The Elearning + Marketing canvass


Last week, I discussed the opportunity to integrate learning technology into a large scale web-based mobilization platform like the one developed by the Obama for America (OFA) 2012 campaign. In a stroke of serendipity, earlier this week the Republican National Committee (RNC) released their Growth Opportunity Project report. Three months in the making, the report is billed as an honest, thorough review of the 2012 election cycle and a comprehensive plan for moving forward.

Comparing the insights presented by the Obama engineering team in their presentation last week with the findings from the report reveals, as expected, the need for ground game improvements. The report contains some familiar technical recommendations, such as specifying a platform with API’s for multiple app development with an emphasis on effective User Interface design. Advocating for better ability to scale and be responsive, the report calls for a more agile and transparent environment. The report emphasizes the need for training to achieve these goals – even calling for spinning out a 501 (c) (4) Digital Training Institute to create a culture built on intellectual curiosity and learning.

Beyond building an enlightened culture internally, the GOP is failing to connect with the wider cutting-edge cultural issues.   Reflecting on the GOP’s alienation from young people, and particularly the challenge of immigration reform, the report emphasizes a marketing approach for presenting the GOP’s training and branding to an increasingly wired community.

Empowering brand ambassadors

During their presentation, engineering leads from the OFA team detailed how the local canvasser team leaders (essentially brand ambassadors) were able to make decisions on the ground in real time based on their access to national trends. Organizers across the rapidly growing organization delivered consistent message. Real-time learning enabled the marshaling and prioritization of teams in the community. The OFA team even built apps to allow canvassers with limited mobility the opportunity to reach out and engage people from their homes.

The GOP 2012 Canvassers didn’t have suitable tools.  OFA canvassers had a variety of point-of-contact apps designed to streamline administrative and logistical operations.  With an integrated elearning + marketing strategy, canvassers can bring a lot more to the door.   Ideally a canvasser at the door delivers a message that opens the heart and mind.   Delivering the right message to the right person at the right time sounds a lot like marketing, so it’s natural to consider that venerable marketing tool, the survey, for its suitability as a transition point.

The survey pivot

Learning objectives are the building blocks of Instructional Design (ID), and learning design is the fundamental principle of elearning design.  Building toward deeper engagement, surveys can be associated with learning objectives.   Extending surveys this way would be a simple but significant evolution; it becomes adaptive learning on a large scale.

The survey User Experience (UX) is tough to beat – simple and effective.  Elearning is necessarily more complex UX, but there is a big push for a more nimble, social model of elearning design that reflects “learning happens everwhere.”    Utilizing this approach, surveys can present options for deeper learning opportunities.  The deeper learning opportunities work asynchronously, so they don’t interrupt the user’s natural flow of activity.  In turn, this natural flow increases it value and visibility in the community.

Fostering an enlightened community

A sustained learning resource helps build a bigger tent by fostering a deeper relationship.  If people trust and value the source, they will support it by sharing their knowledge.

For example, by fostering an understanding of basic tax principles, the common taxation talk can become more specific, more useful. Instead of getting caught up with heated rhetoric promoted by mass media, everyday people can find ways to make public policy discussions relevant to their everyday life.

The GOP’s cultural challenge with minority outreach, immigration reform in particular, is an interesting use case.

Immigration innovation

Transformative, utilitarian technological advances, such as micro-lending, are expected to increasingly originate in the third world.  In Mumbai, the world’s fourth most populous city, about 70 percent of the state’s 100 million people have cellphones, but nearly half of families still don’t have a toilet.  Immigrants to the US continue to pursue life liberty and happiness but they’re increasingly technologically adept.   When seeking to reach a people who are eager to join a new community and believe in mobile technology as an indispensable enabler, the GOP would do well to welcome them with a digital civics platform that is unobtrusive, social, and useful.

From mobilizing to converting

During their presentation, the OFA team said they were proudest not of their technical achievement, rather, they were proudest of the change they brought about by creating a new type of platform for technology-enabled citizen empowerment. It’s a standard in its infancy, and they expressed their desire to see it grow.

The GOP has every reason to seize this opportunity to evolve the civic platform beyond just operational benefits.

Any organization can, through an effective elearning + marketing strategy, deliver useful content and naturally engaging learning opportunities to attract new people.   A sustained elearning + marketing strategy is a powerful way to nurture brand ambassadors both inside and outside the organization.