Leveraging Emotions to Create Engaging Learning Experiences
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Leveraging Emotions to Create Engaging Learning Experiences

Lan Tran, Director of Learning Design and Technology, McDonald’s
Lan Tran, Director of Learning Design and Technology, McDonald’s

Lan Tran, Director of Learning Design and Technology, McDonald’s

Can you give us a brief background about your roles in the organizations you've worked for? How does the experience augment your role and responsibility at your current organization?

I was the Head of L&D Governance, Technology, and Operations for learning at Kraft Heinz, where I helped create and set up the next evolution of their corporate online university, which increased the number of people that visited their online university. At Kraft Heinz, I focused on overall learner engagement while creating the groundwork for their learning analytics. I also managed the learning team's day-to-day operations and company-wide learning events.

I'm currently the Director of Learning Design and Technology at McDonald's, where I lead the learning design team in creating courses for all corporate and restaurant staff. We cover a wide range of topics, from how to make fries to leadership skills. On the technology front, I also concentrate on enabling technology, i.e., tools that we can utilize to create and deliver our courses to ensure a fantastic learner experience.

I am a firm believer in the use of technology to enhance the learning experience.

What are some of your key responsibilities as a leader at McDonald's?

My responsibilities include developing a strategy to change how we approach learning while making it more impactful and effective. We focus on behavior change and a sense of belonging.

We help people perform their job with confidence. We follow an approach to learning design to ensure our objectives align with the behaviors a learner needs to succeed. Through our learning experiences, we are culture carriers of the company's values and mission. It is also essential to ensure we are aligned with overarching business goals and strategy.

Design trends for e-learning are constantly changing to meet the requirements and expectations of today's learners. What should an interactive learning experience look like?

In my opinion, interactive and engaging is something where you can be immersed in the story and the content. As adults, we learn through high emotions either we are happy and learn what to do. Or when most of us learn, when we feel awful and that we made a mistake, and we learn what not to do. We reflect on what we can change to not feel that awful emotion again. If we can create these same emotions within the learning experience, we will be able to use the same kind of reflection to assist in moving the needle on behavior change. Emotions lead to motion. If you want to trigger a behavior change, you have to trigger an emotion.

  ​We are setting the vision and standards for a people-first learning design approach focusing on behavior change using continuous learning, gamification, and immersive experiences.

Technology should not be the focus. Even if you have the best technology, it cannot change habits on its own without a strong human design. Emphasizing technology over the human experience will lead to the consumer merely pressing buttons. Learners want something that interests them in the subject and helps them gain insights to apply to their job and role. Adding technology to enhance the stories and content you are developing is one way to create an engaging and immersive experience. So, the learner should be at the center of what you are creating, and technology is one component of elevating the experience for the learner.

There are a lot of great technologies out there, such as virtual reality, augmented reality, and simulations, which enhances the learner experience. These technologies are the most recent e-learning design trends. But learning designers have to start the design process with an open mind and not be locked into a specific technology (i.e., be technology agnostic). The design will lead you to the best technology to bring your learning experience to life.

How do learning development tools help learning designers?

Tools to help people create courses have their time and place. For those who are not experienced learning designers, they offer templates to create courses. If you are low on budget or time, tools can help move things along quickly and economically. I will also say that these tools do not replace good learning design. You can create a course with these tools, but if you really want to create something effective that will make a difference, you should work with a learning professional.

What would be your piece of advice for budding professionals in the field?

When creating anything, always define what behaviors you want users to exhibit, regardless of whether you're creating an app, communications, or a learning course. Also, ask what you want your users to feel when going through your experience or reading your communication. Focus on inciting those emotions to trigger the behavior.

If we're talking about the industry as a whole, I would say that it is critical for leaders to consider who is on this journey with them. It is a communal effort because no component of your accomplishment is done in isolation. Your journey is about you and also about who reaches the destinations with you. Who can you celebrate with, learn with, and grow with? The successes of your colleagues and team members are also your successes. And your successes are theirs.

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