In the context of needs analysis, the word cloud accompanying this article reveals how a learning professional may narrow a vague request about a perceived gap in communication skills to a specific focus such as “writing” or “email.” Even better, the learning professional might use such a graphic to determine that a broad request for “communication training” actually calls for helping the learners write concise emails to customers.
Design & Development – Use Word Clouds to Focus Your Deliverable
Learning professionals often address wide-ranging subjects that might go in any number of directions. An instructor-led class or eLearning about leadership skills might address hiring, coaching, delegation, performance evaluation, or other topics. Creating a word cloud from drafts of facilitator talking points or eLearning narration provides a quick focus check. For example, if a proposed leadership module should focus on performance evaluation, certain terms should appear more than others. A word cloud culled from this type of training might distort to terms such as “measureable,” “impact,” “results,” “feedback,” etc. If the word cloud does not reveal a high use of such terms, the training may lack focus and/or reiteration which would aid in retention.
Implementation – Use Word Clouds For Search Optimization
As learners sort through ever-increasing amounts of available information, tagging has assumed an important role in sifting through the noise. Learning professionals may use tags within learning management systems, article databases, and blog posts to identify content. Word clouds provide a painless way to create tags based upon a word’s frequency of use. Referring again to the word cloud included with this article, one might use tags such as “emails, “writing,” “learned,” “communication,” “concise,” and “customers” to assist in searches.
Evaluation – Use Word Cloud to Organize Open-Ended Feedback
Level one open-ended survey questions offer a personalized level of feedback not available through Likert Scale questionnaires. Even more useful, follow-up interviews with a learner’s manager may reveal coveted instances of level three on-the-job application. Yet, despite their value, both approaches are labor intensive due to the need to manually sort through feedback. A word cloud may mitigate some of that work by identifying words and concepts that most resonated with learners and their manager respectively. If used for measurement purposes, the word cloud above suggests that participants who attended this particular communication course most remembered content about writing emails to customers, active versus passive voice, and editing (the words “review,” “drafting,” and “re-read” all appear in the cloud). Moreover, analysis-based and evaluation-centered word clouds will mirror each other in effective training solutions, meaning the learners best recalled concepts around which they had gaps in the first place.
Word clouds provide a flexible resource that learning professionals may leverage across multiple facets of their job. They offer a unique way to analyze, design, develop, implement, and evaluate solutions in an easy-to-follow manner. Analytic concepts such as visualization needn’t remain abstract, specialized exercises, but instead, offer utilitarian value if one applies them creatively.