Content alone is usually not enough to stand out and make your learning business as useful and as successful as it can be. You usually need something else to supplement or enhance your content.
That’s why we’ve identified five areas—what we’re calling the 5 Cs—to strategically build on the content that a learning business already has.
In this episode of the Leading Learning Podcast, we share those 5 Cs to help you enhance or repackage your existing products and services: coaching, cohorts, community, chunking, and credentials. We also explain how to power up your portfolio in each of those areas to grow the reach, revenue, and impact of your content.
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[00:00] – Intro
[01:43] – Let’s talk about each of the five Cs in more detail. (Note there’s no particular order to these.)
Coaching is one of those approaches that we’ve seen a lot of over the past year or two. In the corporate world, there’s a lot of talk about it. If you follow somebody like Josh Bersin, he’s been posting about coaching and talking about it as something to be layered onto corporate learning and development. He suggests that coaching should really cascade to most levels of the corporate environment, not only to executives.
So, your average person in the company who is getting other types of training should also get some coaching to help them really understand their learning challenges. And then how to rise to those challenges with a plan or to develop personally with the aid of traditional learning, but with this coaching as part of it.
There are a couple of advantages that are, almost by definition, baked into coaching:
Personalization. Often, but not always, coaching is one-on-one, so you have that personalization baked right in that’s going to help that coaching be as useful to the coachee as possible.
The doing aspect of learning. If coaching is coupled with a training course, you’re learning certain concepts, but then with the help of a coach, you can dig into how to apply it to your specific situation. The coach is also there as a resource to help hold that learner accountable for doing some of the doing that we know is central to learning, resulting in behavior change.
I think that’s so important because people just very often need the support, they need the accountability, they need the kind of guardrails that are going to help them along. It’s all fine and well to sit through a webinar or go through a course—you acquire some new information. But…if you’re not actually applying that information, if you’re not actually practicing those new skills, putting that knowledge into action, you’re not going to absorb it; you’re not going to integrate it; you’re not really going to learn it.Jeff Cobb
[05:01] – Personalization has been a buzzword for a long time. Many people hear that and immediately think of machine learning, artificial intelligence, etc.
But traditional coaching—low-tech where you have an actual human being interacting with another human being, helping move the learner towards those goals—that’s within the reach of any organization that can handle the logistics around making it happen.
This can be a premium offering. If you’re offering traditional events or classroom or online-based learning, you could layer a coaching component onto that. Adding that coaching component can be an additional source of revenue and a new way to form and grow relationships with your subject matter experts.
In a recent podcast episode, we were joined by learning business leader and executive coach, Jen Lewi of School Nutrition Association to discuss the various ways that learning businesses can add coaching to their portfolio. She also wrote an article about this published on our site, Six Ways to Add Coaching to Your Learning Mix.
Coaching doesn’t have to be a standalone offering; it can also be coupled with a specific training course or program. This approach to coaching would fall under the mentorship umbrella, and there are a lot of learning businesses that have embraced that and tried to figure out how to do it.
Some other advantages of coaching are that it really connects people and there’s a fundamental human-to-human component to it, which people perceive as a benefit.
We’ll note there is a kind of corollary in the different worlds of learning that we serve through Tagoras. On the Leading Learning side, our audience would probably look at adding coaching into what they’ve traditionally done.
But with our Learning Revolution audience, primarily entrepreneurial experts, many of them have been coaches for years and now they’re adding in the educational, more traditional course component.
This points to the fact that education courses are a natural fit with coaching. So if you offer one, you probably want to think about offering the other because they do have ways of supporting each other and deepening the learning experience.
Sponsor: WBT Systems
[09:13] – We’re grateful to WBT Systems for sponsoring the Leading Learning Podcast.
TopClass LMS provides the tools for you to become the preferred provider in your market, delivering value to learners at every stage of their working life. WBT Systems’ award-winning learning system enables delivery of impactful continuing education, professional development, and certification programs.
The TopClass LMS team supports learning businesses in using integrated learning technology to gain greater understanding of learners’ needs and behaviors, to enhance engagement, to aid recruitment and retention, and to create and grow non-dues revenue streams.
WBT Systems will work with you to truly understand your preferences, needs, and challenges to ensure that your experience with TopClass LMS is as easy and problem-free as possible. Visit the TopClass We site to learn how to generate value and growth for your learning business and to request a demo.
