Written by Briony Frost, Learning & Development Specialist & Stephen Hare, Senior Account Executive on Thursday 13th May 2021
The recent global health crisis has highlighted how critical it is for modern businesses to utilize virtual environments, not only to interact with clients but also with colleagues. The transition to fully remote working was a new experience for many but, even pre-pandemic, training in the healthcare industry was moving away from face-to-face towards blended learning models. Fully virtual training means we can reach more people than ever before. No longer do staff need to travel to the nearest office for routine training, often juggling family needs or disability requirements, and companies can bring together colleagues and partners across the world by investing in interactive programmes without the additional costly airfares, venue-hire, and catering fees. However, new challenges also emerge. A big question being asked by pharmaceutical companies is: if training will primarily be done virtually from now on, how do they, their training providers, and their trainees keep track of their development?
Navigating virtual training via learner journeys
Experienced learning developers and training specialists often promote the learner journey as a means of keeping track of training, for individuals, teams, and companies. But what it a learner journey? The idea of a ‘journey’ is obviously a metaphor. It describes a planned series of learning experiences comprised of various formal programmes and informal encounters, which often combine different approaches, resources, materials, channels, and trainers over a period of time. At a macro-level, it can include every piece of training a staff member in a company will experience from the point they start their role until the day they leave it. At a micro-level, it might describe the path from the start to finish of a one-off training event, which could only take an hour or two. For instance, if a senior sales rep joins a pharma-company and must read 3 textbooks, complete 5 e-learning modules and subscribe to a weekly podcast to complete their onboarding training, before moving on to more advanced training events, then this can be described as part of their learner journey.
Whether at a micro or macro level, a learner journey is commonly visualised as a map. In its simplest form, such as a compliance training event for all staff, all learners may start and end at common points and follow an identical path between the two. In more complex incarnations where, for instance, MSLs and commercial teams, may require different levels of training in divergent and overlapping therapy areas, groups of learners aligned by role and experience may start and end at different points, with each group or even individual taking self-directed paths between those points. Organising training resources into a coherent map helps both learners and businesses keep track of what training is available, what to prioritise for the present and to progress, whether what is available is fit for purpose, and when, where, and how to update.
Creating a Learner Journey
As discussed in a previous article , conducting a needs analysis is an important piece of the training toolkit to ensure what is provided is fit for purpose. While it is sensible to analyse your learners’ needs in a specific therapy, product, or device area before developing any new piece of training, a needs analysis can also be used to review a wider programme or package of training to help reorganise it and generate a clear route map or learner journey through existing materials by identifying:
It is good practice to undertake this review in consultation with a representative sample of your learners. If you still feel that you need more information afterwards, consider reaching out to the wider company via surveys and focus groups. This will help you confirm trends seen in the smaller sample and allow you to be confident in major changes you plan to make to your programme.
Once you have gathered your insights, you must put them into action. This comes with not only updating the materials themselves but also how they are presented to the leaner. This is where building your map or guide comes into play. This tool can come in many forms, ranging from a simple 1-page PDF all the way to a fully-fledged micro-site, but the aim is always to provide a set of directions for your learner to consult that visually shows steps they will be taking on their training and the order, or orders, in which they may take them. Remember to take equality and diversity into account and, however you choose to present your learner journey, make sure it is accessible to all learners – current and future!
Learner Journey Case Studies
Let’s delve into more detail using a couple of case studies from our own clients. Our first example is a senior knowledge manager, Javier, from Medixi Pharmaceuticals. Javier was responsible for a small learning programme that he wanted to elevate to help his team navigate, as everyone from new starters to his immediate peers were struggling to prioritise which materials were suitable for their development. After analysing exactly what Javier wanted to achieve, we collated Medixi’s e-learning modules, which ranged from slidedecks and one-off virtual events to podcasts. We grouped all the materials into types of learning, the levels of training these materials targeted, and noted the suggested time available to complete the training in. This allowed us to show Javier things he hadn’t noticed before, such as that Medixi needed to streamline the first week for new starters as it was far too much material for 5 working days and to develop more materials suited to advanced level competitor understanding.
Next, we fully mapped all the content, present and still to come, into an interactive and visually stimulating PDF map. This was art-worked with a new branding style, developed purposefully to get learners to make the connection between their learning and this map. Each piece of material was then placed on a node to generate a home page, displaying an overview of the entire programme. Learners would be placed into one of three categories: beginner, intermediate and advanced. They would start on the home page, which guided them to their assigned section. By clicking through, they would be taken to a more detailed and expanded section for their learning level.
In the expanded section, the learner journey map became a pop-up so learners could see more detail in each training node, and with each node containing a link to where that resource is held. Details such as the type of resource, the intended learning outcomes and the time available to complete were added, so the learner was always aware of what they needed to do and by when. These nodes also included the various practice and graded module assessments, so they could test their knowledge and we could gather learning metrics.
To add the finishing touches, we included extra ‘buttons’ into each area of the guide. These allowed quick and easy navigation but also reminded the learner of the extra materials that they could view if they needed more help with each section or wanted to learn more. With that, Javier could now easily distribute the PDF to all his learners, from new starter to senior manager and send them on their way to happy training. No longer was Medixi’s training programme a jumble of PowerPoints and podcasts; instead both existing and new resources were all assimilated into comprehensive, navigable learning programme with learner journeys available at each level of training.
Our second example was for a medical device company, here called Scismith. Our contact, ‘Claire’ presented us with a much more advanced curriculum. Whilst a PDF guide would be useful here too, she wanted something that not only brought together her vast array of resources, generated over the course of nearly 3 years, but also helped learners track exactly what they had done. With Claire, a personalised micro-site was the way to go. This took all the functionality and visual appeal of the PDF based learner map and provide a more unique learner experience.
Together with our digital wizards, we followed similar steps as before, mapping and categorising the current content, using survey and workshop insights to look at existing training gaps. Instead of a PDF, learners were provided with individual logins to a website. Here the learner map would not only link to new parts of the microsite, to host the greater array of content, but would also help track exactly what each learner had completed, with a range of self-directed assessments that would feedback into a radar-chat, to see their own confidence in each subject. This microsite approach allowed Claire to give her learner a more bespoke experience, as well as appropriately guiding her learners.
Benefits of Learner Journeys
The steps outlined here might seem like additional cost in both time and money, but they are key to keeping track of your training curriculum and empowering your learners. With a guided learner journey, you can present a whole curriculum as a visually pleasing, coherent and functional map so that learners can create bespoke routes through mandatory and additional training as best suits their individual roles and experience. By taking into account what your learners want and need, you scaffold their agency, enhance their motivation, and simultaneously boost their professional growth. Learner journeys also provide clarity and consistency about what is available, making it easier for to arrange content and skills updates, integrate new events and resources, meaning your training is future-proofed. Finally, learner journeys help with tracking staff development as well as data-gathering and reporting on the impact and value of your training investment.
OPEN Health’s L&D team brings together unique skill sets and a wealth of healthcare training and communications experience, which means we can offer high-quality, bespoke, self-directed learning programs to our clients. If you would like to hear more about how we collaborate with our clients to design, develop and deliver competitive training programs, please get in touch.
Please contact Jess Ingram, SVP Learning & Development