5 ways to make eLearning more engaging for the modern learner

Not so long ago the focus for eLearning was how can we create and manage it. The real issue today is engagement and how can we help people learn. In this article we’ll explore how to make learning content more engaging and effective in your organisation.

With so many distractions in the workplace, it’s harder than ever to capture the interest of learners, let alone keep them engaged or better still, getting them to come back for more. The rules of engagement have changed. Advancements in technology have created a unique set of expectations for modern learners. People want to learn in bite-sized chunks, often while on-the-go, in an easy and intuitive way, using a multitude of devices and they expect their learning experience to be fun and interactive.

Savvy L&D departments are questioning the status quo and are enlisting the support of innovative content providers to help them move beyond ‘click-next’ eLearning. A new wave of eLearning is steadily emerging – one that is grounded in providing a more timely, relevant, stimulating and rewarding experience that not just captures the imagination of today’s modern learners, but that can be easily accommodated within the constraints of the busy working day.

In any given week, employees take less than 25 minutes of time to actually slow down and learn (Bersin by Deloitte, 2016).

Learning in the modern world

The good news is that there are plenty of new technologies and techniques available today that make it easier than ever to immerse and engage learners and provide a more effective learning experience. For any organisation on a mission to develop and deploy high-impact learning content fit for the modern workplace, here are five game changers that will take your content to the next level.

1. Storytelling

Storytelling has been a fundamental pillar and proven learning technique since the dawn of human-kind. Nothing is more memorable than a good story. The way our brains are wired makes it easier for us to remember stories than a list of random facts. Stories resonate with us and are a great way to achieve an emotional connection. It’s human nature to want to know what happens next in a story and this can be used to great advantage in captivating learners, keeping them immersed and engaged throughout the learning module. Stories can be both entertaining as well as educational and are often a good way to inject some light humour to make learning more enjoyable and fun. Stories and real-life examples can be used in a whole host of eLearning subject matter to enhance the learning process and to inspire and motivate learners.

2. Video

Decreasing video production costs combined with increasing bandwidth continues to drive the use of bite-sized video clips embedded within eLearning courses as well as being used as standalone learning objects. Video can be a very powerful tool for getting information across quickly and effectively, for showcasing best practice by immersing the learner in real-life scenarios, replacing role play activities used in traditional learning, and for engaging with multi-generational teams, particularly the YouTube generation. Video is a great tool for creating an emotional connection and a lasting impression with learners. Research from Bersin by Deloitte shows that video can halve learning times compared with classroom or text-only methods. A picture can paint a thousand words, but a video can paint a whole eLearning course.

3. Gamification

While videos are brilliant at getting information across, they are still very passive. With so much attention-grabbing information at our fingertips, gamification – the use of game mechanics and game design techniques – is a great way to immerse and engage learners in a dynamic and rewarding learning experience and help them achieve their learning goals. It tackles one of the biggest problems with today’s eLearning – that learners think they know what to expect from a course – and it helps introduce intrigue and surprise to stop that all too common desire to ‘click-next’. Gamification can be used to boost course completion rates, increase knowledge retention, explore risks and consequences in a safe environment, change behaviour, and ultimately motivate learners.

4. Microlearning

Microlearning – the use of micro-sized chunks of learning that can be easily processed and accommodated into busy work schedules – is growing rapidly in popularity thanks to the proliferation of smartphones, and the rise of the multi-tasking YouTube generation in the workplace. Microlearning straddles learning and performance support with learning nuggets that are short enough to still be useful, and focused enough to provide an immediate actionable result for the learner. Short bursts of video are becoming the most popular microlearning format, particularly given that four minutes is the maximum time a millennial learner will spend watching a video.

5. VR and AR

This year looks set to be the year that virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) in learning will take off. The power of VR lies in its ability to immerse learners and recreate a physical presence and sensory experience in the real or imagined world for both hard and soft skills training. It is particularly effective for enabling somebody to experience something in someone else’s shoes and for allowing learners to safely try, fail and master new techniques. Often regarded as VR’s poor cousin because it is relatively cheaper and simpler to develop, AR offers lots of exciting opportunities to augment learning and integrate it into the workflow and for performance support and product knowledge training.

91% of L&D professionals plan to use VR for learning in their organisation, with over a third planning to roll out VR over the next three years (Kallidus)

Learner engagement key to successful learning

Learning content development has come a long way in recent years and new technologies will continue to offer the potential to make it more relevant, stimulating and rewarding. The challenge for L&D departments is to ensure a good understanding of how technology can be used to embrace learner needs, without being side-tracked by using technology for technology’s sake. Learner and learning goals should always remain at the core of all learning content. With the right combination of technologies and techniques your learners will be more engaged than ever before.