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Home / Resources / The three usual suspects behind bad elearning - and our top tips for creating learning that's a hit.

The three usual suspects behind bad elearning - and our top tips for creating learning that's a hit.

Date: Read time: 5 mins

Bloated learning content, poor learner engagement, and a lack of learning culture have become unfortunate mainstays in the world of L&D. Like movie franchises churning out yet another sequel or reboot, these ‘big bads’ just won’t stay down – but we’re here to help you move past the tired, recycled tropes and create the next learning blockbuster.

Having gone through the trouble of identifying a learning need, getting stakeholder buy-in, and creating some great learning content, it is the bane of every L&D team’s life for that learning to then sit unused, gathering dust. Seeing low learner engagement on training that was hard fought for amongst other budget priorities can be disheartening. It can make one wonder... does learning at your organisation just... suck?

That’s not to say that the potential for good learning isn’t there, or that all your hard work is wasted; as with most things in life, context is key. Learning isn’t released into a vacuum and it’s often all those niggly little things that “we’ll get to later” that bring learning down or make it hard to engage with.

It can be challenging to take a step back and review the learning that already exists in your organisation and pick out what’s going wrong. That’s why our learning experts have put their heads together to highlight the three core areas which might be putting your learners off.

Like bad, overplayed films still somehow occupying space in the cultural consciousness, these learning baddies crop up time and time again. However, with these top tips, a discerning eye, and a bit of elbow grease, you can create learning experiences that people at your organisation are excited to engage with.

Information Overload: Episode V - Elearning Content Strikes Back.

One major culprit behind lacklustre elearning is the prevalence of bloated learning content. Often, organisations overload their courses with excessive information, turning them into content-heavy behemoths. Learners are left feeling overwhelmed, disengaged, and unable to absorb the key concepts effectively. To combat this issue, it's vital to adopt a ‘less is more’ approach, focusing on quality over quantity. Streamlining content to include only essential information ensures that learners can grasp the material more easily, leading to improved retention and application. When striving for that ‘less is more’ approach, thinking about the relevance of content is key. Delivering content that aligns with learners' needs, challenges, and aspirations is paramount, as a personalised and learner-centric approach helps increase engagement and foster a sense of ownership.

Another challenge when tackling bloated learning content is making sure the right content is used. This is particularly relevant when interacting with subject matter experts (SMEs) to create well informed learning experiences, as while the SMEs possess extensive knowledge, they may struggle to condense information effectively. Collaborating with instructional designers and adopting that ‘less is more’ approach ensures content is concise, focused, and impactful – rather than throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks.

When content libraries become cluttered with dense stacks of legacy learning modules, it can become off-putting for learners when they try to navigate to something that’s relevant to them. Keeping content libraries organised and up to date is key to helping learners to help themselves. If they’re hit with the double whammy of hard-to-find content that’s two hours long and refers to systems no longer in place, they’re unlikely to carry on searching for something useful.

In the battle against content bloat and difficult to navigate libraries, it’s essential that things are kept organised, relevant, and contextualised. Having role-specific learning delivered in engaging, easy to find packages will help to provide learners with useful information that can be effectively applied in their day-to-day.

Unengaging Elearning and the Return of the Boredom.

Learner engagement is a critical factor in the success of elearning. Lack of engagement can lead to disinterest, low completion rates, and limited knowledge retention. One common problem is the disconnect between the content and learners' real-world challenges and aspirations. To address this, organisations must strive to make learning meaningful by aligning content with learners' goals, providing relevant case studies and practical exercises, and emphasizing the tangible benefits and relevance of the knowledge being imparted.

Passive learning experiences, such as reading long blocks of text or listening to monotonous lectures, also contribute to the downfall of elearning. To combat this, organisations should leverage interactive learning strategies. Incorporating elements such as gamification, simulations, quizzes, and scenario-based activities can transform passive learning into active, engaging experiences. Interactive learning not only enhances learner engagement but also promotes better information retention and application in real-world situations. Providing opportunities for learners to apply their newfound knowledge in real-world scenarios fosters deeper understanding and engagement. Incorporating practical exercises, case studies, and collaborative projects will also help to bridge the gap between theory and practice. Another benefit of bridging this gap is that learners are clearly shown what’s in it for them, how the learning will explicitly benefit their role and the organisation.

When it comes to elearning platforms, user experience (UX) and interface design play a crucial role in determining learner engagement and satisfaction. Neglecting these aspects can lead to frustration, disengagement, and ultimately hinder the effectiveness of the learning experience. By prioritising well-designed and intuitive systems, usability and learner satisfaction can be enhanced. Elearning platforms that prioritise personalisation and learner-centric design empower individuals to take control of their learning experience. Customisable settings, personalised learning paths, and tailored recommendations based on learner preferences and performance create a sense of ownership and relevance. Learners feel more engaged and motivated when they have a sense of autonomy and when the platform adapts to their unique needs.

Learning Culture 2: A Bad Day to Learn More.

At times, learning may be perceived as a mere tick-box exercise rather than a valued pursuit. If learning initiatives are only taken seriously when mandated, valuable opportunities for growth are overlooked. Encouraging a mindset of voluntary continuous learning can transform this dynamic, making it more enriching and engaging. It is crucial to foster a growth mindset within the organisation, where continuous learning is celebrated.

