We Suck at eLearning

The Candy Sucker

In April of 2018, Clint Clarkson gave a talk called “We Suck At Training.” It was a scathing look at the state of the training industry, specifically class-based training. In it, he discussed the failures of the training industry and some ways to address them.

Are we any better in the eLearning industry? After I swallowed my pride, I came to a conclusion: we kind of suck at eLearning.

But don’t get up in arms, fellow eLearners and eLearnees – the first step to sucking less is admitting that you do, in fact, suck. Now that we’ve done that, we can honestly break down each area of suckitude and find ways to suck less.

Engagement Woes

No, I’m not talking about your significant other turning you down, while you’re on one knee in a crowded restaurant (though we can all admit that that would really suck). I’m talking about engaging our learners.

Why We Suck:

One of the biggest mistakes we make is trying to keep our eLearning content close to the classroom experience we’re attempting to replace. Most of the time, however, the classroom content itself fails to engage learners. Removing the human element from it and putting it on a computer that is literally designed to distract people only makes the problem worse.

The long-form classroom content is also contrary to how people are changing. We use our phones and computers to quickly scan headlines, and we crush candy in rapid succession. Expecting our learners to sit for a 1-2 hour learning module is just wishful thinking.

How to Suck Less:

Our enemy is the rapid consumption of content that modern people have come to accept and appreciate. Rather than lamenting the cursed evolution of millennial traits, we can turn this weakness into a strength. Use microlearning modules to break your eLearning content into fun-size nuggets, and you’ve got content which is easily consumable by the easily-distracted masses.

If our enemy is rapid consumption, the Achilles of their army is the phone. Rather than swinging wildly at his ankle, we can turn him to our side. Taking our microlearning nuggets and implementing them with mLearning will not only allow our learners to access their learning wherever they are, but it will also keep them from tuning us out to check their social media feeds.

Painful Palettes

Why We Suck:

People like colors. Many industries have used colors to influence people for years. Marketers use colors to inspire different emotions when branding. Elementary schools use bright primary colors to keep children energized. Some prisons even paint their cells pink to reduce aggression. And yet, for some reason, most eLearning modules have more beige than a park ranger’s wardrobe.

How to Suck Less:

This doesn’t just mean we need to throw colors at our modules. Research in the area of the psychology of color has been around for a long time. We just need to actually look at it.

We can use color to direct the learner’s attention to key points in the module. Color can even be used to help with comprehension and retention. Color Matters, formerly The Institute for Color Research, states that color can increase comprehension by 73% and improving learning anywhere from 55% to 78%.

Content Over Context

Sometimes, it’s better not to ask why. Whether you’re reading the political section of the newspaper or watching a movie directed by Michael Bay, asking why can lead to headaches and major depression, if you’re not careful.

When designing our eLearning content, however, it’s a mistake to focus so much on the content that we don’t also consider the context.

Why We Suck:

There’s something nice about creating eLearning content. Whether you work for the company for which the content is being created or you work for a development house that has contracted with a company, you have a guaranteed audience. You don’t have to market your modules, and you probably don’t have a competitor designing another course at the same time.

This could lead to us resting on our laurels, however – running through the knowledge base quickly and churning out lessons that focus so much on the “what” but completely leave out the “why.” Force-feeding our learners knowledge without giving them a way to connect it to their jobs leaves them no reason to retain what you teach.

How to Suck Less:

It’s pretty simple – give learners a way to connect your offerings to their jobs. Use scenarios that they may encounter in a typical workday. Use simulations based on the interfaces that they use every day.

I’m not saying you need to become an expert in the field for each eLearning project you undertake. But connecting with a subject matter expert (SME), to help design and review the modules as you complete them, will ensure that your content is not only teaching the required knowledge base but also relevant to your audience.

A Single Path to Mediocrity

Not everyone learns the same way. Some people learn by reading books written by experts. Some people learn by doing. Some learn by jacking into the Matrix and downloading everything they need to know (that’s a real thing, right?). But, for some reason, we create modules with a single path for all learners.

Why We Suck:

This comes, again, from attempting to emulate a classroom experience. We tell ourselves that we’re using the latest technology because we put in videos and interactive elements, but we still have a single flow that all learners must follow in order to complete the course.

We don’t take into account that some learners learn faster than others. Some learners may already know the content in a particular module, so forcing them to sit through it ends up wasting their time and unnecessarily killing productivity.

How to Suck Less:

In our modern era of eLearning, we have the technology to create many branching paths for learners – it’s called Adaptive eLearning. By taking what we know of our learners and how they’re progressing, we can change the course.

Allowing learners to test out of certain modules means they won’t be disengaged, while we try to show them things they already know. By analyzing performance in certain modules, we can determine which types of modules they get the most out of. If they excel at gamified content, we can steer them towards more gamified and simulated content.

If you’ve already started a project, don’t panic – we can always rebuild it. We have the technology, right? And by marrying that technology with what we know about teaching and psychology, we can truly learn to suck less. At least when it comes to Elearning design.

5 Steps to Attract More Customers with Your LMS / Online Training Platform

Send Me The Checklist!

Previous Post

Next Post