Working with SMEs can be challenging. However, we need to put ourselves in their shoes to realize that most of the time it is not their primary job to design learning. It is natural that you follow different paths toward the same goal because teaching and doing require completely different mindsets.
What Is Learning Design?
Let’s get started with a new mindset. Our job is not to teach or instruct, but to help others to learn, and that changes everything! We are changing the subject of the action. When we say “to instruct,” our brain automatically uses known mental models to build a training session in which instructions will be given.
When we change our mental model and replace instruction with learning, we put ourselves in the place of a facilitator, one who looks for ways to contribute so that others learn and, thus, change their conduct permanently, transferring what they learned to their work routine. The learning approach makes learning the subject of the action.
I developed the Trahentem method using Canvas as a systematized, linked, and intentional way to organize content, using appropriate learning methodologies for each type of knowledge, to stimulate and facilitate the learning process in different contexts, and to promote behavior change. At its core, Trahentem makes the learner the star of the process, and equips SMEs with the tools and strategies they need to communicate their knowledge accordingly.
What Is the Trahentem Approach?
As in design thinking, the Trahentem method combines the analysis of the context of a problem with empathy, placing people at the center of the learning design process. From design thinking comes the search for diverse perspectives for problem analysis and solution, always prioritizing the collaborative work performed by multidisciplinary teams.
Trahentem for learning design using Canvas is a very simple tool composed of three Canvas models:
Each of them was designed for a specific purpose correlated to the training cycle.
The first Canvas is all about diagnosis. The participants are at the center of the design process because it is all about them. We need to understand learners and the performance that is expected from them. The best way to do that is to have a multidisciplinary group to work together. This group is supposed to identify how the expected performance will affect the organizational goal. Otherwise we will not be able to measure the results.
After doing that, it is time to put ourselves in the learners’ shoes to understand what they see, feel, and think in the environment where they work. Once we have done that, we might be able to check if the existing performance gap can be bridged with training. If we are not sure yet, we must do some extra research, which might include reports, performance evaluation, focus groups, and other sources, before taking the decision. The last thing to do is to write the learning objectives.
The second Canvas will analyze each task individually. We start by bringing the learning objectives and the tasks related to each of them from the ID-Empathy Canvas. The next step is to gather information about the location of the participants, available devices, and other things that should be taken into consideration for the design. After doing that, we will use this Canvas to select the knowledge that is essential to perform each task. This Canvas is key for SMEs because it helps them avoid information overload.
The third Canvas works as a road map. The structure of the Canvas guides the process of building modules based on how people learn. It all starts with the selection of specific knowledge from the previous Canvas (ID-Tasks). Depending on the complexity and length of each piece of knowledge, the designer will approach one or more subjects in each module. After deciding that, it is time to write a specific learning objective for the module to remain focused and start the selection of learning strategies that work best for each type of knowledge. The process is meant to bridge theory into practice. After deciding on strategies, it is time to consider what layout and technology works best, and list all the material that must be produced.
Main Benefits of the Trahentem Method
What I like most about the tool is the fact that you don’t have to be a leaning expert to design an effective learning solution because the tool guides you through the process. Working with stick notes allows you to prototype as many options as you want until you find the solution and sequence that works best for your learning objective, before starting the development. That will save you a lot of time, effort, and money.