LCD design

Photo Credit: Cubosh via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Cubosh via Compfight cc

I had a brilliant time at the Charity Learning Consortium conference last week. I was lucky enough to have read this great blog post by Donald Taylor which was published the day before the event. It made me think about the presentation I’d prepared and realised that it wasn’t up to scratch.  Although I wasn’t a keynote speaker I realised my presentation failed one of the critical criteria Donald had identified:

…delivering the right talk for a particular event, for a particular audience

I reviewed my slides and realised the structure was wrong; I’d built too much into my background and describing what I did in my context which was going to be of limited interest to the people attending. As I’d prepared a blog post with some of my research and background information, I surmised that the delivery would have to be different. I edited the 35 minutes that I’d prepared into 25 and made sure that I left 20 minutes for questions. It seemed to work and created a different atmosphere; it became a dialogue and a real buzz for me to make a session so interactive.

Part of the dialogue came from a range of intelligent and searching questions from the audience. There was a variety and depth which made me think and it was highly enjoyable. One question was a real challenge. It was about introducing learning through technology for older people. My answer included the phrase LCD design. I didn’t mean LCD in a technical sense, rather that LCD stands for:

Lowest Common Denominator

Think about it. You’ve all done it, sat in sessions where it has crawled by because the pace is set to the slowest, least prepared, least experienced participant. To me, this is as big a crime as overstuffing a session with excess content. It’s especially prevalent in organisations who are starting to design digital learning experiences. In many cases we assume a sub-basic level of competence and get stuck in click to read design activity.

How do we break out of this cycle? There are 4 considerations that we need to understand about the people who will be accessing our support. These factors are people who:

  • Can/Can’t
  • Will/Won’t
  • Have/Haven’t
  • Should/Shouldn’t

For the Can’t, we need to understand how they use technology. I’m always surprised by people who tell me they don’t use the internet but have prolific Facebook updates they access via their smartphone. How much support do people really need to be able to use the support we’ve put in place? More likely they’re one of the next group.

For the Won’t we need to understand why people don’t want to engage with the learning, technology, support, etc. In many cases it’s because of a poor previous experience. The L&D professional needs to establish the previous experience, what happened, what needed to be improved, and what the person needs in place to make it successful this time.

For people who fall under the Haven’t banner this is usually a question of access; access to equipment, access to the internet, access to support. In every learning design with technology we need to consider ways people will be able to access the support we’ve assembled and, if necessary, think about using budget to acquire technical solutions.

Shouldn’t is about people who, because of their circumstance, context or situation would have difficulty in accessing the support. Do we recognise who these people are and how we can help influence this? This also applies to the L&D professional – should you be developing material this way?

We need to design to the mid point. The L&D professional has a responsibility to support people with least experience and lower understanding. It’s about helping create context that people can bring themselves up to a certain speed. And if they can’t then we need to look at ourselves, at them and at their management to agree a way forward.

What do you think? Do we aim too low? Let me know in the comments.

7 thoughts on “LCD design

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