When you’re designing learning for your business, it can be really hard to know where to begin. Because you don’t just want learning that’s “good enough,” you want learning that’s right for you, your culture, and your people. Often, this means you want learning that your people can access easily from anywhere (eLearning), and you want learning that will support your people long-term (performance support).
To find that perfect balance, let’s take a look at Venn Diagrams. They’re a simple diagram used to help understand the similarities and differences between two (or three or four) things. In the Venn Diagram, different options each have their own circle, and the place where those circles overlap is called Reuleaux triangle—where the different options come together to create the optimal solution.
So if you see eLearning and performance support as two circles, there’s a near-perfect center where the two overlap (the Reuleaux triangle)—and that’s your optimal learning solution. Before we dig into what optimal solution looks like, let’s take a look at both circles.
How eLearning works
We all have a pretty good idea of what eLearning is, and we’ve all experienced it in one form or another. eLearning is learning that is delivered in an electronic format (often online) and is self-paced by the learner. This is a broad definition and has a lot of potential applications. eLearning can range for Youtube videos, to Storyline courses or a completely online LMS. To help narrow it down and find the coveted overlap of the Venn Diagram, we’ll have to take a closer look at its neighboring circle, performance support.
What is performance support?
Performance support is anything that helps you do your job better. It gives you what you need when you need it, and it can come in any form.
Performance support can be a physical solution. Take a checklist, for example. If you’re training a new employee at a local deli with sandwich names like “The Californian” or “Ham Extravaganza,” it may take a couple of days (or weeks) before that new employee has committed the full list of sandwich orders to memory. Enter performance support. Keep a simple checklist available behind the counter, listing what ingredients belong on each sandwich. This increases sandwich-making efficiency and accuracy (and decreasing employee stress!).
While a checklist is performance support in its most helpful and simplest form, it’s a good example. Because it perfectly fits the definition of performance support: successfully giving the learner what they need when they need it.
As technology’s progressed, performance support has begun shifting to primarily electronic support, such as search engines or mobile applications. Today, electronic performance support systems (EPSS) have to follow a few particular characteristics.
- It must provide information that’s specific to the required task—no irrelevant data
- It must provide that specific information exactly when that information is needed
- It must provide enough information that the need for training before performing the task is reduced
It’s easy to see how support on mobile devices fits these criteria, but performance support can’t answer all the learning problems alone—which is why that finding the center overlap of the Venn Diagram is so important.
What optimal learning looks like
In most cases, optimal learning is blended learning. Blended learning combines eLearning and performance support without missing a beat. This lets learners boost their knowledge in the office or on the go, allowing them to fit learning into busy life schedules—anywhere and at any time.
Individually, eLearning and performance support are powerful tools. But, when the best of both are brought together, you create a brand new learning experience—tailored to the exact needs of your learners.
Here are a few more examples in action.
The perfect balance for sales
Imagine you are in pharmaceutical sales. Earlier that morning, you just finished a short eLearning course on a brand new product for diabetics (eLearning). Now, you’re in the hospital, just leaving a meeting with Dr. Jones. Suddenly, you see Dr. Smith walking down the hallway—the one doctor that’s always been too busy to see you.
Excited, you duck into the nearest waiting room, pull out your tablet, and review all of the information on diabetes, which is her specialty (performance support). Five minutes later, you walk into her office to request a meeting, confident and ready to pitch.
Learn your way to the best bottle of wine
Let’s move to wine country for another example. The process of making great wine requires constant attention to detail. When employees first get hired at a winery, they take initial training at the office (eLearning).
When it’s time to head out to the vineyard, the staff can perform and log tasks like pruning, weeding, pest control, soil amendment, and monitoring climate conditions on their tablets, all while accessing notes on what optimal conditions look like (performance support). This real-time data collection and monitoring ensures the best possible crop without going wasting time going back and forth from the office to the vineyard.
Take performance support + eLearning to new heights
Now, let’s go up—far up! You’re a wind turbine mechanic. You often take courses on new equipment and technology (eLearning). But you can’t take your laptop 300 feet up into the air with you. So, when you’re working on turbines, you take your tools and one other thing: your mobile device.
Even when you’re hanging out with the birds, you can easily navigate, filter, and search through your manual and complete tasks efficiently with checklists tailored to your specific goals (performance support). And, if you need to contact another technician to obtain assistance, you can take a picture of the problem, send it over, and get feedback without having to make the long descent back down to Earth.
Support your learners with the best
The blended learning approach (the Venn Diagram’s center) ties the best of both eLearning and performance support together. Refreshing your memory with performance support is always more powerful when you can relate the content back to original eLearning.
Don’t limit yourself or your learners to one delivery method. The days when all learning was completed in a small office in front of an overheated desktop is long over. Take a look at what both your learners and their positions need, then design a learning solution that helps your learners be the best they can be.
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