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Insight

Content Authoring Tools and Learning Experience Design

Learning and development professionals can use various tools to create and deploy quality learning experiences for internal and external audiences. The need for extensible tools is evident when dealing with learners outside the organization whose learning goals depend on factors such as the product, module, or element that needs to be learned, a learner’s role in their company, a learner’s level of motivation (or reason) for participating in the learning experience, and whether the experience is at a cost to the learner or their organization.

Content authoring tools (sometimes referred to as Help authoring tools), such as MadCap Flare, can be a valuable addition to your toolkit for its content reuse and single-sourcing as well as the way it can support and extend user-centered design, improve the customer experience, increase customer engagement, and blend learning practices.

What Is Learning Experience Design?

Learning experience design is the practice of designing learning opportunities that focus on the end-user and their specific goals. Such a design needs to account for myriad modes of learning such as written, video, simulations, or face-to-face. One job for learning and development teams is to curate this content in a meaningful, repeatable, and scalable experience.

What Is Blended Learning?

Blended learning is an experience that encompasses self-service and face-to-face learning opportunities. When dealing with learners outside of your organization (clients, end-users, and so forth), you don’t always have complete control over this experience. Except for face-to-face learning opportunities, you cannot require completion of modules or monitor whether they are completed like you may be able to do internally. Providing as many learning modes as possible is vital to ensuring the success of your users.

What Is an Extensible Tool?

Extensible tools such as MadCap Flare allow you to deploy different kinds of learning experiences into multiple outputs from the same place. Specifically, Flare comes equipped to deploy dynamic web portals that use the Jquery library and the Foundation front-end framework. Other frameworks, like Bootstrap, or other JavaScript libraries can also be used to produce creative and useful learning assets organized for different audiences. These tools allow for maximizing content re-use and the ability and flexibility to focus on the customer experience.

What Kinds of Experiences Can Be Created?

Nearly any asset can be used within Flare, so the opportunities for creative learning experiences are endless. As an example, let’s say you have a new feature that is going to be released to your existing clients. A comprehensive learning and development strategy may, at a high level, consist of these components:

· Release communication or conceptual feature documentation

· How-to or troubleshooting documentation

· Interactive software simulation

· Feature training guide

· Trainer slideshow

Each of these deliverables could be created by different people working in different departments, but the end-goal is for it to be seamless for your learner. Flare helps you compile this content by allowing you to deploy how-to and troubleshooting articles to a CRM like Salesforce as well as a web portal, push out HTML5 software simulations (from Captivate, Articulate, or so on), build PDF training guides, and create web slideshows or upload PowerPoint files that can be downloaded by the learner or trainer.

With a web portal, you have complete control over the design of your experience, so you can walk a user through each of your assets in whatever way makes sense for their role and manage URLs for your trainers to reference documentation and slideshows.

Summary

Designing a learning experience is not a singular act executed by a single person but a series of experiences curated over time, often by a large set of people in an organization inside and outside a learning and development team.

Accessing and deploying assets from a single solution such as MadCap Flare can provide a more holistic view for writers, instructional designers, curriculum experts, and trainers into what the total learner experience is (or could be). Investing in content authoring tools as part of your strategy will increase the quality of the learning experience as well as increase the efficiency of creating those experiences and overall improve your customer engagement and ROI.

About the Author

Chris is a Learning and Development Manager with ten years of technical writing and learning and development experience in an academic and professional environment. When he’s not working to develop unique learning experiences, he is training to run ultra-marathons.

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