The 2023 State of Education Initiatives report found that 33% of learning professionals had their budget cut in the last year. The same report found that 15% lost team members because of layoffs.
Yet these same teams are often asked to produce quality work that delivers ROI despite having fewer resources.
This task may seem overwhelming, but there are a number of practical ways we can increase the efficiency of our customer education teams.
In this blog, we’ll focus on how you can do more with less by adopting a modular content strategy.
What is a Modular Content Approach?
A modular content approach in eLearning is a content development process where content is created in reusable blocks. You can leverage these reusable components in different combinations to scale content production and delivery.
Think of these content blocks like LEGOs. There are a number of different LEGO variations—square, rectangular, angled, etc. These LEGOs are assembled in different combinations depending on what you’re trying to build.
Benefits of Using Modular Content for Education
Modular content has a number of benefits that center around personalization, scale, and efficiency.
Personalization is important in every sector of business—and it’s no different for customer education. Research around the impact of personalized learning shows it leads to higher achievement rates.
Personalized content in education means learners can focus on what matters most to them. Rather than glean something meaningful out of a resource that’s not entirely relevant, they can get more value from your educational content, faster.
What this looks like in practice is core content around your product or service that can be augmented with more personalized learning content based on persona or use case. This could be on-demand content, or offered through live (ILT) or virtual instructor-led training (VILT).
Scaled content development
In addition to personalized learning, modular content helps you to scale content development. When creating customer education content—especially product education—it’s highly likely some of the same materials are relevant for multiple audiences.
Think about it this way: Let’s say you're on a training team. Your customer success leader comes to you and says, “We need to develop training that helps our customers use our product.” You do your research, outline the training, and build it. The end result is great customer product training.
Then your VP of Sales makes a similar request: “That training you developed for customers is great. Can you create something similar for sales?” You’re back to the drawing board, developing a companion training for sales. It’s similar to the customer product training, with the addition of how to sell the product. You ship it to much praise from your sales team.
Then your head of customer support approaches: “I saw what your team created for customers and sales. Can you do training for customer service?”
And then they come back, and say, “Hey can you make one for Customer Service.” Again, the content is similar to the customer training, but focuses more on troubleshooting to support customers.
Now you have three pieces of training on the same product. Each training does its job—even though a lot of the content repeats itself. But then the product changes, and what do you have to do? Go back and update all three trainings to reflect the updates.
This approach is incredibly inefficient—costing your team time and resources you need to allocate to other projects. Taking a modular approach to content can keep you from needing to develop multiple versions of the same training—and updating those training modules again and again.
6 Steps to Start Creating Modular Content
In eLearning, modular content allows you to reuse content in different places and for different audiences. For example, you might create a video overview of a key platform feature that’s relevant for both employees and customers.
The key idea here is to not build a training for one purpose—but to think about what digital content can be created and leveraged across initiatives. With fewer resources, scalable content creation is essential.
1. Analyze learning needs with a skills matrix.
When building out modular content, start with an understanding of learning needs and how those vary for the different audiences you serve.
To do this, you can take the following steps:
- Identify all the meaningful learner groups you need to support. Start with more broad audiences (e.g., customers, employees, partners), then get more granular (e.g., sales and marketing team, customer success, etc.). This will help you identify the larger segments or
- Identify all the core skills each learner group needs to learn, and develop learning objectives for those skills.
- Consider the levels of knowledge and skills required for each audience segment. Some groups need to have more depth than others (e.g., your support team may need more depth than your sales team).
Make this process your own! The following chart provides an example of a skills matrix we mapped, but feel free to adapt this to what works best for your education content team and workflow.
2. Build a curriculum map.
With your skills matrix in hand, it’s time to identify all the content you could ever possibly need to address your needs analysis.
As you’re doing this, you may discover existing content that can fill those slots in the short term (e.g., recorded webinars, documentation, eLearning, blog posts). Insert those pieces of content to give yourself a better idea of where the gaps are.
Now you’re ready to develop your content roadmap. The roadmap will highlight content that’s ready to go as-is. It should also include net-new content that addresses gaps in learning needs, along with opportunities to improve existing content. This roadmap will allow you to build out and update curriculum purposefully and intentionally.
Here’s an example of what a content map might look like:
3. Develop a standard build of smaller components.
Design a standard build of smaller components to combine into larger courses. Developing a standard will ensure there’s consistency across the team when identifying modular components and building net-new modules.
Think back to our LEGO analogy: Even though each LEGO might have a different shape or color, they all have a flat base with holes to connect with another piece. This ensures that the LEGO builder can connect all of the pieces to build their creation.
Here’s an example of what this looks like for DISCO University:
In this example, you see how seven modules are used in different combinations based on the audience.
4. Splice existing content into modules.
When addressing your content gaps, you don’t always need to start from scratch. Look at your existing content to see what could be broken down into core components that cover specific knowledge and skills that can stand on their own. The key here is to get granular. The more granular content is, the smaller “bites” you make them, the easier it is to reuse.
This gives you more modules to work with as you build moving forward. You can then slot these modules into your curriculum map—or use them to build content to fill in the gaps.
Something to consider here is: What’s relevant to each audience I’m creating educational content for?
For example, internal team members who support your product need to have the same insight into how the product works as end-users. If you offer industry education in addition to product education, some of that industry content might be relevant across product lines and personas.
Rather than create new, unique content for each use case, find what already exists and see what pieces you can repurpose.
5. Design new resources for reusability.
When creating new content, keep reusability in mind. Reusability allows you to repurpose content across groups, individuals, and programs to provide the specific learning programs those individuals need.
Modularity makes this feasible, so you aren’t beholden to creating and maintaining whole courses for every single group, role, or individual who needs to learn that content.
To do this, think about context and what prior knowledge different learner personas might have. You can create relevant content for different personas by focusing first on what all audiences need to know. What are the micro elements that are the same across audiences?
Then, you can augment that piece with additional resources that help each persona build upon what they’re learning.
Reference the example above to see this in action.
6. Create your modular content library.
Once you’ve created your modules (new or repurposed), you’ll need to catalog them.
It’s helpful to use a centralized content management system where you can store all content, then push into relevant modules or learning paths as needed. (Pssttt… Intellum lets you do this.) By keeping all content in one place, you reduce the need to upload and update content in multiple different platforms.
You may also want to tag content by publication date, topic, format, and audience, so you can easily find what exists.
Start Where You Are and Build Over Time
It’s not necessary to halt all content production, go back to the beginning, and redo all of your work when implementing content modules.
Instead, start with what you have and make a commitment to building modular content over time.