Can eLearning Really Be Cool? - Knowledgelink
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Can eLearning be cool? If you’re in the business of online education, then this is likely the question you start and end your day with. I know I do.

I’ve been in the eLearning space for almost 20 years now and that remains the challenge still to this day. Sure, on-demand training hosted online is more efficient than live training, definitely cheaper and easily tracked. Whether eLearning can be more effective than live is a debate you’ll hear educators have all the time. After working on both sides of this fence for years, I could easily argue either way with tons of white papers to support both positions.

But cool is a very different story… I never thought eLearning, LMS or online education sounded like it was meant to be cool. But when our job is to educate, transfer knowledge and help develop people, we are content creators above all else. And in any content business, user adoption is always the critical component to making an impact. Audience engagement relies on getting and keeping people’s attention. And cool certainly helps with that.

So, let’s break down three easy ways to make your eLearning curriculum as cool as that Netflix series you’re binge watching in your free time.

Video Killed the Radio Star.

Many people may not consider the video courses they see online to be true eLearning content, but video should be an essential piece of any learning curriculum for three simple reasons. It’s cheap, easy to produce and carries a cool factor when done right.

This is where all of us corporate educators can take a lesson from the best internet marketers out there. Sure, they’re just teaching their audience how to do what they are actually doing to them at that moment. So don’t mistake them for true educators over expert marketers, but we can all learn from their style.

The best of the best have perfected a mix of highly produced videos with a DIY style that allows them to distribute content at high volume interspersed with quality. Those of us who spend countless hours in the instructional design process would scoff at some of these videos. But it you can combine well-constructed education in the wrapper of good, bite-size video, then you greatly improve your chances at adoption and ultimately, impact.

Keep it simple and repeatable.  Use your phone’s camera and a tool as simple as iMovie to get your videos out the door quickly. When you’re ready to add some polish, go to Final Cut Pro and leverage assets from a marketplace like Envato with motion graphic packs like this. Remember, a cheap light kit and wired microphone make all the difference in getting a quality shoot with limited budget.

Ideally, an educator can record DIY video content and easily wrap it with pre-designed motion graphics to deliver an exciting session without breaking the bank.

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  – Sir Isaac Newton

Why shouldn’t Newton’s third law apply to eLearning as well? For every amount of effort (i.e., interaction) we require of our audience, they deserve an equal degree of value from the educator in response. And this brings us to a second practice in producing cool eLearning content. Again, this is something that Internet marketers execute to perfection and another strategy we can apply to our own corporate training.

Adoption increases when personalization is delivered instantly and effortlessly. After all, this is the big payoff when you deliver on-demand online content. Technology has made it easy to assess your audience with just a few simple questions, segment them in real-time then deliver personalized education to meet their specific needs. When we achieve that, we are replicating what can actually happen with a live speaker in a small workshop setting, but better because you didn’t have to break your room out into four separate sessions.

Cool. But expensive to produce you’re thinking… Enter Typeform. If you haven’t used it yet, get to know this service fast. It is an amazingly beautiful survey tool that makes it easy to interact with your audience and respond automatically with training and resources custom to their personal needs. We use Typeform in every part of our business today and continue to discover new ways to serve our audience dynamically with the tool. Try it for free and you’ll know what I mean.

Gaming the System.

While I’ve never been a fan of the term “Gamification,” the philosophy behind it makes practical sense to eLearning professionals. But from my perspective it’s a theory, not a thing. Just because you turn it into a noun, doesn’t mean it’s a product we need to buy. But there’s little dispute that achievement badges and leaderboards work well with some audiences. We’ve just experienced a different realization of this dynamic in corporate learners who are trying to enhance their skill set and advance their careers.

For reference, read this great article by Jason Amunwa, How eLearning Apps Design for Engagement. He does an excellent job of illustrating the psychology behind all of this and I feel corporate educators can easily leverage similar gaming theory in their own eLearning content with the following two strategies.

The Zeigarnik Effect essentially states that we more clearly recall incomplete tasks than those that we’ve already done.  So continually sharing with your trainees what they have yet to complete drives more adoption than acknowledging the coursework they’ve already done.  Think of this as the difference in saying you’re 75% complete vs. reminders that you’ve only got 15 minutes remaining.

Mastery Motivation depends on our personal motivation to master a skill independently.  Showing an individual’s progress towards an overall skill achievement and, most importantly, the real-world benefits related to their mastery of it are a greater driver to a corporate trainee seeking a career boost than any amount of colorful badges you can pile onto their dashboard.

Try integrating these ideas into your own eLearning content strategies and get more adoption from the same limited budget.  When it’s all send and done, there are plenty of tools and tactics available to all of us who produce online education for a living. But, most importantly, follow a consistent strategy of providing relevant value for your unique audience.

And always ask what benefit your users want most from your training and allow that to guide your content production.

Thanks for reading and please leave any comments or questions below.  Happy Learning!

Author: Jon Tota

Over the past two decades, Jon Tota has established himself as a pioneer in online education for corporate training. He began his career on Wall Street in sales and technology positions at PaineWebber and UBS. Then after years as a business analyst to some of the largest firms in financial services, Jon co-founded Edulence in 2002 to develop online training solutions for corporate educators.

Edulence’s Knowledgelink platform has become a leader in cloud-based eLearning, offering the premier network connecting experts with enterprise learners. Jon is now focused on discovering the best experts and helping them turn their knowledge into a subscription business.