By Jade Pearson, Kepner-Tregoe

The self-directed approach to gaining knowledge and expertise through eLearning can seem cost effective and time efficient to both the business and the learner. But in truth, too often, eLearning is developed as a standalone ‘event’ where the isolated learner gets distracted, disengaged or unmotivated to see it through.

So how do we maximize the power of individualized learning, the benefits of lower training costs, plus the convenience of remote learning? Understanding the ecosystem that surrounds an eLearning course is a good place to start.

The challenge:

The average human attention span is…oh look, a new Instagram story…

Sorry, where was I…oh that’s right, the average human attention span, according to a frequently referenced and often contested Microsoft study, is less than that of a goldfish, which is typically 9 seconds. This may be attributed to our increase in digital consumption. eLearning is technically another digital distraction. The challenge for learning professionals is how do we prevent distractions which are only a click away? As much as learning is not entertainment, it needs to be entertaining AND informative if it is going to compete in the digital overload that is our workday.    

So what can L&D professionals do to keep people engaged during eLearning consumption—and help bridge learning to application on the job? Consider incorporating these techniques to leverage eLearning in your organization and better transition new skills to the workplace.

Simulate the Digital Environment. Good eLearning incorporates video vignettes, gamification, simulations, VR and other engaging and interactive technologies to convey information. But great eLearning reapportions these concepts into smaller, more easily consumable micro units, giving learners the feeling, they are in their familiar, digitally overloaded world, but all of the content being consumed is relevant to the learning topic. Instead of fighting against the short attention span, feed it relevant information in consumable bite-size pieces.

Blend it. Using eLearning in partnership with classroom or online instructor-led learning is a best-of-both-worlds approach. An eLearning module that reinforces what has been learned before moving on to the next concept helps both the learner and instructor ascertain if the learning has successfully transferred. Alternatively, providing an introductory eLearning module before live instruction is an engaging way to prepare learners for instructor-led training and can be used to assess prior knowledge.

Gamify. Gamification taps into what motivates us – recognition, reward, competition. If you know a gamer you’ll know they can sit for hours in a virtual world, striving for a badge or a high score. When they turn off that game they have not necessarily improved anything in their actual life, yet the desire and motivation to game is very strong. Applying concepts of gaming helps to keep your learner engaged. Gamification can include solving a problem through a robust case study, leaderboards where learners are pitted against each other to see who answers the most questions correctly and badges for completion of specific content.

Involve managers. Learners need to know why their training is relevant and managers can help facilitate this. Before coursework and/or during employee/manager reviews, discussion should include how the eLearning is relevant to their role. After self-directed training is complete, a discussion of how the new skills are being put to use not only helps bridge the gap between training and application, it helps to track the value of the eLearning program.

Review, play, repeat. The games, simulations, VR or other tools that are integrated into the eLearning experience have an after-life.  Too often, learners complete the coursework and return to the job without using their new skills. The games, videos or other activities offered during eLearning can link, reinforce and refresh new skills when back on the job. Providing ongoing access to games, simulations or other tools provide opportunities for learners who have completed training to review and apply their skills in a no-risk setting.

Go lite.  Use eLearning as an overview or introduction to material rather than for mastery. This approach is ideal for people who are considering a training program or for employees who will be working with people who have mastered the skills developed in the program. Managers, L&D decision makers and any employees who work with colleagues who have the program’s skills can benefit from a “lite” eLearning program. This helps them to understand the concepts, applications and value of the skills learned in the more intensive program, and how colleagues that are fully trained may benefit others.

Redefine responsibilities. Do the learners’ jobs reflect their new skills? After taking leadership training, does she have opportunities to lead? After learning a new process, is he required to show evidence that it has been used? Consider the ways that learners will fulfill the objectives of their coursework back on the job and build in new responsibilities that require learners to apply what they have learned.

Learner engagement won’t happen overnight. Improving the learning experience by educating AND entertaining learners, can make eLearning relevant, challenging and, maybe, even enjoyable.  Don’t be afraid to steal ideas from the gaming or digital world, after all, eLearning happens in the digital world too, so it needs to look and sound like a digital native.

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