The Three Critical Aspects For Creating Engaging eLearning
Sergey Nivens/

How To Achieve Creating Engaging eLearning: Three Main Points Of Focus

Engaging eLearning! This seems to have become the new L&D catchphrase and buzzword in recent times. Its growing popularity has meant that custom eLearning development vendors worth their salt have been vehemently asserting about making engaging learning.

But what exactly is engaging learning? What kind of characteristics does learning need to have to qualify as engaging? How do L&D professionals create learning that is not conventional, monotonous or dreary, and which learners can easily connect with?

I believe there are three key areas to focus on to create engaging eLearning. They are purpose, motivation and interactivity. In this article, we will look at each point individually.

A. Purpose

Every training program is bound to have at its core the purpose of bringing about a behaviour change in the staff. Establishing that purpose is imperative even before we begin to create any eLearning. To explain this further, I wish to borrow a little from Cathy Moore’s Action Mapping process. Cathy has created the process to analyze a performance problem and design solutions that work. So, it makes identifying content easy and then helps zero in on the activities to be included in the solution by focusing on the purpose of the course. The four-step process includes:

1. Recognizing The Business Goal

Cathy mentions, the initial step while creating any eLearning (or performance support) is to ask the question why? It could range from anything like ‘Why this training program should be created’ or ‘What business need will it satisfy?’. The next part would be to identify a measurable goal. For example, if it is about sales, then maybe fix up a target like "we need to increase the sales by 30% over the next one year".

2. Understanding What People Need To Undertake To Achieve That Goal

Step two is to think of what behavior(s) the learners need to adapt/exhibit to reach this goal. This would also include taking into consideration the challenges that could come in the way of achieving the goals. It could also be assessing why the desired behavior is not being achieved.

3. Planning Out Activities That Could Aid People In Practicing Each Behavior

The next step is to focus on finding out appropriate practice for each behavior that can be provided through an intervention (not necessarily a course). This also covers providing remedies for certain behavioral flaws.

4. Analyzing The Minimum Information That People Need To Complete Each Activity

The last step is to identify all the requisite information to be given to the learners for each practice activity. This information has to be exact: not less, not more. The next part is clubbing the behavioral flaws with learning activities that can engage learners.

B. Motivation

For any learning to happen, motivation is crucial. According to Ethan Edwards from Allen Interactions, “eLearning is an isolated activity. So motivation is crucial. It comes from within the learner OR from Instructional Design.”

In a corporate environment, intrinsic motivation is not very common. Naturally then, it is up to the learning designers to ensure motivation through Instructional Design.

Here are a few ways of ensuring motivation:

1. Answer WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?)

Adults tend to evaluate WIIFM almost instinctively for any task, and eLearning is no different. It is important to answer this question for our learners right at the beginning, preferably in the rollout/communication plan.

2. Make Learning Purposeful

Today’s workforce is a busy lot and can spare time for a course only if it is purposeful and conversational. The essence is to keep the training short and sweet, leaving the choice of course progression to the learner.

3. Keep The Content Bite-Sized

A lot of eLearning these days is being accessed on mobile devices which means it is important to design the content keeping in mind the way in which we use our mobile devices – in short bursts. Designing shorter nuggets which can be searched and consumed on the go would match that characteristic of mobile usage.

4. Provide Open Navigation

Locked navigation can give learners a really hard time and make them feel disrespected. The best way to give them control is to free up the navigation and make it easier for them.

5. Bring In Multi-Device Flexibility

If the idea is to provide access to the content on multiple devices, then the learning material has to be built consciously for such devices. It should be responsive and accessible on all devices taking into consideration touch devices, as well. The idea of going mobile-first works wonders.

C. Interactivity

Interactivity is one of the most hyped, misunderstood and misused terms in eLearning. Often, it is standard to discuss costs of eLearning development as per ‘levels’ of output, where higher levels typically mean higher interactivity. However, it is important to note that interactivity is not exactly engagement. eLearning programs require interactivity of the mind and coming up with meaningless interactivity is a waste of time and effort. Such interactivities only irritate learners and deliver nothing. Here are some ways to focus on meaningful interactivities:

1. Real-Life Scenarios

One interesting way is to provide learners tasks with a real-life scenario/context, and then give them elaborate feedback. Learners are at their most receptive when receiving feedback, and it is the most opportune time to give them relevant information.

2. Stories

Who says only kids love stories, adults love them too! Learners tend to remember more from stories and sometimes even add their own visualizations to the stories. Stories are a great way for companies to teach learners about their products.

3. Videos

Videos are a great medium of telling stories and an effective one when it comes to multi-device solutions. This is because videos are naturally responsive if made well. Short videos can also be good performance support tools. Interactive videos hold great promise and are being increasingly explored in eLearning.

A really interesting reference for an interactive video is a video finished as a winner at the eLearning Age awards in 2013. Check out the video and experience it.

All in all, purpose, motivation and interactivity are the three key things to focus on if you want to create eLearning that is engaging. Do let us know how your company handles eLearning to make it engaging. We would love to hear from you!