Keep eLearning simple and keep users interested

7 ways to keep learning simple and keep users interested

Keep eLearning simple and keep users interested

Matt Archer

November 5, 2020

Keep eLearning simple quote

Training doesn’t have to be boring

Training is very important in helping businesses to function smoothly and efficiently. More and more industries are turning to eLearning and Instructor-Led training to accomplish these goals. But not all training is created equally. Many people have suffered through very dry and boring material that impacted their ability to retain and use that material in their work and lives. This doesn’t have to be the case.

This paper reviews some of the best practices and tips to keep things interesting and engaging while avoiding the pitfalls that lead to boring, underwhelming content and delivery, which we call The “No Zone”.

eLearning No zone

Avoid the "No Zone” where learners tune out of bland, boring, complicated training


7 ways to keep eLearning simple and interesting

  1. Stay laser focused
  2. Give people a reason to be passionate about the training
  3. Provide feedback and rewards for doing well
  4. Add some Fun elements to spice up dry content
  5. Streamline extraneous content
  6. Appeal to your audience
  7. Less is more

Stay Laser Focused

eLearning is often created in order to meet compliance regulations or to introduce a learner to skills they will need in order to do their job. Needless to say they aren’t very exciting a lot of the time, but they’re still necessary. But what if there was a way to mitigate some of the drier material to make the experience more interesting?

By staying laser focused on the required material and avoiding the temptation to digress into superfluous areas during those parts, it can help lessen the amount of information the learner is bombarded with and help them better retain what is being presented. This, in turn, allows the material that is left to stand out more when combined with some of the other tips mentioned later.

Avoid the “No Zone”

We recommend asking your team questions like “what should learners get out of this training?” and “what is the end result we wish to reach from this training?” and staying laser focused on those points of the training. This will help the learner stay on track because they have less information to navigate through and they can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Give People a Reason to be Passionate about the Training

A lot of eLearning is dry, but it doesn’t have to be. People often lack a connection to the training because they can’t see a reason to be invested in it. “How does this help me” is a question they might ask themselves while taking the training. While not everything can be changed to cater to the learner, being able to give the learner something to look forward to can go a long way to keeping their interest.

Consider options such as adding contextual anecdotes or short stories about things related to the training that people may find provides a more personal connection to the material.

Avoid the “No Zone”

If you want your training to stand out as interesting, it’s important to avoid certain patterns designers can fall into such as filling page after page with bulleted lists, cluttering pages with too much information and have little to no differentiation between pages, leading to a feeling of monotony.

Instead, consider each page as its own story and find a way to add something unique to each page that helps tell that story. It doesn’t have to be anything large or obstructive. For example, if you’re creating a training about botany, adding a little image of a plant bud in the page corner that slowly changes on each page until it becomes a blooming flower by the end of the training is an example of adding something contextually interesting that learners can relate to.

Provide Feedback and Rewards for Doing Well

Keep eLearning simple - provide feedbackJust as it’s important to provide a reason to get invested in the eLearning, it’s also important to give the learner feedback about how they’re doing and some kind of reward for doing well, to give them a reason to invest anything beyond the bare minimum of time and energy into the training.

Adding short quizzes on content or some kind of interactive puzzle to solve that requires knowledge acquired so far in the training are some ways to gather knowledge. Provide some kind of feedback mechanism that helps the learner while rewarding success during the feedback process. This could be textual or even use multimedia formats such as a short audio or video clip to stimulate the learner’s other senses.

Avoid the “No Zone”

During the feedback process it can sometimes be tempting to assign very simple feedback elements to the page such as a pop up that says “Correct” or “Incorrect” without any real explanation other than the learner got the question right or wrong. Consider adding deeper feedback that explanations the answer in more detail and provides context to their choice. If they chose A and the correct answer was C, explain what A might have meant in that situation and why C would be a better choice.

Additionally, consider your choice of words (and intonation if you’re recording audio/video feedback) to provide positive feedback to the learner when they’ve answered the question correctly to help them enjoy the process. Avoid overly negative responses when the user answers incorrectly and instead find a way to phrase the feedback to turn it into a teachable moment. After all, the point of the training is usually to teach someone a skill, not to punish them for ignorance.

