Are Your Learners Disengaged?

It’s true: no one likes being forced to do anything. L&D professionals have the tough task of taking job related information and making it easy to learn while appeasing all the appropriate company stakeholders. Budgets are shrinking and the ubiquity of “rapid authoring tools” is making it more and more tempting to churn out eLearning in-house that is cost-effective and easy to produce. But if your learning solution is not designed with the learner’s human characteristics and preferences in mind, it will fail…no matter how consistent you made the corporate branding look.

Even when part of your course is brilliantly executed, if learner’s minds are not already primed to expect a positive experience, they will likely have already written the training off as worthless. Once the learner has judged that your training is not worthwhile, you have lost them. No matter how great a section of the training might be, they will not get value from it.

It’s always a challenge to make required training engaging while on a budget. We have tackled this challenge countless times through our projects and while we do not have one tried and true answer for you, we do have a few general tips to help you avoid some common problems.

Things that shut people down:

  • Required training: Unfortunately, the mere mention of required training is enough to shut workers down while evoking painful memories of the painful courses of yesteryear taken in IE 6. Realize that you will have to overcome learners’ innate bias against the word “training” and make your solution even more engaging.
  • To-do lists: We all have a long one. When training becomes another task in a list of items to be checked off for completion, learners will see no inherent value in the training other than being able to say they completed it. Position your training as something unique, different, and immediately useful.
  • Courses written for content rather than user experience: In her excellent blog post “Designing Learning for the Ultimate Mobile Learner’s Experience,” Mayra Aixa Villar (@mayraaixavillar) explains how writing a course around learning objectives can ignore the actual experience learners will have while taking the course itself. Trying to fit a 50 page PDF into a 15 minute eLearning course is simply not going to work, so be prepared to streamline your content to highlight the essentials. “What do I want learners to be able to do differently after completing this course?”
  • Stupid scenarios that seem entirely false but are politically correct: We know you don’t want to offend anyone, and we know you want to figure out a scenario that is broad enough to apply to situations across your organization. But if scenarios are not specific and realistic, learners will tune them out…and tune out the rest of your course. Don’t be afraid to push the boundaries a little bit.
  • Refuse to make people uncomfortable: After all, it’s only when we are slightly uncomfortable or somehow on the edge of our seats that we are truly paying attention.
  • Making everything the same throughout the training: It is always tempting to keep a course ordered and uniform throughout. In fact, it feels correct and appropriate to do so. But the Principle of Difference tells us that people will remember the item that stands out the most from the others. Taking a key section or point and making it different from the rest of the course will actually help learners remember better.
  • Focusing on Telling….making it one size fits all: Situations will vary for your learners, especially if they work in different departments or divisions. No one’s experience is one size fits all, so you don’t make your training one size fits all, either. It may seem more efficient to push a course out that will “apply to everyone,” but the cost in lost productivity and money spent having to fix your mistake later will ultimately outweigh the upfront invest of creating a truly thoughtful, well implemented eLearning course.

While the cost of building generic training for the sake of efficiency may be low, this usually comes at the expense of effectiveness. More time and money spent up-front to avoid these common pit falls is the wise choice when focusing on the bottom line.