Creating courses that target specific results and engage the learner is the key to designing effective training. Conventional tactics, like ‘click next to continue,’ were never effective to begin with but somehow managed to sneak in as “learner engagement.”
Many employees are obligated to participate in eLearning courses by their employers. Although some learners are more proactive and perform better, most want to get these courses over with! Unfortunately, once they complete the program, there’s little to no change in their behavior.
So how can you, as the instructional designer, make sure that you’re designing effective training? First, let’s dive into targeting specific results, then engage the learner in training to create the most effective courses that blow away your clients!
Designing Effective Training that Wakes the Learner Up!
If you do a quick Google search for something like “Best Learning Engagement Tools” or “How to Engage Learners,” you would get an endless list of ads, articles, and pages on the subject. It has been one of the most pervasive and sought-after answers in this field. And it can be tough to crack.
Throughout my years as an instructional designer, I’ve had every different type of audience you can imagine. So I’ve got plenty of tricks up my sleeve for making sure the courses I deliver are engaging and effective. But, before I dive into those tips, there are a few essential things to keep in mind when thinking about your learner.
To design a course that meets objectives and motivates the learner, you need to take a few important steps.
So, before you begin a course, make sure the analysis phase of your project thoroughly considers the following:
- What do the stakeholders want to achieve?
- How does the stakeholders’ goal translate into a change in the behavior of the training audience?
- What are the specific learning objectives (make sure they align with the first two considerations!)?
If you haven’t addressed all of the above, you’re not ready to start your design phase yet! I recommend checking out this free resource that will help guide you through the planning stages of your course. That way, you don’t skip an important step that impacts the effectiveness of the course you deliver!
Alright, now let’s get into it! Here are my best tips for designing effective training.
Get To Know Your Target Audience
If you want to influence employee behavior, first, you should understand their needs and motivations. Thus, a deep understanding of andragogy (adult learning) is important base knowledge. But the best way to understand a specific audience is by having a conversation!
I like to include at least one person who represents the target audience in my stakeholder meetings. This could be a direct supervisor or someone who will participate in the training. They know the team best and can provide valuable insight.
It’s not always possible to bring in a team of employees for a meeting. If you don’t have the opportunity to interact with the audience directly, use a survey tool to get a temperature check. At this point, the survey doesn’t need to be too in-depth, but it should ask quick questions that will give you some insight into the needs and wants of the learner.
Some employees may have reservations before taking a course. Others might not be convinced that completing the course will offer a positive outcome or be worth their time. People who are fearful, disinterested, or overwhelmed are less likely to meet the course objectives. You can learn all this by asking future course participants to take a quick survey.
Whether you’re able to include representation from the target audience in scoping meetings or you’re collecting data, the most important step is to USE the information you get!
If your audience rep tells you the team is bored to death of PowerPoint presentations, don’t give them a glorified lecture just because that’s what the higher-ups are suggesting.
If your survey data shows eLearning hesitation, recommend the team do some course promotion ahead of time to ease the learners’ fears and get them excited about the opportunity.
When your audience recognizes that you’ve considered their input, it can hugely impact engagement! And when your audience feels valued, their engagement tends to last longer and translate to other courses.
Let the Learners Know How the Course Will Improve their Lives
Or, at least make their lives a little easier! It’s not enough to create courses that target specific results. You also need to help learners understand what’s being targeted and why.
Your audience should understand what they will learn and how you expect them to apply the knowledge after the training. Before starting training, clarify the problems the course intends to help them solve and how performance improvements will benefit them and their company. Then, focus on the WIIFM (what’s in it for me).
Use visuals or scenarios to show instead of telling. How does my routine change when I apply this new knowledge? The connection between learning now and improved performance later is a great motivator!
Use Engaging Design Elements
The visual design of your training can have a significant impact on your course’s effectiveness. No one wants to sit through a boring, text-heavy elearning. So use visual design to your benefit! This article has some easy tips for upping your graphic design game.
I also highly recommend incorporating videos in your training. There are so many reasons why video learning is awesome for engagement.
Gamification is huge in elearning right now. It sounds intimidating, right? You’re an instructional designer, not a video game developer! Don’t worry. Gamification is all about taking the tricks game developers use to keep people playing and increasing motivation in learning. Here’s a great resource to give you some ideas.
Include Follow Up
The course you design will be relatively short. Real learning happens afterward when participants apply what they have learned. This is where the behavioral changes start! To understand the course content thoroughly, learners must use that knowledge in the real world.
When I was still teaching (pre-instructional design transition), I went to this amazing 2-day convention. Throughout the sessions, I collected so many tools and ideas to use in my classroom. Unfortunately, I left with so many good ideas. It ended up being overwhelming!
Even an excellent training session can fail to get results if there’s no follow-up. As a motivated learner, I put a plan into place to make sure I would benefit from the learning. Your learners might not have the same motivation, so you’ll need to put the plan in place for them!
One way to do this is by enlisting the help of managers, team leaders or even asking participants to act as mentors or coaches. These leaders can do check-ins or status reports to make sure their team is using the new learning.
You can also suggest follow-up micro-lessons that would review essential concepts and check for understanding post-course. This is something that would need to be included in the scope of the project!
An easier way to follow up if you don’t have the budget for microlearning is through planned email blasts. A tip of the week, a reflective question, anything to get the participants thinking about the training again. If your client uses an LMS to roll out training, this can be built right into the course and may require very little extra work!
Wrapping it Up
Bringing about a visible change in the behavior of your learners is tricky and challenging. However, designing effective training can ensure that learners make the most of a course that targets specific results.
Got questions about using these tips to wake your learner up and deliver training that wows your client? Maybe you have some other ideas to share? Then, join my community of beginning instructional designers at the Hangout! In the Hangout, you will have a place to get questions answered and access FREE training!