Add Fun Elements to Spice up Dry Content

Keep eLearning simple - spice up the contentOne the easiest ways to make eLearning more interesting is to make it fun, as most people enjoy something fun over something dry. Gamification is a big element to consider adding to training because it gives the learner a goal to work towards, and feedback to reaching that goal. Other elements to consider including are: infographics to visualize the information, narration to provide audio context to some situations, and animation/video elements to tell a story about the content.

Avoid the “No Zone”

If your content contains a lot of dry facts, statistics, or other data elements that learners need to know, it can be difficult to know how best to display the data without it seeming dry and repetitive. One way to mitigate this issue is to create infographics or display the data in a way that it applies to something to give it more context. Presenting the data in a more interesting manner can make a big difference in engagement and comprehension.

For example, if you are creating a training about food safety in restaurants, you could include elements such as an interactive diagram of the restaurant that lets a learner click in different locations in the restaurant to uncover different facts about those locations, perhaps narrated by a person who works at that location.  As learners uncover all of the facts, they are then presented with a badge or feedback element that congratulates them on uncovering all the facts.

Streamline Extraneous Content

Oftentimes training design is an iterative process and during changes to the training, there may end up being sections of content that stand out as redundant or no longer stay focused on the core messaging of the course/module. Reviewing and streamlining these sections can go a long way to simplifying the training as a whole.

Keep eLearning simple quote 2

Avoid the “No Zone”

It’s important to keep in mind the difference between intentional repetitions to help ensure a learner understands a concept vs unnecessary redundancy. A key question to ask is “does this content detract from the learner’s experience if I remove it?” If the answer is “no” then it might be worth taking out, or at least trimming it to remove extraneous portions.

Appeal to your audience

Keep eLearning simple appeal to your audienceFew things are more aggravating than taking an eLearning course that was clearly designed for someone else than the people taking it. Sitting through content that feels like it has no relevance to one’s life or expected outcome of the training leads to people zoning out and learning less. That’s why it’s critical to take your audience into account when designing the training in order to understand who they are and what they want, to better tailor the experience and increase engagement and learning comprehension.

Avoid the “No Zone”

For example, if you were creating a course for office managers on how to become more efficient in managing the time and resources of their department, it could really help drive interest by using metaphors, analogies or stories related to that industry to provide context.

Conversely, it’s recommended to avoid overly saturating your training with analogies that would seem out of context to many learners in that course (i.e. providing baseball analogies inside of a training for a manufacturing company’s training about how to fabricate cars where there is no data to determine if the learners understand or enjoy baseball).

Less is More

One challenge trainers face today is that learners want to spend less time learning, but get more from the time they do invest. This can often be at odds with businesses that create the training where their measurement of an effective training is how many hours of content it provides (the more the better).

The advent of concepts such as Micro-Learning has helped advance this methodology of getting more for less and provide a framework for content design that delivers the quality of content required while also keeping the required amount of learner investment low. However, just creating less content by itself isn’t necessarily going to keep the learner engaged and interested – it has to be simple and interesting.

Avoid the “No Zone”

One question to ask when determining whether your content is interesting is “would I enjoy this training if I had to take it?” If the answer is no, then you probably have some work to do. Another question to ask is “can this be explained in an easier way and still meet the outcome of the training?” If the answer is yes, then it might be worth exploring that option.

We recommend getting feedback from learners about how much content is too much and find ways to explain the concepts in an easier to understand, fun manner. The more you understand your audience, the better you can find a way to marry the requirements of the organization with the desires of the learners.

Final Thoughts

Training is a complex subject that can take on many forms. As technology and methodology keep improving and trainers look for better ways to design and present training, it’s important to remember the spirit of what training is about – learning something and often applying that learning in some meaningful way.

To get the better results, it’s about training on simpler, streamlined concepts in an easy to understand manner, staying laser focused on the subject matter, giving learners a reason to care about the training, providing fun and engaging content coupled with useful feedback, all while keeping the content focused on your audience.

Whether you’re an elearning designer trying to improve your craft, work for a company that needs training designed/improved, or a learner wishing there was better designed training out there, we hope these tips have spurred you to some new ideas and shown you that training doesn’t have to be boring. If you would like more information about eLearning or Instructor-Led training development, or want to deploy training for your team, Positive Results can help.

Happy Learning and remember to stay out of The “No Zone”.


If you have additional questions or need support, contact us at:

Positive Results™ Custom Business Solutions


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