Past encounters with lacklustre elarning programmes can foster scepticism and disengagement, representing another blocker to fostering an effective learning culture at your organisation. Through acknowledging and rectifying previous shortcomings, organisations can restore faith in the learning process and create a sense of excitement for future endeavours. By being honest and open to feedback, you can learn a great deal about what works and what doesn’t - all while involving learners in the process.

Elearning often isolates learners, depriving them of the benefits of collaboration and knowledge sharing. By creating opportunities for social learning, such as discussion forums, virtual communities, and collaborative projects, organisations can foster a sense of belonging and facilitate peer-to-peer interaction. Learners can share insights, exchange experiences, and support one another, leading to deeper engagement and a richer learning experience. By prioritising learning as a core value and integrating it into daily work routines, organisations can create an environment that embraces curiosity, innovation, and personal growth.

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10 Steps to Avoiding “Corporate Cringe” in L&D.

Want to learn how our experts boost learner engagement and stakeholder buy-in? This guide explores the 10 steps our learning experts follow when creating learning that raises the bar for corporate training and wins a great internal reputation for L&D. Covering everything from engaging the right stakeholders, gathering the right insights, and building the right kind of learning experience, this is your one-stop-shop for creating learning that makes ‘corporate cringe’ a thing of the past.

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Creating learning that’s a hit every time.

We’ve seen that learning content bloat, unengaging training, and a non-existent learning culture are the three main culprits that get in the way of quality learning. To help you move past these tired tropes that bring learning down, there are three key points that we think should be baked into every learning solution and implementation to create a story of learning success. With these top tips, your organisation can create learning that’s a hit with learners.

The Time, The Space, and The Learning:

Allowing employees dedicated time and encouragement to grow and develop their skills is vital. When organisations create content that can be consumed during work hours or provide dedicated learning time, employees are more likely to engage with the content and benefit from it.

Strong commitment from leadership is essential in creating great learning experiences. Leaders must advocate for continuous improvement in learning initiatives, invest in resources and technology, and actively participate in the learning process themselves. This commitment sets the tone for a culture of learning and inspires employees to engage with the content. This can be enhanced by building a strong identity around learning content, boosting its perceived value and credibility. Content should reflect the organisation's brand, values, and standards, ensuring consistency and a sense of quality throughout the learning experience.

Considering accessibility and applicability across learning solutions is vital. Great learning content ensures that learning opportunities are accessible to all employees, regardless of their role, level, or background. Moreover, by providing inclusive and diverse learning experiences, organisations empower individuals to grow and develop their skills.

Once learners are engaged with the learning that’s available to them, allowing for continuous learning processes is a great way to really embed a learning culture in an organisation and demonstrate commitment to the growth of employees. Content should be designed to address current and future skill gaps, providing opportunities for individuals to upskill and stay relevant in a rapidly changing work environment. Encouraging collaboration and knowledge sharing among employees enhances the learning experience and provides greater longevity. Learning should facilitate interactions, such as discussion forums, group projects, and virtual communities, fostering a sense of collective learning and enabling employees to learn from one another.

No Learning with Old Tech:

Effective learning is continuously evaluated and measured to ensure its impact and effectiveness. Organisations should employ various assessment methods, such as surveys, quizzes, and performance metrics, to gather feedback and make data-driven improvements to the content. Analytics platforms can provide extraordinarily helpful insight into the way learning is engaged with, helping you to iterate and improve on learning initiatives. If you want to find out more about how Sponge can help with analytics, check out the recording of our speaker session at Learning Technologies 2023 here.

Organisations should invest in intuitive learning management systems (LMS) that facilitate easy access to learning. These platforms should provide a user-friendly interface, personalized learning paths, progress tracking, and recommendations, ensuring learners can navigate and consume content effortlessly. The user experience and user interface design of learning content and platforms significantly impact their effectiveness. Well-designed content is visually appealing, intuitive to navigate, and offers a seamless learning journey. Clear instructions, engaging multimedia elements, and interactive features enhance learner engagement and retention. Moreover, ensuring content is responsive and optimised for different screen sizes and operating systems allows employees to learn at their convenience, whether in the office or on the go.

Recognition Now:

Recognising and rewarding employees' achievements and progress in their learning journey is a powerful motivator. Great learning incorporates recognition and reward mechanisms, such as certifications, badges, or public acknowledgments, to celebrate individual and team accomplishments. This motives employees and will also contribute to social learning, ultimately helping to build engagement and elevate your learning culture. Furthermore, encouraging employees to take notes, provide feedback, engage in social learning, and share their experiences enriches the content and promotes a culture of collaborative learning. Valuing employees' insights and incorporating them into future content updates ensures ongoing improvement and demonstrates to employees that they are respected and have a say in their learning.

By keeping these points in mind while crafting learning experiences for your organisation, and being mindful of the reoccurring baddies we covered earlier, you can guarantee that you’ll make learning that not only makes you proud but will also have employees clamouring for ‘just one more learning module, please!’

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