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Issy Nancarrow

Campaign Learning

Managing Director

Read more from Issy Nancarrow

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Introducing campaign learning: what’s wrong with our current approach?


In the first part of her series on campaign learning, Issy Nancarrow looks at the failures of existing approaches to learning and what we can learn from the world of marketing when it comes to transforming the field. 

Whether the audience comprises corporate execs or students engaged in education, the barriers that prevent learners from absorbing content are numerous.

In this article we’ll focus on those challenges, take a look at some of the modern approaches to elearning and the impact, as well as explaining the place of marketing techniques and approaches in the learning field.

The biggest and oldest challenge for any learning and development department is to engage staff, teams and managers in learning and to immerse them in the company culture.

Getting them to attend scheduled training or take part in elearning initiatives is not always easy but actually engaging them in real or virtual classroom activities is even harder.

These challenges are further exacerbated by learning and development teams struggling to be heard while often separated from business operations.

Forget me not and the forgetting curve

No matter how much we invest in quality training, our staff forget most of the information learned.

This is a frequent concern and it’s commonly accepted that 95% of learned information is lost within three days.

Obviously all this depends on the learner, their attitude, stress levels and emotional response to the subject.

Bite-sized learning can certainly be helpful to reduce information overload but information loss is inevitable without repeated interventions around a given topic.

Silent and invisible

More than ever we are surrounded by constant messaging, in our places of work, during our commute and in our homes.

The result in most organisations is staff suffering from communications overload.

So how can we make our communications be heard through all the noise and chatter and reach our audience in a way that galvanizes the action required to not only cope with, but strive though an initiative for change or growth?

Traditional elearning versus modern

Though learning and development approaches may be changing slowly, we have developed considerably over the past couple of decades.

There are a few developments that are reflective of an increased commercial understanding by L&D departments.

The Google effect

The move to mobile and integrated systems is symptomatic of an understanding that we have to take learning to the learner rather than call them to us.

As people’s lives become busier and more people are working on the go, the same requirements are expected of L&D.

Our grasping attempts to become as accessible and engaging as Google or YouTube are helping us to start to think about alternative learning delivery means and platforms.


In line with the development of accessible learning that is less closely monitored than it was by tutors in a classroom, came an increasing need to carry out thorough assessments.

There is a range of means by which people carry this out and no overarching model or system for effective assessments.

In turn, what has happened is the questioning of the importance of assessment itself, partially due to the lack of ability to effectively validate the effectiveness of a learning initiative.

So often in learning, we understand the importance of repetition and reminders, but we still hold onto the idea that reverting back to old behaviours is a lack of engagement on the part of the staff.

There are a whole plethora of challenges when it comes to assessing learning impact and ensuring consistent behaviour change.

Ultimately results are the most reliable point of reference, entirely separated from the usual L&D frame of reference or influence.

This provides us with the on-going debate about ROI, how to measure it, and if we should.

Repetition, repetition, repetition

We have seen a shift in understanding the implications of time in learning delivery.

In the design of bite-sized learning, reminder learning snippets and refresher quizzes, we have seen the beginnings of a shift from seeing learning as a moment in time, to put into practice on the job, to something less definitive.

If we compare this to marketing practices, we see that commercial organisations understand that their buyers will go back to old habits, or move to more exciting buying habits if given the opportunity.

In marketing, companies proactively repeat messages to embed buyer behaviour change and understand that this is a continuous process.

So often in learning, we understand the importance of repetition and reminders, but we still hold onto the idea that reverting back to old behaviours is a lack of engagement on the part of the staff.

User experience

In some areas, rather than putting the onus on the learner, increasingly we are developing the design of learning.

‘User experience’ is a phrase receiving a warm welcome in the L&D industry. This is a phrase lying at the foundations of a marketing approach.

Engagement and quality learning are for many contradictory and cannot be found in the same place or delivered in the same way.

Through interactive media, ease of use, reduction of clicks and easy to find content, learning resources are becoming more engaging.

Despite this, the number of clicks to find content was in 2016 found to be one of the primary barriers to staff taking part in learning (Towards Maturity, 2016).

What is not working about our current approach

Despite making strides in the development of engaging learning, some of the fundamental challenges still restrict many and most learning provisions and resources.

Course content is crucial and fundamental to any learning intervention, however it does not lend itself to on-going learning, on-the-job learning or proof of the impact of the learning.

The balance of exciting and realistic

Quick and exciting solutions provide the excitement sought to increase engagement, however they do not contain the thorough and realistic solutions that are provided in quality learning content.

Engagement and quality learning are for many contradictory and cannot be found in the same place or delivered in the same way.

Lip service to the forgetting curve

The retention of information and its nemesis, the forgetting curve, is not a flaw in staff’s ability to recall information, it is in fact inevitable without proper and regular incentives and reminders.

There seems to be a compelling myth that engaging in learning is equal to having a positive impact on the business.

This could be called semantics, however if we look at it from this perspective, the problem in traditional and modern learning delivery approaches is highlighted.

The transformation from old to new behaviours is a continuous process rather than a start and an end.

OMG it’s ROI

Without an end, it becomes difficult to record impact of a specific intervention.

A system of ROI can be a useful means to ensuring efforts are aligned with the company goals, however. Few current learning assessments provide the L&D department with the ability to prove actual impact.

There seems to be a compelling myth that engaging in learning is equal to having a positive impact on the business.

There is no proven correlation and though there are some learning outcomes that cannot be measured, that is not to say that L&D cannot prove ROI or some form of business performance enhancement, we just haven’t mastered it yet.


We are exploring the applications of a relationship between marketing approaches and learning delivery as a means to increase engagement, retention and improve business performance.

Our Campaign Learning White Paper explores these approaches and their potential with real life examples.

Through these articles within Training Zone we wish to explore and share with you our expertise in how marketing skills, tools and approaches can be utilised in the learning context. We will use a combination of insights from case studies, experiences and research.

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Issy Nancarrow

Managing Director

Read more from Issy Nancarrow

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