Great e-learning can offer flexible, impactful learning experiences.
Effective e-learning might deliver interactive exercises with immediate feedback and other proven adult learning techniques, like spaced repetition and deliberate practice.
Engaging e-learning could provide junior associates with practical skills training whenever they have a gap in their schedule or when they're tasked with doing work they haven't done yet.
And yet, what does it matter, if they never log in?
Of course, even the best of e-learning is only effective if it's earnestly used. So how do you make sure your first years thoughtfully engage with the e-learning you've thoughtfully curated for them?
Well, from almost 10 years of delivering e-learning training to leading law firms and companies, we've gathered best practices to help you get the most out of e-learning.
Meet the learner where they are
If your firm has a central hub for learning resources (e.g., a learning management system), include links to relevant e-learning. Consider how to organize these resources in a way that's most useful for the learner, in the context of any broader curriculum or relevant workflows. If these links route to external sites, consider leveraging technology like single sign-on (commonly called, "SSO") so the associate doesn't have to track down credentials and separately log in.
Consider if there are ways to help them find relevant resources when they might be (or ought to be, anyway) in the market for them—like putting a link to training resources on closing checklists alongside wherever closing checklist templates or precedent might be found.
These approaches reduce cognitive load, save your associates the trouble of tracking down resources in multiple locations, and increase the odds they'll be aware of each resource and take advantage of it in a timely way.
And, as mentioned below, consider how to raise the awareness of all members of the ecosystem, so senior attorneys can reinforce the message and remind first years to take advantage of relevant training at useful times (e.g., before the junior for the first time takes on a relevant task assigned by the senior).
Make momentum out of a moment
We recommend virtually holding an initial kickoff meeting, involving relevant stakeholders to make the case for how, when, and why to take relevant training.
Holding a live event helps create a moment—out of resources that otherwise might lie dormant on a website.
The beauty of on-demand learning is folks can take them whenever they want. But, if folks can take e-learning whenever they want, they might lack the urgency to take them now.
A live kickoff can create an event to encourage the learners to take advantage of training resources now. It's also a great opportunity to share how the training will be helpful to the first years (more on that in a bit).
At Praktio, we've found that simply logging into the e-learning platform immediately after a live kickoff can significantly increase overall engagement.
Don't just tell, show
Especially if they recently started, the first-year inbox is likely full of emails about new resources and important information, and the first-year brain is likely awhirl with new names, systems, and expectations. It would be all too easy to miss or forget that one message that tells them where to find e-learning resources. And it would be natural to lose the connection with the community behind and around the resources delivered by an email, with nothing more.
That live kickoff presents an opportunity (hopefully among many) to convene human beings to signal the support system around the associate—in this case, showcasing the learning resources, making sure everyone is clear on how to access them and make the most out of them, and engaging relevant stakeholders to help the learners see what's in it for them.
Give them a reason
Consider having one or more relevant stakeholders—such as practice group leaders, other partners, and second years who recently sat in the first years' chairs—share the value of the training from the firm's perspective, as well as in terms of what's in it for the first year. Hearing someone more senior explain how a resource will help make the first year's life easier—say, by equipping them to deliver work product that at least meets the seniors' needs, if not outright impressing them—can be incredibly motivating for the junior.
And motivated learners not only take the training they're assigned, but they engage with it more earnestly and, thus, learn more for their efforts.
Share it with seniors
When your senior associates and partners know what on-demand training is available, they can leverage it in their interactions with juniors. We've heard from countless senior attorneys who wish all juniors magically knew how to do the work the senior wants to delegate—if only the junior could be trusted to do the work as expected (and not leave the senior in the lurch having to redo the work, inevitably at a late hour).
What if on-demand resources could deliver this magic?
Consider giving this group access to the same courses you're giving juniors (at Praktio, we give seniors this access for free). They probably won't have time to take the courses themselves (all the better, if they do), but just knowing what's available can help them usefully leverage the e-learning. A cheat sheet with a short overview of courses and outcomes can be helpful here.
Consider holding a separate kickoff call for this group or inviting them to the same one to "audit" for their visibility.
Taking 15 minutes to walk seniors through the e-learning can save them the hours they would otherwise spend training—or the frustration they'll experience redoing the junior's work and writing off their time.
Tie it to a task
Want another reason to make sure seniors know about these training resources? If juniors see how they'll immediately apply what they've learned, they are more motivated to engage with e-learning, more equipped to transfer the lessons into practice, and more likely to retain those lessons through that real-world application. A great way to do that is to tie the e-learning to a task, right in the workflow.
For example, if a senior associate is assigning diligence work to a junior, they might ask them to take related e-learning beforehand, where they can practice actually doing the work of diligence in a sandbox environment. This will give the junior a chance to learn the relevant knowledge and skills, practice applying them in realistic context, develop professional confidence, and ultimately be better prepared to do the work as expected.
Tie it to a live training
Live training is incredibly valuable—and expensive. The time spent preparing for, and participating in, the training is time not billed by the learners and any other lawyers involved in putting on the training. By assigning e-learning before a live training, juniors can learn knowledge and skills on their own time. This lets seniors spend precious in-person time on what couldn't be accomplished otherwise—such as working through more advanced topics/nuances or debriefing recent lessons from a gnarly matter—building on the foundation laid through the e-learning ahead of time.
Following a live session, e-learning can help mitigate retention loss by reinforcing lessons. For example, e-learning can provide a forum to practice applying relevant skills or knowledge through a series of realistic exercises over time. A live session is of limited value if folks forget most of what they learned a few days or weeks later.
Give them a deadline
Live sessions can provide natural deadlines for learners to complete any e-learning "pre-work." Even if there isn't a natural reason for completion by a certain deadline, the more structure provided learners for completing e-learning, the better.
This might mean laying out a learning track, with certain courses completed by certain dates. Perhaps some training builds on other training, suggesting a natural sequence. Helping the learner to see that, while laying out clear expectations for when each should be completed, typically helps drive useful utilization.
We've found shorter deadlines to be more effective than longer ones—specifically, we've generally seen a pronounced drop-off with deadlines set any farther out than 6 weeks from the launch date.
When the learner thinks of training as a "problem for future them" rather than an "opportunity for them to shine now," it's likely to end up in "set it and forget it" territory.
Hold them accountable
Ideally, relevant folks at the firm are able to track associate usage (e.g., with e-learning platform analytics), so they can consider sending reminders and nudges to help learners avoid a last minute scramble to complete all the courses right before the deadline—which inevitably yields a worse learning outcome.
You might also consider using mentors or small groups as a resource for addressing any questions. This provides a system of accountability and can also strengthen relationships throughout the firm. Just make sure mentors have access to the e-learning as well so they can be most helpful.
• • • • •
There's not a single, right way to drive e-learning engagement. But, in short, the more learners and their seniors are aware of what's available and how it will help make each of their work lives better, the more useful engagement with e-learning we can expect to see.
Each firm has a unique approach to training, including how they leverage e-learning. Consider trying out some of the techniques outlined above—or any others these might inspire—until you find the collection of approaches that drives the most useful engagement for your firm.