Choosing the right learning intervention

In the third of our new series of blogs from our in-house Learning Experience team, Tracey McDonald talks us through how to choose the right learning interventions for your learners’ needs.

Written by Tracey McDonald
Published 13 June 2022
Choosing the right learning intervention
Have you ever searched for an online video to help you to wire a plug? Or asked a colleague to show you how to log a holiday request? Perhaps you’ve attended a workshop to qualify as a first aider, or asked your home assistant to read out a recipe so you can make a meal?

If so, you’ve taken advantage of one of the many types of learning intervention available to you.
When we face a challenge at work or home, we’re normally pretty good at choosing the right intervention. The challenge for learning designers like us is to make sure we’re creating the right interventions that people will turn to when they need help.

Want to learn more about choosing the right learning intervention? Listen to our podcast!

In a recent episode, Gemma, along with Tracey, Sean and David from the Mind Tools Custom team discuss: what we mean by interventions, who and what to take into account when making a decision examples of interventions and the decisions that led to them.

Don't have time to listen to the podcast right now? Continue reading our article below.

What is a learning intervention?

When we create an “intervention”, we’re basically interfering, in a good way! We’re interfering to alter a course of events. To the Learning Experience team at Mind Tools, a learning intervention is a focused, purpose-driven,  (potentially) fun digital asset, which helps the learner overcome a challenge or develop a skill.

That could be:

  • 360 video
  • Animation
  • Audio
  • Checklist
  • E-learning course
  • Infographic
  • Online game     
  • Online workshop
  • Podcast
  • Quiz
  • Real-life scenarios
  • Self-assessment
  • Video
  • VR environment

Choosing learning interventions

With so much choice, how do you identify the most effective learning interventions for your users? You can do this by working backwards from a defined problem. For example, perhaps a whistleblowing reporting process is not being used. Why not?

It could be that no one in the organization has ever needed to use it. That would be a great outcome, but are you sure? Perhaps no one knows it exists (a communication gap). Perhaps the process doesn’t work very well (an environment gap). Maybe no one believes that the whistleblower will actually be kept anonymous (a motivation gap).

To get to the bottom of this, we run a series of workshops with project sponsors, subject matter experts and learners. By asking coaching questions, we dig deep and encourage these stakeholders to think about the problem in an analytical way. This iterative process allows us to establish the tangible outcomes this learning intervention should achieve and define what success would look like for learners and the organization.
As learning design guru Julie Dirksen states in her book Design For How people Learn, “If you have a well-defined problem, you can design much better learning solutions”.

Only by defining the problem, and digging deep into why that problem exists, can we make sure that we’re creating the right intervention to have a positive impact.

Top five considerations for learning interventions

So, what are the top five things to bear in mind when choosing the right learning intervention?

1. Get to know your learners

During scoping calls, it’s useful to talk through learners’ current knowledge, skills, and motivation. Find out what they’re doing now, and how this can be improved.

If learners find a process difficult to complete, a checklist might be all they need. If the problem is more complex (for instance, overcoming interpersonal conflict) then practice in the form of real-life scenarios might be more appropriate.

It’s also worth establishing what’s stopping your learners from doing this now. That way, you can determine how to have a positive impact.

2. Data and feedback

As part of getting to know your learners, it’s useful to find out if the organization has access to any learner feedback or data to help guide your choice of intervention. Some larger organizations run feedback surveys or sessions following workshops or current e-learning courses. Even if your project is on a different topic, this could still provide valuable insight into the kind of intervention that resonates with colleagues, and what doesn’t!

Nothing beats first-hand information, so it’s worth talking to learners, if you can. You can do this through your own surveys or short interviews to find out what makes them tick and what would help them perform better at work.
3. Budget

Budget is a huge factor in determining the type of learning intervention to use, as the cost of each varies hugely. However, the aim here isn't to spend the entire budget when what we really need to do is add value.

If the outcome of the intervention is for learners to log on to their timesheet system every day, this could be an easy fix with minimal cost. If the outcome is to increase engagement and skill level with the same system through regular practice, the required results would justify more investment.

4. Technical capability

The technical capability within an organization relates directly to the ability of learners. If an organization has a fantastic technical network with up-to-date systems and devices, learners will more than likely be used to handling fully digital solutions.

However, if a company still uses an aging web browser and has no audio capability, this will really impact the learning experience. That’s not to say all is lost when it comes to choosing the right intervention, it just means we get to be creative in that choice.

For instance, there is no point in creating a fully responsive health and safety suite of learning with video and audio, if there isn’t a way for learners to listen to it. We may have to look at animation in the form of animated gifs, narrative scenarios to reflect on, or some multiple-choice questions to develop their skills.

5.  How will it be used?

Finally, establishing how the learning intervention is going to be used will help decide on the type.
For instance, if learners need to use the intervention in-the-moment and while they are working, a one-hour-long e-learning course is not going to be appropriate.

It’s also much easier to engage learners and keep their attention when they can put the learning into practice immediately. This isn’t always possible, so another option would be to use some real-life scenarios where learners can reflect and draw on their experiences to make the learning stick.

There is very rarely a “one size fits all” intervention but the right balance of research and creativity can help you make informed decisions on what’s right for your learners. To make sure you choose the right intervention, try experimenting to see what works!

About the author

Tracey McDonald

Tracey McDonald

Learning Experience Manager
Tracey is a double award-winning learning designer with a background in graphic design.

You may also be interested in…

Are your people too busy to learn?

Is “I’m too busy to learn,” a common phrase you hear in your organization?

May 2023

Read More

10 things managers should never say - and what to say instead

Do you think before you speak? See our roundup of the top ten things managers should never say to their team members. And tips for what you should've said.

March 2023

Read More

How to create a culture of feedback

When’s the last time someone praised your work? Or shared an idea that helped you crack a problem you’d been chewing over?

February 2023

Read More