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What is engaging content for the modern learner?

The modern learner in the workplace is overwhelmed, distracted and impatient; it is becoming increasingly more difficult to capture the interest of learners, let alone keep them engaged or, better still, wanting more.

Capturing learners’ imaginations

With email, texts, websites, apps and video clips all competing for attention, the rules of engagement have changed. Modern learners possess a unique set of expectations thanks to advancements in technology; people want to learn in bite-sized chunks, often while on the move, in an easy and intuitive way. Thanks to technological developments, devices are increasingly mobile, and learners expect their learning experience to be fun, interactive, and on-the-go.

A new wave of elearning is steadily emerging – with more and more L&D teams asking: ‘what is engaging content?’, teams are seeking expert advice grounded in providing a more timely, relevant, stimulating and rewarding experience. These experts will not only capture the imaginations of your workforce, but also be able to easily incorporate learning within the constraints of the busy working day – employees will only take up to 25 minutes a week to actually slow down and learn [1].

Learning techniques in the modern world

Expert content providers will be able to advise on new technologies and techniques available that are able to immerse and engage your workforce, providing a more effective learning experience.


Nothing is more memorable than a good story. Storytelling is a proven learning technique; 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 captivate learners, keeping them immersed and engaged throughout the learning module.

Stories can be both entertaining and educational, and are often a good way to inject some light humour to make learning more enjoyable and fun. Anecdotes can be used as learning subject matter to enhance the learning process and to inspire and motivate learners.


The use of video embedment increases with the ever-decreasing production costs combined with increasing bandwidth. Video can be a very powerful tool for showcasing best practice by immersing the learner in real-life scenarios, and replacing role play activities used in traditional learning.

It resonates with younger teams, particularly the YouTube generation. Research shows that video can halve learning times compared with classroom or text-only methods [1]. Whilst a picture can paint a thousand words, a video can paint a whole elearning course.


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.

Gaming can intrigue and surprise to prevent the 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.


Learners are increasingly overwhelmed, distracted and impatient. With emails, texts, websites, apps and video clips all competing for attention, learners are increasingly time-short.

Microlearning combines learning and performance support with modules 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 absolute maximum time a modern learner will spend watching a video.

VR and AR

With 91% of professionals planning to use virtual reality in their workplace [2], virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) in learning has clearly been at the forefront of many L&D teams’ minds for some time. 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 allows learners to safely try, fail and master new techniques.

Often regarded as VR’s little cousin due to its cheaper and simpler development, AR offers lots of exciting opportunities to augment learning and integrate it into the workflow for performance support and product knowledge training.


Use branching, rather than a linear approach – every decision that your learner makes in the training will affect their next move. As such, they can learn that every action has a consequence in a safe training environment.

Learning engagement is 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 distracted 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.

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Written by Mara Swann

Mara has a passion for promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion across global workplaces and hopes to inspire learners to focus on their own careers with self-directed learning content.


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