eLearning is great – it allows businesses to educate entire workforces at a pace, time, and location that suits them, while saving on costs associated with classroom-led training. Super! But what actually makes eLearning good or successful?

We’d say a great eLearning should inform the masses and offer an engaging, enjoyable experience. Sadly, it often ends up being a torturous exercise in clicking and listening through content that, somehow, has never seemed so dull.

Often, when eLearning is being designed, there’s a decision made that you need to include EVERYTHING a user should know in detail, and that they will have to read/listen through it all. Of course, you want your learner to have a knowledge spanning the desired range – however, is a longer and more comprehensive eLearning always the solution?

Well – no, not really.

Learners only have limited capacity for attention, and will begin to struggle with information overload. So what do you do? Make your eLearning smarter. Target your learners’ knowledge gaps, and tailor the content especially for them.

Before we look at how to make eLearning really engaging, it might be useful to read this article, offering some quick fixes on how to keep an audience’s attention.

Now – let’s get into what really makes eLearning good. Well, what is good eLearning?

Good eLearning is a resource that successfully communicates information that is then retained by your learners. At its core, eLearning is informative; if it doesn’t offer the required information to your learners, what good is it?

Step 1 – Make your eLearning informative

Information is wonderful. What isn’t wonderful, however, is lots of information in one go. You can’t throw all of your content onto a few slides and hope your learner will steadily make their way through it. You have to get them excited about the content, and you have to lead them through your course at a manageable pace; this is what helps your learners to really absorb information.

Consider how your learners will want to access the information in your eLearning:

  • Is this something they run through only once, and along one linear path?
  • Or do you want to give your learners the opportunity to go back and recap a section?
  • Can they choose which sections to complete, in whichever order they find best?

The key is to think about how your learners will want to access (and access again at a later date, perhaps) the information you’re offering them.

Make it beautiful so your learners want to keep working through; visualise your content so it’s easier to remember; and make it easy to understand, so your learners don’t get lost. This is how you create a well-designed course that allows learners to access and memorise content to meet learning objectives.

If you want to take things up a notch, it’s time to reinforce your learners’ knowledge.

Step 2 – Make your eLearning engaging

Your learners have access to some really nicely designed content: you can hope they read through it and remember it all, or you can really reinforce their learning by inviting them to put their newly acquired knowledge to work. Making use of recently learned information gets things to stick a little easier, and by including drills or simulations in your eLearning you are encouraging critical thinking.

Pique interest and allow your learners to explore; throw in some interactions that ask them to drag, slide, press, or spin to reveal information & show consequence. Giving your learners the power to investigate and adopt a look-and-see attitude gets them in the right mind-set to really dig a little deeper and try to understand the depths of your content.

Now, to really amp things up, you’ll want your eLearning to create a learning journey unique to each user that really targets their personal knowledge gaps. Make it reactive!

Step 3 – Make your eLearning reactive

The challenge with eLearning is that you’re creating a single tool that needs to effectively educate a broad range of people. Each learner is different with individual levels of experience, and varying amounts of free time. So how do you create an eLearning that is relevant to everybody?

Tailor, test, react.

Offering opportunities that allow learners to input into the eLearning at the start allows it to begin setting out a learning journey that is relevant. You could build in functionality that allows the resource to only deliver content that is relevant to their job role, for example, by setting out different streams that the learner can choose between.

Testing their knowledge at the beginning of the resource could allow the system to decide which areas need the most focus, and in which the learner already appears to be proficient. This not only makes the resource more efficient, it’s also much less frustrating for a subject matter expert if they’re not forced into working through the fundamentals they’ve been using in practice for years. Additionally, knowledge tests throughout (as well as at the end) create checkpoints for the eLearning to adapt and direct the learner back to sections they maybe haven’t understood.

Including any of these tricks will be a start in getting your eLearning on the right tracks to becoming truly reactive.

All in all, a great eLearning not only provides all the information they would need to meet learning objectives, but it gets learners to immerse themselves in the content, feeding information back-and-forth while giving them the power to shape how they will be learning. The result? An eLearning that targets knowledge gaps to provide content best suited to individual needs.

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Written by

Shay O’Donnell

Senior design consultant

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