Context can make all the difference. It's the difference between learning that is vague and one-size-fits-all, and learning that is both meaningful and useful.
That said, generic content serves an important purpose, as many organisations have similar learning needs. However, it won't be used to its full potential if it remains generic. It's like the outline of a drawing – it's great for getting the general idea of what you want to depict, but the real vibrancy of it comes out when you start to fill out the spaces.
Contextualising a generic module means taking the material you are given and changing it to suit the needs of your audience and the culture and strategy of your business. It makes the content more relevant and understandable to your audience and therefore, more useful to them.
This is also an opportunity to connect the course content with your organisational culture and goals so that you can ensure the learning achieves genuine outcomes for your organisation.
1. Understand the Needs of your Learners
Remember, one of the main reasons that contextualisation is important is so that it can target the needs of the learners and the organisation. That means before you begin to contextualise, you need to understand what those needs are.
Ask yourself questions like:
- What is the business trying to achieve with this learning?
- How does the content relate to the culture and strategy of the organisation?
- What do the learners already know?
- What could the learners benefit from knowing more about?
Understanding both the learner and organisational needs is the first step to making sure you're making the most out of the content and your learners' time.
2. Contextualise Scenarios and Examples
In a lot of cases, the theoretical content of a generic module will apply to almost anyone. It might need some tweaking to suit the specific organisation, but it usually fits wherever it is put.
Practical applications of theory are a very different story, however. It’s all well and good to have generic content about, say, the dangers of fraud. Fraud is dangerous to everyone. But how that looks in practice for one organisation will likely be different from how it looks in another. This is a perfect opportunity for you to make a link between the content and your organisation.
To give your learners a solid understanding of the theory, show them examples of how it applies in ways that are relevant to them. This will provide them with practical knowledge that can aid them in their actual role. By using specific real-life examples, or work-based scenarios, you can demonstrate the concepts with an impact that a generic example just won’t have.
3. Provide Relevant Resources
Resources are an important way of enhancing someone’s learning experience. They can give the learner a deeper understanding of difficult concepts and a starting point for further research. By guiding the learner towards appropriate resources, like internal processes or policies, you can help them grapple with harder ideas and allow them to explore for themselves while gaining a greater understanding of the business.
A generic module is unlikely to have a lot of resources, or if it does, they’re probably generic too, or else irrelevant to your organisation. To give your learners the best opportunities to both deepen and broaden their understanding of the topics, provide them with resources specific to their needs. As with the scenarios and examples mentioned above, giving them easy access to resources that relate to their specific field or practical concerns will turn a generic module into one that is directly useful for the learner.
Generic is great, but context is key
Contextualisation is an incredibly important part of using pre-made online learning. Generic modules offer boundless opportunities for instilling a certain culture in the attitudes of your people and linking it to the content they are learning. There are plenty of ways you can do this, and which ways work well for you will depend on the needs of your business.
So, while you’ve got their attention for thirty or so minutes, make the most of that opportunity to enhance the learner’s understanding of the organisation, the content, and the connections between them.