12 Tips for Better Online Employee Training

This article was originally published on the Jenobi blog. Click here to see the original and access bonus content with it.

Creating online content isn’t always the easiest job.

Every day people are flooded with new content to read, new videos to watch, and new images to peruse from morning until night.

So where does your eLearning content fit in? Well, somewhere in the middle.

eLearning training has to be attention-grabbing enough to stand out in a sea of miscellaneous content, but it also has to be engaging enough to keep people’s attention and, most importantly, educational enough to provide real value.

Sounds like a tough job, right? Well, there are actually a few things you can do to make sure your eLearning content falls into those categories.

Let’s take a look at some tips for improving your online training.

Make It Attention Grabbing

According to studies, the adult attention span is getting shorter and shorter. In fact, it’s down from 12 minutes to around 5 minutes and that’s in the last decade alone. Thanks to the Internet, most adults know whether or not they want to look at something online within the first 3 seconds of seeing it.

This means that you’ll need to grab their attention fast, but the good news is that eLearning has some leeway. After all, your employees aren’t there to check their newsfeed, they’re there to learn something that could help their careers.

So does your content really need to be that attention grabbing? Well, yes, actually.

Basically, if your employees are still paying attention after the first 8 seconds, you have around 4 minutes and 52 seconds to hold their attention before they completely check out. (By the way, that’s down from 12 minutes only a decade ago — it bears repeating!).

Here’s what you can do to make sure your online content is catchy enough to keep people from clicking away.

  1. Start with a story — Stories are engaging, especially if they’re relevant and exciting (or funny). Starting with a story can be a great way to draw people into the learning experience before it’s too late and they realize they’ve actually learnt something.
  2. Make your presentation highly visual — You don’t have to use every font in the font book or inundate them with brightly colored images, but you should use images and graphics to help make your point. For example, color-coded learning objectives, animations and infographics related to the topic being discussed are key — remember that a picture is worth a thousand words.
  3. Use bullet points, lists and segmented text — If all your audience sees when they open your module is pages and pages of text notes or things they have to read, they’ll probably be a little devastated. There’s a reason blogs and other forms of online content have started using more lists: they’re easier to scan and easier to remember.
  4. Share benefits and outcomes at the beginning — Everyone wants to know, “What’s in it for me?” You’ll have an easier time keeping their attention if they know exactly what they’re going to get out of your eLearning course, so let them know right away what they can expect.

Make It Engaging

It’s not always enough for people to only be excited about your content at the beginning. The value of real learning takes place over time, when information has set in and skills are being made into habits.

Engagement is a huge part of that cycle, because you want learners to be engaged weeks after the course has started, as that means they’re actually retaining the information. Here’s a few things you can do to make sure your content engages long after the novelty has worn off.

  1. Make your delivery method mobile-friendly — If you create a narrated presentation, for example, don’t just post the video in the same format that you would for a computer. Make sure that it is delivered in HTML5 so it is multi-device friendly.
  2. Use multiple styles of communication — We already mentioned images and video, which are both great for learning, but you could also do audio-only segments, podcasts, and interviews to help employees engage. Not only is it helpful to listen to during down time, but it’s also great for auditory learners.
  3. Use interactive elements wherever possible — There’s a reason eLearning apps like Duolingo have taken off over the last few years, and it’s because they’re so highly interactive that you can’t help but be addicted. Consider interactive elements, drag-and-drop interfaces, or even gamification apps if you’re really brave.
  4. Encourage emotional response — Similar to starting out with a story, it’s important to keep emotional engagement high throughout your course. The brain is designed to remember an emotional experience better than anything else, so create shocking, impressive, or surprising moments throughout your materials, not just at the beginning.

Make It Educational

While it seems like common sense that an eLearning course should be educational, it can actually be difficult for some industries to find content that their employees haven’t heard a dozen times before.

After all, if you put the same content in a pretty package — like a fancy mobile app or flashy animated image — it doesn’t really make it new.

One of the benefits of eLearning is that it’s flexible, and that means that you can incorporate new information in a variety of ways. If you had an old hard-copy training manual, you probably kept it around because you didn’t want to spend time or money printing out a new one every year.

But with an interactive module or presentation, you can quickly swap out images, replace text or add in new elements that can improve upon your materials as time goes by. Here are some things to remember when trying to create truly educational content:

  1. It should be relevant to the employees — If your data is more than a few years old, consider updating it. Your learners should have the latest stats, data, and training resources available.
  2. It should be a short as possible — If you can, hone down the content. For eLearning to shine its best, short, bite-sized snippets are needed, and this is more readily learnt through visual and interactive elements, not endless pages of copy.
  3. Balance the technical language with casual language — We’re not saying you have to use all the slang or lingo that “the kids” are using these days, but overly heavy technical text, even for technical industries, is hard to focus on for long periods of time. Try including images that map out complex terms and including laymen’s terms whenever possible.
  4. Give real issues and let them problem solve — Your employees are here because they need to learn something important, so focus on giving them answers to their real-life questions. Include interactions that moves them towards a learning objective. For example, include branching scenarios that focus on giving them answers to real-world problems. They’ll thank you for it.

Final Thoughts

A few things to focus on when it comes to creating an effective course are attention-grabbing introductions, engaging content and educational takeaways.

Include interactive elements that drive emotion, visual design that draws the eye, and materials that can be taken on the go, whether your learners are at their desk or on their phone during their lunch break.

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