[10:15] – Cohorts are again, about the people part of learning. In this case, there may be a type of coaching or at least a facilitation-type element of this, coming from an expert. But it’s also about peers learning together, supporting each other, and generating a whole that’s greater than the sum of the parts by going through a learning experience as a cohort of learners.
Cohorts provide that same human-to-human benefit that we mentioned with coaching. This is a chance for a learner to interact with peers and hear how they’re applying the knowledge or skills that are being taught, and then make the leap to see how to apply it in their own work.
There are a lot of parallels between coaching and cohorts and the benefits that we see. But with coaching, the person doesn’t necessarily have any expertise or knowledge in whatever domain or subject matter is being taught.
With cohorts, you do have the idea that you’re all in it together, grounded in the same content, and that you’re going to help hold each other accountable.
I think that there can be a lot that’s attractive about that accountability, about helping to keep one another on course, that can be appealing to individuals in the current day and age where, yes, there’s a lot of convenience that goes with self-paced learning, but there’s also a lot that you can feel like you’re missing. You can sort of feel like you’re off on your own—learning—and that no one else is really aware of it, paying attention, or helping to keep you going. With a cohort, you have those resources in your peers to help drive your own learning.Celisa Steele
Cohorts are obviously not anything new. It’s been going on forever in traditional classroom-based learning and even in online learning. But cohort-based approaches started getting a new breath of life back probably around 2021 when we were in the midst of the pandemic with everybody moving online.
People started realizing we can structure some really meaningful learning experiences by taking people through them in a cohort. It’s no accident that probably one of the bigger platform splashes to happen in the last year is the founders of Udemy spun out into a platform called Maven, specifically built for cohort-based courses.
They have a training and onboarding program to help people with expertise who want to create cohort-based courses, to be able to create highly interactive, human-centered courses. Again, this is a personalized-type experience because you’ve got this group of peers interacting with each other, and each of them is able to get out of it what they need for their particular place in their career, for their particular experience, while also helping the others get out of it what they need.
We expect to see a lot more of this, and it’s probably less a matter of how to do it. Most people intuitively understand how to do a cohort-based offering, but it’s about how to become an expert as a learning business in running them.
Just as with coaching, there are a lot of different types and flavors of cohorts. They can be shorter, longer, and they can be a mix of different online and/or in-person options.
Check out our recent interview with Shelley Osborne of Modal Learning (and former CLO at Udemy) about cohort-based learning.
[16:11] – This also ties to the social aspect that we’ve highlighted around coaching and cohorts. We’re already seeing signs of this being a very important one out there, mostly because the platform companies are starting to tune into it.
For example, in Thinkific’s annual digital learning report, one of the biggest current trends that they identified was “community-first learning.” This is the idea that the learning community is the basis of whatever else you might be doing with them in terms of offering courses or other types of learning opportunities.
One of the more recent mergers/acquisitions that we saw in the association world, was between the more traditional learning management system platform, Web Courseworks and Forj, an AI-driven community platform.
There’s a lot of buzz in the broader world about user experience within the association world about member experience. At the core of that is about how to create opportunities and value from people being connected to each other in a community. We’re seeing platform companies look at that to see where they can create learning-driven community and community-driven learning.
We’ve seen this interest in the connection between community and learning, which has existed for many years. But we are getting to the point with it where we’re figuring out how to make it less clunky.
I think we’ve seen the cordoned-off discussion area for people enrolled in a course, but it could sort of feel like an area people wouldn’t necessarily go to, naturally. So I think there’s this idea of—how can we make that community that is tied to a learning course also just feel like it’s a more organic and a more natural part of an exchange that people might be having with others around a particular topic?Celisa Steele
The platforms are getting better at how to connect these two pieces that were traditionally handled in two different platforms to provide a better user experience. The more cohesion we can see there, the easier that gets to manage and to be better as an end-user experience.
Check out our related episodes “Cultivating Communities with Rachel Happe of Community Roundtable” and “The Indispensable Community with Richard Millington.”
[20:04] – Primarily, the trend/buzz around something like microlearning, is driving this fourth C of chunking and getting things into smaller, bite-sized learning objects to work with. But it’s more than that.
