The first part of this blog series explored why training and development professionals must apply a compelling design strategy to the overall design of the learning environment. Now let’s take a look at the seven guiding principles of the PDS:
1. Reduction: simplify complex tasks.
2. Tunneling: Guided Persuasion – giving control to the experts.
3. Suggestion: Place triggers on the path of motivated learners.
4. Personalization: Provide options and learners are more likely to complete whatever task they choose.
5. Self-monitoring: never underestimate the pleasure of ticking a box or recognizing
6. Conditioning: Reinforcement of targeted behaviors.
7. Monitoring: It’s only scary if you don’t share the results — design the data first.
Before we begin, however, it should be noted that PDS is not about any particular platform or new technology that requires specific algorithms. Instead, the PDS focuses on the intention of the designer – persuading behaviors in the learning environment to reduce frustration, increase engagement, and positively improve fluency. While some of the examples in this article are from open source platforms commonly used by Remote-Learner, the strategies should be seen as universal.
This is one of the most important strategies. Learners often have to overcome several obstacles just to get to their course. Navigating a site and crawling the content shouldn’t be a chore. It is essential to reduce the cognitive load on a learner. If you do something simple to do, learners are more likely to do it (think: Amazon OneClick). For example, decisions made for user authentication are often overlooked, but it can have a huge impact. As the first task a learner must complete, simplifying it means that a learner won’t be frustrated before they’ve even been able to enter the site.
Another mistake that many digital learning sites often make is providing all the options a learner might need on every page. The result is that the learner is overwhelmed and doesn’t know what their next step should be. A clean and simple interface that uses reduction will easily show them where they need to go for all of their needs.
Tunneling refers to the practice of guided guidance through an experience. Ideally, this guidance structure should be almost invisible to the learner. It is very similar to the software update process on your computer. The system guides you through informed steps, but provides structure along the way. This is not a new strategy for educators. However, when tunneling is overused, it can have the opposite effect you want.
A common misuse of tunneling is when a learner is forced to go through an endless loop of exams and “try again” prompts in order to complete a lesson. If the desired behavior is for learners to review the material and achieve proficiency, reviewing the material should not be punitive.
Suggestion is a strategy focused on
Kairos—where information is presented to learners at the right time to be more effective in changing their behavior. In other areas, this can be seen in the use of recommendation engines which often require complex algorithms. As a design strategy, a simpler approach can be taken and produce similar results. In short, suggestions are triggers placed in the path of motivated learners used to persuade behavior and keep them engaged.
For example, if your learners are allowed to register for courses on their own, having a list of recommended courses would be a slight incentive to encourage continued use. This information may be based on information stored in their profile or on courses they have already taken.
Adaptation is a strategy that makes it possible to adapt an experience to each learner. The choice and personalization of the environment are the two main designers for adapting learning experiences. For example, when shopping online, people often receive recommendations for similar items. L&D designers can apply this strategy by suggesting options and letting learners make a choice when possible.
Some learning platforms can help with adaptation, creating a more personal experience for each individual. A simple example is to refer to users by name or remember what they recently viewed. Small changes like a personal greeting when logging in can turn the site into a social actor who participates in their learning process.
Showing content or instructions that relate to an individual’s needs creates a sense of connection to the environment which results in increased engagement. A common way of combining reduction, suggestion, and adaptation is seen in our approach to comment design. An example might be to suggest that a learner review content that they incorrectly answered in a quiz and place a link in the comments to review the information, while giving them the option to move on to the next question. . This simple combination of strategies makes a suggestion for review, offers a choice to the learner, and makes accepting either path simple and easy to do.
With self-monitoring, learners are informed of their progress in order to persuade them to achieve their goals. Designers can borrow tools and techniques from gamification. For example, progress bars and checklists are common in website design and are often used to monitor the completion of a user’s tasks. Badges and certificates are another way to persuade learners to complete tasks or courses.
Keep in mind, however, that the strategy behind when and how we decide to use these tools in designing a digital learning experience can make all the difference. Concrete example: Certificates can be awarded for the completion of a task or course. This means that any learner who completes a course with a passing grade can earn a certificate. However, a badge could be awarded to learners who complete the course with a grade of 95 or higher. The trick is to let learners know in advance of the potential badges available so that you can persuade the behavior to earn them.
This is a simple yet powerful strategy focused on encouraging and reinforcing targeted behaviors. When it comes to conditioning, we can learn a lot from digital game design: when and how to use rewards, avoid reward fatigue, choose consistent designs, use lesson patterns that build confidence and help build good habits. . A good example of conditioning is getting learners to complete the user profile. Learners who follow the instructions to complete the profile are rewarded with access to the rest of the site; during this time, learners who do not follow the instructions may have limited access.
Monitoring refers to the collection of data on the behavior of learners and the results of their performance. If information is power, then empowering learners can be one of the most persuasive strategies of all. People can be very competitive, and tapping into that competitiveness can be a great motivator. Ratings are a type of surveillance strategy that uses gamification to assign points for specific behaviors. It’s also a great way to combine conditioning and reward positive behavior.
You want to know more ? Join me at ATD TechKnowledge 2018 for the “Reinventing the Learner Environment Through Persuasive Design Strategy” session, which is part of the E-Learning journey.