Motivating adult learners to complete online courses—especially in a work environment where they have competing priorities and responsibilities—can be challenging. In the other two blog posts of this series, we’ve discussed the components of motivation, as well as two of the top motivation theories that can be applied to elearning design to increase motivation. So, what is the magic formula for motivating learners to start and remain on track throughout an elearning course? While we wouldn’t necessarily call it magic, the results of employing these tips and strategies might seem magical.
- Consider your audience.
Before designing a course, get to know your audience. Is the audience new to the role, seasoned professionals, or a combination? What is their current knowledge on the topic? How comfortable are they with technology? How much uninterrupted time can they commit to completing the course?By answering these types of questions about your audience, you can design an elearning course that meets them where they are. For example, if you have a broad range of experience levels, creating a course that allows more experienced learners to move past the basics quickly and dive into more challenging content while still teaching the basics to novice learners will help keep everyone engaged. One way to accomplish this is to incorporate a trivia element into the online course so that the course only presents content that corresponds to incorrectly answered trivia questions.
- Communicate the WIIFM (what’s in it for me).
In both the course description and the first 20 seconds of the course itself, clearly explain how the course benefits the learner and how it will lead to improvements in job performance. Informing the learner of how they will benefit from taking the course is an excellent way to motivate learners to start courses. This same strategy can be incorporated to help sustain motivation throughout the elearning course by including design elements that illustrate to the learner how the information within the course will benefit them.
- Remember: a firehose is for putting out a fire.
Subject matter experts (SMEs) tend to be passionate about the subject of their expertise, which is great, but it also often means that they want every bit of information on the topic included in the course. When faced with this, reference the course learner objectives and map content to the learner objectives. Information that doesn’t support the stated learner outcomes doesn’t belong in the course, period. This doesn’t mean that the information isn’t important, but it does mean that it needs to find a different home. If you find yourself with more than 20 minutes of relevant content, that’s an indication that your learner objectives are too broad for a single elearning course.Stuffing information that doesn’t align with the learner objectives forces the learner to weed out irrelevant information, which is mentally taxing. eLearning courses that leave the learner feeling like they’re drinking knowledge through a firehose have poor completion rates and even poorer learner outcomes. Avoid this common elearning mistake by creating outcome-oriented learner objectives and securing SME buy-in at the onset of course development.
- Let the learner drive.
Autonomy is a crucial component of motivation. Giving learners the ability to choose how they fulfill learning requirements, whether it be selecting the courses or simply charting their own path within a course, has been proven to increase motivation. Consider allowing learners to choose from different course options to meet requirements. For example, when launching a new product, provide learners the option to either complete a series of online training modules with assessments or watch a video series and submit a product walk-around video that demonstrates their understanding of key features and benefits. Both options accomplish the same goal, but when you allow the learner to choose, they become engaged, and as we discussed in our last post, engagement goes hand-in-hand with achieving a state of flow.
- Use content grouping and incorporate storytelling.
Effective elearning groups content and uses stories in ways that engage the audience and help them remember what they’ve learned. Grouping content in smaller chunks that build on one another helps the learner assimilate the information more quickly and creates a framework for processing information. This framework also aids in recall and application of learning.Storytelling creates a sense of connection, which is another key component of motivation. Stories build familiarity and trust and make the listener more open to learning. Storytelling has elements that apply to all types of learners. Visual learners appreciate the mental pictures storytelling evokes, while auditory learners focus on the words and the storyteller’s voice, and kinesthetic learners remember the emotional connections and feelings from the story.
- Incorporate takeaways to reinforce learning.
Provide downloadable documents for processes and other challenging topics to reinforce learning and serve as a reference for learners to use while on the job. Statistics show that without reinforcement, learners are only able to apply approximately 50% of what they learn in a course. Providing learners with downloadable documents and other resources helps them more successfully retain information.
- Don’t forget post-training reinforcement and support.
While it may not be feasible to contact each learner personally after they’ve completed a course, consider scheduling a series of email communications that reinforce the learning. Include resources, tips, or best practices, as well as access to additional resources and support. Support could consist of access to peer mentors or social learning platforms, supplemental training, or one-on-one coaching.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, incorporating these seven motivation tips into your next elearning will increase engagement and course completions. Want to learn more about how a full-on motivation strategy can drive behavior change with your learners? Let’s chat.