I love learning things – I’m always on the look-out for a new skill to learn, or something I can already do, but want to do better – read more about that here. But it doesn’t work out every time, and when it doesn’t, there’s almost as much to learn as when it does.

Before we get into the details of my splits failure – which I’m sure you’re all dying to read about – it’s probably worth me saying that this is a post first and foremost about learning and how we can apply learning principles to eLearning. So you can legitimately enjoy reading about me not doing the splits and call it ‘work’.

I started the new year with much enthusiasm towards learning and thought a nice quick win on the ‘things to learn in 2016’ list would be doing the splits. I’m reasonably flexible – how hard could it be? I took myself off to Youtube and found that there was a yoga instructor who had the 30-day splits challenge. Perfect. All I need to get splitting by the end of the month.

Readers, I got to day six and didn’t budge an inch.

What went wrong – what was so horribly complicated about doing 15 minutes of yoga stretches every day that I could only manage six days before throwing in my new yoga mat (which has now become a convenient way of transferring piles of clothes around my room).

I think there are three key things that were missing from my splits challenge that meant I was doomed to fail before I even toppled over with mild groin strain on my first attempt.

No variety

The trouble with following the particular Youtube video that I did was that it was the same 15 minutes every day. I enjoyed the repetition at first, but it got pretty boring after a few times.

No structure

And because it was the same video every day, there was no progression – no easy wins. It was the same thing every day, and if you couldn’t do it on day one, you had to persevere until day 30 just to see if you could make it.

No stakes

And the nail in my splitty coffin was the fact that if I didn’t get up at 7 to do it, then no-one was going to notice, let alone call me out for it. There were literally no consequences for not being able to do the splits in 30 days.

But how does all of this apply to eLearning?

Variety

You can’t expect to engage your learners if you’re showing the same sort of thing over and over again. This applies across modules, as well as within a particular learning session. Click-to-reveal interactions aren’t going to inspire your learner – it’s something they’ll get pretty bored of pretty quickly. When you’re making eLearning you should try and think of an interaction that will consolidate the learning point best, not what’s the easiest solution.

Structure

It’s really difficult to engage with something that is structured like a manual, but at the same time you’re expected to progress in a linear way. eLearning needs to be progressive – start easy and get harder. It should start with something fun or easy so that you’ve got a nice easy win for your learners straight away: this will encourage them to keep going and engage on a deeper level.

Stakes

If it doesn’t matter if your learner reads anything, or just guesses and tries to get to the end as fast as possible, then you shouldn’t be surprised to find out that your learners have tried to cheat your module. If there are no consequences, then they probably won’t care if they don’t pass, or get full marks in the test. Now this doesn’t mean you should have a dartboard in your office with the biggest loser’s picture on each week – that’s not very encouraging, but you need to give them a reason to try. This might be a fun game you build into the eLearning that they can’t complete without the knowledge from elsewhere in the module. It might be that you test them at half distance and if they know enough they don’t have to do the rest – it’s all about motivation.

So there we have it – three essentials that will change the way you think about eLearning. These aren’t simple fixes you can retrofit into your existing projects, but these are some fundamental principles that will change the way you make eLearning – for the better!

And as for me and the splits, I’m going to do some more research and find a progressive and varied learning plan with some stakes to make sure I keep at it!

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Written by

Hannah Brownlow

Managing consultant

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