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ATD Blog

Spring Cleaning for L&D: Keeping, Updating, or Eliminating Content

Monday, March 28, 2022

In the latest issue of our Talent Brief newsletter, we focused on how to take a spring cleaning approach to our work as L&D professionals. Just as many of us use the change of season as an opportunity to declutter, we can take this moment to tidy up our learning programs as well.

It can be hard to get rid of learning content that we’ve grown attached to, so it’s helpful to have criteria for deciding what to keep and what to toss. We reached out to experts in the field to ask for their thoughts on how they decide whether to keep, update, or eliminate learning content.

Check out their replies below, and sign up for Talent Brief to get more insights like these in your inbox every Tuesday.

What Should I Get Rid Of?

“Too many of the world’s learning management systems are plagued by a serious case of hoarding. If a compliance subject requires a new course each year, for example, we have a bad habit as an industry of leaving up the old versions for far too long. The result, after more than a decade of large-scale e-learning programs, is a huge pile of outdated content that makes it harder for people to find what they need and harder for us to manage our systems. It may also expose us to unnecessary risk by making it harder to notice and fix outdated guidance.

And yet, some still argue this digital hoarding is a safe approach. ‘It doesn’t hurt to leave it up,’ they suggest, ‘someone might want to check it later.’ I understand the impulse. I’d be lying if I said there isn’t any clutter in my house that I can’t quite bring myself to throw away. But as learning professionals, we have to be more ruthless. Good learning targets a specific need, for a specific audience, in a specific time and place. When those conditions change, good training should be deleted—or at least well-hidden until it’s needed again.”

—Travis Waugh, manager of policy, training, and communication at TD SYNNEX


What Can I Reuse or Update?

“The key for any learning organization is to make consistent decisions. To be consistent, you need a clear process to determine what to keep, reuse, or sunset from existing materials. First, you should consider whether you are looking at a whole program or looking at a piece of content. Content is often easier to reuse than a whole program.

If content is still needed but is getting low level 1 (reaction) ratings, don’t just throw it out and start over. The Learning Cluster Design (LCD) model for modern learning offers a clear and consistent method to reuse, rather than reinvent, existing materials. In the Upgrade Existing Assets Action, you’ll learn how to apply the Nine Elements of Modern Learning to determine whether an asset is good enough as is, or if it needs to be sunsetted altogether. You can also use these elements to improve design, develop ideas for reusing content, and create new learning assets when needed. This method saves time, resources, and improves learner and trainer engagement.”

—Crystal Kadakia and Lisa MD Owens, co-authors of Designing for Modern Learning: Beyond ADDIE and SAM


How Do I Avoid Reinventing the Wheel With Each New Update?

“Our rapid innovation cycle over the last two years created many new ways of thinking and led to new technology. Now is the time to think critically about what our learners’ experiences should be, not what they have to be because of legacy limitations.

We need to take the old paradigm of learning as an event, and flip it on its ear. Event-driven learning was often bloated with everything a learner could ever want (not necessarily need) to know, which made a lot of corporate learning content not as relevant as it needed to be and made updates more time intensive than necessary.

It’s time to blow legacy courses and constructs apart. Once done, we can re-cast a new story with discreet course assets that meet our learners where they are and provide them with what they need to know in order to perform something new, with organic opportunities to apply what they’ve learned in the flow of their work.

This new way of thinking about content will make us lean and mean, enabling us to be better stewards for our learners and stakeholders, and reducing the burden when it’s time for a content update.”

—Ann Rollins, solutions architect at the Ken Blanchard Companies

About the Author

Eliza Blanchard, APTD, is ATD's Learning & Development content manager. Contact her at [email protected].

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