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Learning design for modern learners

How to engage, not alienate

Modern learning design blog post - Thrive Learning (1)

High-quality learning design is a core part of what THRIVE is all about. It’s our bread and butter. But, we’re only as good as our users think we are. As learning designers, we need to make sure we’re engaging our learners rather than pushing them away.

So what can we do to make sure every module we create is working hard to engage, stimulate and scintillate? And how can you apply it to your own learning designs?

1. Include only practical, relevant content that learners might just care about

Even though we harp on about it all the time, ironically, the last thing we want is our modules to be boring or repetitive. Our 10 minutes-or-less approach to module creation is the perfect antidote to that. And no, we’re not talking about splitting a 60-minute course into six parts and calling it microlearning…

To make it into our off the shelf modules, content has to be relevant to all learners, not just a fraction of them. It has to be something they can take-away, there and then, and put into practice to help them on the job. Leave the reading of endless theory to us, we’ll strip it back into what’s practical and carefully craft it into a module that only tells learners what they absolutely need to know.

2. Keep things conversational

We’ll always stick to a friendly, informal tone of voice in our modules – in other words, talking to people like they’re people.

We talk in plain English. What’s the point in using needlessly over-complicated language that people can’t relate to (and definitely don’t like reading) just to make ourselves sound smart? That doesn’t benefit anyone, especially not our end users. Make sure you are speaking plainly and in a human tone to ensure your people can relate to the content being shared.

3. Make it look good

Realistically, our learners aren’t going to remember everything that we’re trying to teach them. So it’s up to us to make the experience as memorable as possible from our end.

Fresh, exciting visual styles are one way we do this. Each of our modules has a distinctive visual style to match the content that should feel different from what learners have seen before. We aim to avoid the cardinal sin – making it feel like traditional elearning. For this same reason, they each start with an enticing video too.

But this isn’t just about making our modules look pretty. This approach to truly original, discrete modules allows us to be more creative and do something new in a way that not only grabs the user’s attention but adds value to the content.

4. Match what learners are used to in real-life

Looking to our real lives outside of work, most of us use our phones for everything. Shopping, browsing social media, catching up on the news… the list is endless. In fact, nearly 80% of all UK adults use smartphones regularly to access the internet. We’re used to digesting content off our phones, so why are most elearning offerings still only available on desktop?

Here, all our modules are fully responsive and can scale to fit any screen size without sacrificing any quality. Desktop, tablet or phone, endless scrolling is a thing of the past – it should be for you too!

5. Include intuitive interactions, but only where they add value

We want our learners to be actively engaging with our content, not just have it go in one ear and out the other. Frequent activities are one way we do this, but they have to serve a purpose – we’ll only use them where they add value to the content.

We recognise that our learners are intelligent people, so we don’t want to patronise them. If we present them with a question and some answer options, we know that they don’t need us to tell them to “read the question and then select the most appropriate answer from the options below”. So we won’t. Instead, we’re all about building interactions that feel familiar and match what learners are used to in their online experiences.

No matter who you are or what you do for a living, we’re all consumers outside of work. We’re living in an ever more digitally-savvy world, so we can pretty safely assume that a consumer-grade experience is what learners would like to see from their elearning – something that feels natural and intuitive, not clunky or forced. That’s the goal for all our modules.

The ultimate question: would we be happy to take this module ourselves?

Cool, responsive tech is obviously fantastic, but it all boils down to this in the content team: If we’re bored writing a module or QA’ing it afterwards, how can we expect a learner to engage with it?

We’re proud of each and every module we produce. No “oh it’ll do” just to meet a deadline. Learners deserve better than that, so that’s what we’re delivering. If you’re creating your own elearning in-house, then make sure you’re applying these approaches to engage, connect and drive more valuable and meaningful outcomes for your teams.

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