Learning in the Key of "New Mom": What Parent Training Has Taught Me about LXD
10 months ago, I gave birth to a wonderful little human. And while I thought I had done my due diligence in reading up on pregnancy and child-rearing, asking friends for protips, drawing from my many years of experience teaching young kids how to ride horses, yada yada... oh my gosh, it was so much more than I ever could have imagined!
Being a first-time parent-- during a pandemic, I might add-- has been the biggest challenge of my life.
At this point, you might be thinking-- hey, lady, this is a L&D blog. What's this got to do with anything? I hear ya. Hang with me.
The amount of learning I have done in the past two years exceeds perhaps even my PhD in terms of depth and breadth. And it's taught me a lot about what works and what doesn't when it comes to learning experience design.
So, in this post, I'll be walking through the LXD lessons learned and what I'm taking back to my work.
First, here's a list of the most common tools I use/used a "developing parent":
Google - like 1029830192830928 times a day
YouTube- like 1029830192830927 times a day
What to Expect app for iOS
Baby Tracker app for iOS
Nanit app for iOS
Solid Starts app for iOS
Formal Educational Products
Hypnobirthing Independent Study program - literally a gigantic book, a workbook, some "job aids", and downloadable mp3s of audio tracks + a Facebook community for support
Taking Cara Babies ABCs of Sleep online course - a video-based course with some PDF takeaways run on Kajabi
Nothing is "It"
From a quick glance, you can already see that no one tool is good enough on its own. There are layers to my learning. And sure, there is a lot of free information out there, but it's a lot to sift through, so sometimes, I opt to pay.
The Takeaway: Design multi-layer training for ongoing support.
Production Quality Matters Less than You'd Think
Hypnobirthing was a cruddy self-printed monster text book with pictures that look like they were taken in the 90s. But man, they have a monster following. People really believe in their program. Rave about it! It's what sold me. And to be honest, as I went through the program, I never felt like I had been cheated out of $200. I was always clear on the objectives. It constantly engaged me in practice and gave me pacing and guidelines to help me hold myself accountable. I did, in fact, try using the tools they gave me, even though my birthing plan went way off track. I still use one of their meditation tools when I'm feeling stressed.
On the flipside, Nanit's app is beautifully designed. The branding is thoughtful. The UX is well considered. Nothing about it motivates me to use the tools they built in, though. I literally just turn it on for the camera at night. The data is inaccurate.
And I'll flip it one more for you... every day since birth, I've used the Baby Tracker app. I have months of data. The dashboard is a really simply, again low-production value-looking app, but I find the insights I get from it way more valuable than the one on the Nanit, which costs a hefty fee for both hardware and an annual membership for their software.
The Takeaway: Lead with the user's needs and real use environment.
Anonymity Can Offer a Powerful Learning Opportunity
I use the What to Expect app daily since before I gave birth, and one of the best features is the community. It allows you to ask questions under a user name. The community can report those who break the rules, but generally, I've found it to be a safe space.
In my own life, there have been questions I've been worried to ask, for fear of judgment or for fear of hurting people's feelings. I've also been, admittedly, grappling with some birth trauma and felt dismissed when I tried to talk about it. People don't know what to do with those feelings. I've learned a lot by being able to ask and get different perspectives.
I've seen other people use the app to do the same. Mixed in with the average parenting questions and baby pics, there are some really serious subjects discussed: severe postpartum depression and thoughts of self harm, abusive partners and how to leave them, worrying about where to get the next meal, navigating challenging family dynamics. Because the board is well-used and well-moderated, (typically) women who would otherwise have no support network have reported being able to handle some of these situations. We all sigh a sigh of relief when a mom with PPD reports back that she's on meds and doing better or comes back and says she left her partner and things are going well or able to find the resources she needs.
The Takeaway: Add social learning with options for anonymous responses, but ensure you have a method for moderating.
Everything Doesn't Need to Be Unlocked
I hear gripes about locked navigation all the time, and I will say that there's a distinct different from the "click next" style courses and what I'm about to describe. That said, there is power in locking down learning pathways.
Throughout my pregnancy, I delighted every time I hit a new week of gestation because the What to Expect app would unlock a new video for me. These videos were a blend of talking head host, PPT-style graphics, and 3D graphics of what was occurring inside the body. Every week, we'd see the 3D baby grow and change and get an idea of what was happening with our own. It kept me coming back to the app (and from there, I'm sure they made plenty of money in advertising).
The Takeaway: Lock content down when releasing it all at once could be overwhelming / when content isn't needed yet.
But Sometimes, It Should Be Unlocked
Taking Cara Babies also has a cult following. People swear by her sleep training methods, and I have to say, I am now one of those people. At 5.5 months, sleep went right out the window as our little one decided that she needed to be nursed every 45-90 minutes all night long 😩
After much coaxing from the pediatrician, I decided to try sleep training. It was terrible at first. How long do we let the baby cry? Isn't it cruel? Do we just shut the door and ignore her? Do we stay in there in comfort her? Is she hungry?
We turned to Cara.
Cara's course, The ABCs of Sleep, was designed as microlearning. There were short little lessons with takeaway PDFs. It was mobile-friendly, so you could access it from any device.
And let me tell you... that's exactly what I had to do.
3 am... baby is crying. Are you getting on your computer and watching a 1 hour training? Heck no! I went straight to the part I needed-- ah, night weaning plan-- and watched it.
The Takeaway: Free-navigation microlearning works when learners are on different pathways and are likely to use the content as a resource after training is complete.
While there is plenty to take back to Your Instructional Designer's client work, I'm also working as a cofounder for another organization (that I can't tell you about just yet), and this has deeply informed the work I'm doing there.
What I want to encourage you to do is to look at the tools you use to learn in your own life, even if they aren't LMSs or L&D, and start to think:
Why do I use this learning tool?
What do I get from it?
What makes it work?
In doing so, you, too, can create some truly impactful learning experiences.
Learn more about designing for user's needs (and a whole bunch of other stuff to) in From Data to Design. Now enrolling through Jan 21, 2022 for the Winter 2022 cohort.