December 12th, 2018
    Digital Learning

7 ways to swing eLearning from boring to engaging

Victoria Kossoff 4 min read

There’s every chance that you’re reading this while thinking about something else you need to do.  We all have competing priorities – and we all have to deal with our minds wandering now and again. We have to accept that distraction is a part of modern life. Maybe things aren’t as bad as people are predicting (talk of an “attention span crisis” might be pushing it a little far). But we do need to understand how we can work with the flow of concentration, and not against it. How can we capture our learners in a way that works for everyone?

When we have identified a training need that can be addressed through online learning, we want to provide an immersive experience. One where the learner feels wholly engaged and happy to resist all other temptations. That’s the best way to get across a complex or challenging subject matter.

Here are a few of the best ways design a meaningful and effective online training experience.

7 tips to hold the learner’s attention:

  1. Build a comprehensive microlearning library. Use the opportunity of engaging learners with short attention spans, to build up a vast collection of microlearning assets that can be used and re-used in multiple training situations. Push out to learners to encourage pre- and post-course learning. Encourage microlearning as an excellent habit to fill time waiting for meetings, trains and lunches! Present your learning in digestible chunks, such as infographics, videos or blog articles. These semi-formal learning opportunities allow learners to manage their own learning independently, diving more deeply into subjects that capture their interest.
  2. Keep the navigation clear. Learners shouldn’t have to waste valuable learning time in trying to navigate your course. Work hard on a design strategy so that every course in your LMS looks and feels familiar. Make sure your courses are easy and straightforward to navigate. Keep your pages clear and eye-catching. Any confusion in how to use the training tools will trigger an adverse reaction in the learner, which is a definite barrier to holding their attention and transferring knowledge effectively.
  3. Provide positive distraction during online training. Build in a “reflection break”. Get the learner to take a moment away, time-bound, to think about what they’ve learned and grab a drink. Ask them to go and research something and come back to answer a quiz or take a social poll. You could even let them leave the course and come back the next day, to the same point. Let them take some time away – the brain can only absorb information for so long (around twenty minutes) before new knowledge starts to build up outside the door, not going through
  4. Build gamification into your training. Clearly describe the learning objectives for the course and come back with a progress review throughout. Give learners a chance to test their skills in quick and fun ways – such as a game, quiz or cartoon-style scenario. Then reward them with a progress badge (they’ll want to collect the whole set by the end – it’s human nature). Break every piece of learning into manageable chunks and let the learner check their understanding as they go along. It will help manage the concentration issue – and it will help embed learning more effectively. When learners can monitor their progress and track their goals in real-time, they are more motivated to participate fully. Use a progress bar on every page, and a checklist at the end of every module.
  5. Carefully encourage social learning. Use your collaboration platforms to encourage learners to connect with one another, as well as SMEs and peers in other industries. Start discussion groups and forums and allow learners to continue building up their knowledge outside of the formal training. Distraction from social media can happen at any time. Set your learners’ interesting challenges and goals from social forums such that they use this particular distraction to develop their skills.
  6. Immerse your learners in a simulation. Keep their attention by giving them an alternate world in which to learn. Simulation helps learners to try out their new skills in a safe way. There are no risks to failure – if they get something wrong, the only consequence is that they get useful feedback and the chance to try again. Make the simulation environment realistic and the characters relatable. Then, if the learner encounters the same situation in the real world, they have already had a chance to practice. Use your simulation tools to give the learner a unique experience. Just make sure you keep it focused, tightly timed (remembering that twenty-minute concentration span rule) and in context.
  7. Use graphics instead of texts – as much as possible! Learners can feel bogged down by text. Audio is preferable, but it is still nowhere near as impactful as video. If you can use a video, graphic or infographic instead of a block of text: do it. Make it your new rule. There’s no need for video to become a costly exercise. You have every editing tool you need right there on your phone. Get your SMEs and leaders comfortable in front of the camera, so that they can share their experiences in person. People are far more engaged by faces than words.

You will have noticed a theme here: interactivity. Design learning experiences that actively involve the learner. Have them role-play using a simulation or scenario. Get them to play a game or answer a quiz. Challenge them to find out more. Have them watch and learn. All of this has two huge benefits: firstly, short attention spans are managed. Activities that play to the different ways we like to learn help to limit the risk of distraction. Secondly: interactive, engaging learning promotes superior adoption. All of these design elements encourage learners to try out their skills as they learn. That makes learners feel more confident, and more like to adopt the desired behaviours. Interactive learning is the real secret to using short attention spans to your advantage.

At The Learning Factor, we simplify the business of learning. We craft exceptional training solutions that solve critical business challenges across all touchpoints, screens, and devices.

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