The goal of an online training programme is never “to complete this course with 100% participation”. Sure, that might be an essential demand on the organisation, but the purpose of the training isn’t just to get to the end. It’s to embed new skills and change behaviour. Everything you present in eLearning should be practically applicable on-the-job, or else it isn’t worth doing. Learners will see through mandatory training for what it is: a tick-box exercise that neither the organisation, nor they themselves, really care about. Do you have time and money to waste like that? Of course not. A carefully thought-through approach to engagement that permeates through the entire L&D strategy is a game-changer.
Once you start ploughing through the research papers, there are several models of engagement when it comes to designing online training. The one we’ll focus on here has a (not-so-catchy) acronym: R-CEMI. Relate; Challenge; Engage; Motivate; Inspire.
Every interaction with a learning resource should have value and meaning. Without some idea of why a learner would want to study an infographic, listen to a leadership podcast or take a microlearning quiz – there is very little chance they will actually do it. eLearning has to be a positive experience, where there is incentive to participate fully. To achieve this, make the tone and content relatable.
Personalization is the top priority in relatable online training. There is no excuse for a generic training environment. An individual should have their own learning path, displayed every time they access the LMS. Personalisation of content is possible thanks to pre-course training needs assessments. Even the user interface can be editable with options over text size, colour and font.
Course objectives that are relevant to the learner as well as the organisation should be outlined right from the start. Throughout the course, refer back to these objectives, and tick off achievements. This is especially important if it’s a compliance-based, mandatory course.
Context for learning is important in setting the tone for communications. Wherever possible, include videos and messages from execs to show their support for the training programme. Learners need to understand the bigger picture – for themselves, and organisationally.
We are only learning something new if we are being challenged. Failure is good – it’s the point at which we reach the limit of our knowledge. Help learners reach that point, sensitively – and give them encouragement to have another go. Offer clues and tips, and lots of reassurance that people who succeed have only failed more times!
Gamification and rewards encourage healthy competition that many learners enjoy. Whether they are playing against an average score or against their peers via social learning, games are useful both as interactive tools – and as a hidden informal assessment. You could also try using social polling and analysis to compare results and opinions with peers.
Provide on-the-spot learner feedback through formal and informal assessments – micro-quizzes after each module are often more effective than an end-of-course test. If learners can assess for themselves how they are progressing, they will be able to identify any gaps and look to fill them.
Keep learners wanting to participate throughout the training. Keep the content relevant and concise – losing the learner’s attention is fatal in a world full of distractions.
Give learners control over the speed and order in which they complete the training – let them skip forward if they like, or jump back. Allow them to focus more on one area and pass over another that they are familiar with. Let learners sign up for the courses that they choose, where they are supporting personal growth and future ambition. Trust them to manage their own learning autonomously.
Learning by doing is the best way to keep a learner’s attention. For the purposes of assessment, interactive elements such as simulations and branching scenarios enable the testing of practical skills application. For the learner, they get an immersive experience and get to try out what they are learning in a safe way.
Build up a Microlearning library so that learners can manage their training around their workload. If you want learning resources to stand out, you’ll need to compete with short, impactful videos and games. Design for a mobile first environment so that every resource works on any device to give learners freedom to participate on their own timeframe.
Offer choices tailored to the individual so that they are motivated to participate. Every learner is different, so design eLearning resources that appeal to multiple learning styles. To discover what works best for different learners, take the time to analyse previous courses in comparison with completion and participation rates as well as test scores.
Little motivates a learner to participate more than an emotional connection to the content. Put the learner into the scenario: build situations and characters to which they can relate. Aim to provoke this question: what if this happened to me? What would I do? If they are challenged to approach content from their own experience, they will trigger memories which helps embed learning as it activates the right part of the brain.
Just-in-time learning describes training resources that are delivered at the point of need. If learning feels timely and worthwhile, there is no question about the benefit of giving it your full attention.
If a course finishes and the connection to the material ends, then there is very little chance it will be truly embedded in the learner’s daily life. If you’re looking to achieve behavioural change – and a positive impact on those around the learner – then you need to inspire them to continue to engage with the topic.
Ongoing social learning through forums, discussion groups and self-access authoring tools allows learners to share their experience through connection with experts and peers. Encouraging learners to blog, create materials and pose questions builds a network of skilled employees that has far-reaching benefits.
Position the training within an individual learning journey and personal development goals to inspire a growth mindset. Help learners register for other, relevant courses (including microlearning assets) and build the development culture around autonomy and continuous growth. A learner that manages their own journey – with full support from their manager and HR teams – is one who is truly engaged.
Whatever fantastic authoring tools or features you have in your LMS arsenal, nothing compares to an emotional connection to the content that activates the brain and the memory. Nobody wants to feel like they are wasting their time. Engage your learners thoughtfully, throughout their learning journey with the organisation. The result won’t just be a highly-skilled workforce – it will be a satisfied group of employees who are committed to the company that supports and nurtures them.