter experts, and continuously gathering feedback to refine and iterate on your approach. Embrace a performance-centered mindset and leverage technology to empower your workforce, driving sustainable growth and innovation within your organization.

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