It’s also because, regardless of whether you’re doing microlearning, we know from learning science and what the data tells us, that getting things down into meaningful, concise chunks is so important. It might be an hour learning experience, but if you can pivot every 10 minutes to some degree to keep the learner’s attention, to bring a point home just in terms of design, that chunking is so important.
It’s something that organizations can go back to content they already have and think: Are there some opportunities for re-engineering this? Are there some opportunities for carving out some chunks from things, maybe making some microlearning opportunities? But then, also going forward: How do we work with our subject matter experts? How do we design ourselves in ways that our content is more chunked, is more digestible, is going to be more in line with what we know works from a learning science standpoint and, also, just what learners increasingly seem to want and expect?Jeff Cobb
This also ties to personalization because if we have smaller chunks, whether they are freestanding microlearning units or if they are clearly labeled and segmented sections of a larger learning program, that enables the learner to skip straight to the content they need. This also then ties to motivation because learners are going to be more interested if it’s something that they know they want or need to learn about.
If you haven’t gotten serious about chunking yet, now is definitely the time. It can open up new business model opportunities to small bites of content put into a subscription package, potentially instead of, or in addition to your traditional course experience. You could also use it as a form of content marketing.
Check out our related episodes and resources about learning science and chunking:
- Designing Content Scientifically with Ruth Colvin Clark and Myra Roldan
- Revisiting Adult Learning Theory
- 7 “Must Dos” for Maximizing Webinar Value
- Brain Rules by John Medina (popularized the idea of chunking in 10-minute segments)
- Presenting for Impact – A free training we developed that includes this concept of chunking for subject matter experts who want to create more educationally impactful presentations.
[24:56] – We’ll clarify that for us, “credentials” is the umbrella term. Certifications, digital badges, or even a PDF certificate of completion would fall under the credentialing umbrella.
What we want to talk about around credentials is this idea that, for the most part, learners, and other stakeholders, such as employers, want a learning experience to clearly signal certain accomplishments, skills, and knowledge. A credential is a way to sort of package that up.
Credentials have always been important, one of the main ones in the past being various types of degrees that people have earned at colleges and universities, and various types of certifications that they’ve earned in different industries.
But the need for newer, alternative types of credentials is growing pretty rapidly as we’ve seen disruption in the workforce and the employment market over the last few years. Also, the last few decades, as people are switching jobs, even entire careers more often, what they have to do is changing rapidly. They’re having to reskill and upskill.
The learners generally appreciate having some form of proof of learning and validation that they have gotten this new skill. This also provides value in the employment market. Employers like to see proof of a specific skill if they’re going to consider a person for a job and a credential is one of the most logical ways to do that.
Check out our related episode “Talking Digital Credentials with 1EdTech.”
There’s also an overlap between chunking and credentials because in large part, where we’ve seen the most demand is for smaller credentials. It’s about how to get the skills and knowledge you need to be able to do something specific in the near term. This relates to the need for upskilling and reskilling and to make sure that you are able to do your job and do it well in the current economy. Or if your job ends, being able to pivot and move into a different position.
These smaller credentials really help with that because as a learner you can invest a relatively small amount of time and money compared to say going back to school to get a graduate degree in a different field.
Like everything we’ve been talking about here, there are business model implications that credentials bring with them. They are a way to potentially make your learning experiences more valuable and help with demand generation.
We know from our many years of research that having some sort of a credential is going to drive the need for CE and learning enrollments, both online and off. If you don’t have that, you don’t necessarily have a great demand driver there for the learning that you’re offering, even if there isn’t a requirement in your market right now.
If you can figure out some potential credentials to offer around specific knowledge or skill sets that you can possibly bundle together and then maybe layer some coaching or do it as a cohort, that’s how to power up your portfolio.
These can just be good solid assessment-based credentials with some coursework, rather than full-blown certifications. Often, you already have the courses or the content that could form the core of the credential. You just need to build a few other components around it and then actually name the credential and make it issuable, and suddenly, you’ve really added to your potential for demand generation around the learning content that you’re offering.
This is a great way to power up your portfolios to get some credentialing in there that’s meaningful. Attaching that to your learning and then being able to charge for that, you’re going to be able to drive more demand.
[30:21] – Wrap-Up
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