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Learner engagement – Do you have an issue with your new platform?

Engagement. It’s eagerly discussed yet met with indifference from the business. You’ve put in the effort: a new learning platform, budget negotiations, impeccable branding, only for it to become a ghost town a month later.

Where did we go wrong? What happened to that initial spark? Added more content, but no luck. Marketing tactics? Still nothing. While these may yield short-term gains, our focus is on long-term ROI, not fleeting glory.


The reality of engagement

Let’s be bold here: engagement and ‘engagement data’ are misplaced priorities. Consider this:

  • Engagement isn’t a business metric; it doesn’t speak the language of outcomes.
  • Engagement isn’t the goal; changing behaviours or performance metrics is.
  • Engagement isn’t universal; not everyone will log in or consume content regularly.

To navigate this, let’s adopt a product mindset. It’s time to prioritise outcomes over outputs and constantly discover what adds value to the customer.


New platform

Exciting times! Your new learning solution is live, but despite the hype, usage is low. Or perhaps, after a few months, traction seems to have dwindled. Here are five things to consider.

  1. What outcomes or problems were you trying to solve

When creating your business case for the new platform, you likely outlined the problems it would address for your organisation. These would have been essential for securing budget approval. While it’s tempting to fixate on ‘engagement data,’ such as log-in rates or course completions, these are often vanity metrics.

While not useless, they don’t define success, nor do they support any value proposition. They can, however, serve as starting points for investigation. If nobody is logging in, for example, you won’t achieve your business goals. Therefore, refocus on the business metrics you aim to improve and ensure your platform supports these outcomes; it’s easy to get lost and just add lots of content and badges or do some marketing and assume people see value.


  1. Did you speak to people?

A powerful approach is gathering qualitative data by engaging with people directly. While performance and business metrics offer insights, they have limitations. Conversations may reveal various issues, such as lack of awareness, perceived value, content relevancy, or usability concerns. Trends will emerge, guiding appropriate actions. However, remember to tie these insights back to business outcomes. For instance, if users feel the platform doesn’t support their development needs, consider what would support them in achieving specific performance outcomes – FYI, this might not always be more content. A great user research technique to use here could be the ‘5 whys’. You may have heard of this before, but if not the principle is about digging deeper than the surface level problem you are told. If you want to learn more about UX research I would highly recommend the book, UX research quick guide.


  1. Do people know it exists?

Building it doesn’t guarantee users. You must raise awareness about the platform, content, and, most importantly, the value to them. This is where “marketing for learning” comes in, ideally starting during the implementation stage. Generate excitement, communicate the value proposition, and continue the story post-launch. You need to overcome ‘the chasm’ in the adoption curve.

People can’t engage with what they don’t know about or see value in. This responsibility isn’t solely on the L&D team; leverage your communications and leadership teams, making them advocates for the platform. Get learners involved if you can, too, by sharing their experiences and how they helped in their role.


  1. You can’t build Rome in a day.

It’s exciting to think about the possibility this new platform can do for people and your organisation. But going big too fast can sometimes have the reverse effect. You have to hyper-focus to start with; look at just two or three core problems you want to tackle using this tech. This might mean you target just a specific audience of people to begin with.

There’s no right or wrong here. Like a broken record, we’re going to repeat; it’s all about the business outcomes. Here’s an example of where context is key:

Scenario: You’ve identified there is a staff retention issue. The top reason is that people just want access to some form of self-driven development.

If, after some digging, you see a real trend in the development opportunities people want, then going wide fast could be a high-value action for you. If, however, we change the scenario slightly and you identify most retention issues are from one particular department, then target your efforts there first as this would have the most value.


  1. Is it usable?

Platforms you implement undergo extensive research, ensuring overall usability and accessibility. However, complexity may stem from your setup and usage. Content organisation is crucial: consider stand-alone courses, pathways, catalogues, locked content, or open access. Align these choices with your desired outcomes.

For example, if your aim is to have clear leadership training in place to improve team performance and coaching conversations, then structure content accordingly, and in a meaningful way that takes someone on a clear path from A-Z.

If, however, your users need quick, in-the-moment content, then this content structure wouldn’t work as it’s not quickly and easily accessible. A more free catalogue, tagged up well and with short-form content, could be better to leverage the search functionality and access to quick information

Different user needs may require varied solutions. Ensure the platform meets user expectations through testing, feedback, and willingness to adapt as needed. You won’t get the setup right straight away, but the user needs to change it all the time.


Do you have an existing LMS that you’re struggling to maintain learner engagement with? Check out our next blog, ‘Learner engagement: is your existing platform plateauing?’.

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Written by Phill Lord-David


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