Tend Your Learning Garden – and Keep Learners Off Search

tend your learning gardenImagine your learning content is a walled garden. You’ve planned it, planted what you need, you weed and water it regularly. You put so much work into your garden, but your learners don’t even look at it. Oh sure, they might pass through the garden when they have to, but instead they choose to spend all their time in the public park, looking at whatever happens to be growing over there — even if it’s haphazardly planted.

That would bother you, right? That’s probably how it feels when you’ve worked hard on your learning content only to watch your learners head over to the internet to look up something when you’ve got quality content right in your learning management system (LMS).

How can you get your learners to forsake the Internet and stay in your garden?

What’s so bad about learning via search?

The internet is an amazing place, filled with everything a learner could want to know. Chances are, the answers your learners are searching for really are there… somewhere. Unfortunately, the right answer might not come up as the first search result, or even as the 91st result.

Instead, your learners may get inaccurate information. If your learners find a tutorial, they may learn to do something the wrong way, or they might waste their time with irrelevant information. Even worse, they may get information that inadvertently causes them to do harm.

Fortunately, you can keep them in the garden of your learning content by using a few key strategies.

Create a list of trusted online sources

Not all online resources are bad, so don’t ban learning via the Internet. Instead, build a list of online sources that your L&D department approves of. If there are tutorials online that provide good information, include those in the list. Training Zone suggests inviting your learners to share their favorite sources of information, then vet them. If those sources are helpful, add them to the list. If not, explain why they are not.

This approach invites your learners to participate in their L&D resource list, doesn’t forbid them from going online to find information, and helps you understand what they’ve been reading online. It also helps you better understand the information they’ve been consuming online.

Understand what your learners want

Make no mistake about it; learners love learning. LinkedIn saw a jump in learning in 2021 with some learners taking 50% more hours of learning than they did in 2020. If your learners are not accessing the modules you’re providing for them, you may not be offering the information they’re looking for.

While of course it’s important for you to provide the learning your companies need employees to take (compliance modules, for example), you should also know what your learners want. LinkedIn’s data saw learners taking courses that grow their careers, whether they’re expanding their current role, looking for new opportunities, or reskilling for a different job in the same organization. By offering learners the content they want alongside the content they need, you can help guide them back to your content.

Make your content searchable

Part of the reason your learners might be turning to Google rather than to your LMS is that it might be easier to find information on a commercial search engine. Is your learning content easily searched? When learners need to know something right now, can they type it in and find that information right now?

If not, Google might seem like the easiest, quickest way to find answers at work, where learners may need to learn a piece of information quickly in order to do their jobs well. An internal search that gets learners information fast is a good way to use your learners’ inclination to search to benefit your content. Bonus points if you can implement a voice search feature.

Is it possible to keep learners from Googling?

Your learners spend their lives searching… on the internet, that is. At least 30% of global internet traffic is generated by online searches, and a glance through Google Trends’ Year in Search report for 2021 shows that an overwhelming number of searches start with the term “how to.”

Furthermore, search has become a huge part of learners’ lives. Research shows that 72% percent of people who use voice search say that it’s become part of their daily lives. Same for YouTube; on average, a visitor to YouTube spends about 16 minutes on the site.

So it’s only natural that your learners’ first reaction to a problem is to Google the solution —  even if you don’t want them to. You may not be able to keep your learners from searching online for answers at first, but by tending your garden and allowing your learners to help (and visit the internet for supplementary resources) you can keep them from wandering off and getting lost online.