I’ve learned that when it comes to the success of learning experiences, happy and committed stakeholders are as important as the experience design itself. With next-gen online learning projects, this is even more important, since we often challenge established ILT/eLearning assumptions and move to a new understanding of what online learning could be. And change is hard! Here’s how I recommend my clients bring a large group of stakeholders along with them through the entire change management process:
1. Know your stakeholder groups. Set up one-on-ones with them to understand their specific expectations and start distilling those expectations into requirements that you can use for design guidance rather than a set of hard and fast technology specifications. Get your stakeholder groups thinking about what they want to achieve as outcomes, rather than how they expect to get there.
2. Narrow your stakeholder group. Now that you know everyone who has a stake in your project, narrow your large stakeholder group into a smaller core group. Talk to your program sponsor and the various team leads and have them nominate one person each who will participate more frequently and represent their department/unit/team’s voices and expectations. Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth, or, in this case, make getting to a really great learning experience messy and difficult.
3. Get that smaller group of stakeholders really, really involved. Bring in your technology vendor and ask your point of contact to do an in-depth demo to every one of your key stakeholders. Invite all these stakeholders into the design process—this cuts down on revision cycles as you can get buy-in along the way as decisions are made. Include your stakeholders in reviews as things get built out further.
When we implement projects on our Intrepid Learn platform, we do this step by encouraging our clients to include this core group involved in our design “hackathons.” This gives them an opportunity to really get to know the platform, the design process, and the decision making that shape the rest of the project.
4. Market to your stakeholders, and get them to market to your audience. Once your learning program is in the works, bring back your broader stakeholder group and preview the experience with them. Remember all those departments who were involved in the beginning, and who you asked to narrow down to one person each? Now do joint presentations with each nominee to their entire team (or at the very least, their significant leadership group). Let them kick the tires and give you feedback. Maybe even run a pilot of the course just for them.
Once they’re excited about the initiative, invite them to participate in driving success. Make your expectations really clear. Some examples from our clients:
- “When the course is live, we will send you a series of questions each Thursday from participants and we’d like you to get us answers to those by end of day next Monday.”
- “Can we have a 90-second video from you talking about why this initiative is important from your perspective?”
- “Can you nominate three people from your team to participate in the first run of the course?”
- “We will send you weekly reports on progress—can you commit to spending 5 minutes every week sending congratulatory emails to people from your team who are highly engaged to recognize their efforts?”
- “We want to reward and recognize social collaboration during the experience; will you be willing to visit our discussion forums for 15 minutes each week and post a response to an interesting post?”
- “We know our audience of leaders is very motivated by face time with the senior team; would you be willing to spend an hour every month joining us for a breakfast event where the most engaged users are invited to connect with you face to face?”
Make sure they understand what the program is, what their responsibility is, and why it’s important.
5. Create a communication plan. Once the course or program is in flight, give updates to the group on a regular basis through your key stakeholders. Create a reporting dashboard that addresses those things that are the most important to them—how many discussion threads were posted, the key themes that have emerged, links to the top two to three assignments they’ll find the most interesting, etc.
And don’t forget to celebrate with your stakeholder group and give them public credit for supporting your journey of bringing your organization into the next-gen digital learning world. This will tie their success to yours and you will build a large support network for future projects.
In June, Intrepid by VitalSource is running a mini-MOOC for learning executives called Build Your Digital Learning Blueprint. For more information, click here.