editors choice badge Editors' Choice

How To Hook Your Learners With The First Screen

How To Hook Your Learners With The First Screen
Sergey Korkin/Shutterstock
Summary: Learners are stretched by commitments both at work and at home. In turn, this impacts motivation and makes it difficult for learners to buy in to eLearning courses. One way to remedy this disconnect is by catching their attention at the outset with a hook.

Catch The Attention Of Your Learner

It should come as no surprise that learner attention spans are getting shorter by the day. This is why recent eLearning trends such as microlearning and short and flexible training programs are gaining popularity.

What Is A Hook?

In Instructional Design, a hook is something that encourages learners to become fully engaged in a topic they are going to learn more about, or at the very least, pique their interest enough so that they stick around. Typically, a hook is a short but interesting and purposeful connection to the subject matter. A hook can be a surprising fact or statistic or something that elicits a personal connection to the material. A hook is meant to capture—or "catch"—attention. The consequence of gaining the learners’ attention is that you have influenced their motivation to continue forward. A successful hook will transform the learners' motivation in such a way that it becomes underpinned by a renewed and genuine interest in the course material. This kind of motivation positively affects their ability to learn and apply their new knowledge in real-life scenarios. Note that a hook always has a meaningful and intentional link to the course material or themes.

How To Visually Design A Hook In An eLearning Course

Ideally, after a general course introduction, your hook will be the first content screen that learners see. The hook can take many forms—from a dialogue between two characters to a set of interactive buttons— but it must be visually appealing. You want to draw learners into the course immediately, so implementing visuals that they can identify with is critical. This can include incorporating the same office décor, posters, or company logos in your scene background, or giving characters the same badges and name tags used at your organization. You want to make sure you build the screen with elements that are familiar enough so that learners feel at ease but striking in a way that they become curious.

Consider your own personal preferences: what graphics or design advertisements have captured your attention lately? Then, think about what makes you more likely to be intrigued during an eLearning course (i.e., shapes, characters, colors, text). Chances are this is the same for your learners. Instructional Designers are in a unique position because we are both learners and User Experience designers; we have all participated in eLearning courses and we know what we liked and what we could have done without. This also makes it easier to place yourself in the shoes of your audience. There are not many times when we can be two people at once, so don’t be shy to take advantage of this insight!

Colors are also significant. Colors evoke emotion, so pair your design with the appropriate colors. For instance, red is often associated with passion and/or wrath and should be used sparingly, whereas shades of yellow can signify happiness or light-heartedness. Every design feature must be intentional and thoughtful. Learners should be able to visualize themselves immersed in the scene. Moreover, the hook is an opportunity to strategically introduce learners to the course color palette.

There are so many elements to consider when designing each screen and these tips are not intended to be exhaustive. The purpose here is to prompt you to think about how to design your hook in a way that is compelling and stands out from the rest of your screen designs.

How To Write A Hook In An eLearning Course

Language is very important. This is especially true for eLearning because you must write in a manner that is clear, concise, and accessible. Instructional Designers do not have the luxury of space for lengthy written text or explanations (nor would that be pedagogically sound for an eLearning course). Learners come to your course with diverse educational backgrounds and life experiences, so your hook must cater to a wide audience. One effective way to write a hook is through a two-character dialogue. Though you are not limited to this technique, it’s important to remember that less is more. How you write the hook is just as important as what you write.

What you write, although brief in length, needs to be profound in impression. You must prompt learners to pause and reflect on what they have just read. You can use traditional templates like sharing a fun fact or asking learners to make a personal connection to the content. No matter what you decide you want your wording to be, it should always do two things: build anticipation, and invite learners into the story. Storytelling is very powerful and should be leveraged in your hook. You want learners to be excited to proceed with the course, so engage them with something interesting while simultaneously leaving them wanting more. When they want to know more, this is a sign that you have successfully built up their anticipation for what’s to come. At that point, learners are ready for the rest of the story. When writing your hook, consider concluding with an open-ended question for the learner to ponder, or a call to action. This weaves the learner into the fabric of the content which, with any luck, will make them advance to the next slide more willingly.


There are many ways to write an effective hook for your eLearning course. Hopefully, you have walked away from this article with some ideas or guidelines that will help you achieve learner buy-in. As a blanket recommendation, most Instructional Designers will say that starting your eLearning course with a hook is best practice. It sets the tone for the rest of the course and can facilitate the difference between knowledge acquisition and passive learning.