Create Better eLearning Experiences by Providing a “Need to Learn”

5 minutes


In the Internet age, people routinely go online to learn. Perhaps they want to lose weight, or make the perfect Mother’s Day soufflé, or fix their dishwasher without calling in a repairman. Whatever the case is, such folks display the best traits about learning: they stick with the problem, they engage fully, they experiment on their own, they return to the problem if necessary. They are motivated; they have a “need to learn.”

If only you could ensure all your employees would feel this way when you pass out learning materials, right? Unfortunately, this is in many cases a pipe dream. Lack of motivation often characterizes employees who are learning independently, who may wish to complete the course as quickly as possible or are only doing it because they “have to.” This lack of motivation reduces a learner’s ability to absorb and retain information, which is not what you want.

You can remedy this by simulating a “need to learn.” Easier said than done, of course, which is why we’ve outlined several steps to take below to prompt engagement in your next e-course. Whether you’re teaching in a corporate learning environment or even providing mobile learning opportunities to your staff, use these tips to turn a mandatory course into a motivating, engaging, “need to learn” opportunity.

  1. Link the Course to Workplace Needs
    The problem with too many learning programs, in the classroom or online, is that they do not effectively link to what is going on in the workplace. Detached, dry lecturing is unlikely to have much impact on many learners. On the other hand, an employee is much likelier to learn materials if excellent performance could result in a quicker promotion or a larger bonus. Be sure the skills and ideas you’re teaching connect directly to doing well at work, and your learners will be more successful.
  2. Quizzes and Tests
    Quizzes and tests offer learners a valuable reason to invest in an e-course. Most people instinctively want to do well, so when they know they will be asked about the material, they tend to pay greater attention. Mindflash suggests incorporating pre-tests so that learners will pay more attention to the subjects they missed as the chapter or section unfolds. You should also use review quizzes that aren’t graded, to give employees a chance to go over tough material. Lastly, you can use real, graded tests at the end of sections or courses to assess learning. These may be the most motivating of all, as you the employer, will actually see these scores.
  3. Build a Compelling Storyline
    Everyone loves a good story, so if you can effectively work one into your material, so much the better. In this case, the “need to learn” may be as simple as wanting to find out what happens next, and that is okay. To deepen the connection to the material, ask for predictions, use the story in your quizzes, illustrate it or use images to highlight main ideas, and carry the storyline throughout.
  4. Give Learners Options
    Some learners are fine reading a bunch of material and then taking a test. Others like audio or video. Still others prefer a simulated project. Offering all of these options may seem like a lot, but it ensures you have something for everyone.
  5. Gamify the Learning Process
    Haven’t heard of the word “gamify” yet? Don’t worry, it’s a relatively new term, but one you should definitely pay attention to. Gamification involves using aspects of traditional video, computer and online gaming to make the learning process more exciting. Offer learners the opportunity to earn points, the ability to “level up” and watch their rankings rise, and leaderboards so they can compete. Feelings of success and advancement trigger dopamine responses, which are rewarding and make learning more fun and desirable.
  6. Simulate the Work Environment
    No doubt your workers will be expected to complete tasks or projects on the job, and simulating these is an excellent way to lend a “need to learn” to your course material. Project-based learning is popular in schools, so why don’t more organizations practice it? Instead of expecting employees to read endless bullet-pointed material, provide objectives.
  7. Create Decision-Making Needs
    The ability to make decisions automatically hands learners autonomy, agency and a reason for investment. You can do this in one of two ways (or both in the same course!): You can simulate real decisions that an employee might need to make on the job, so that their “need to learn” becomes the fact that they might actually have to make that decision one day. Or you can ask for feedback on the course, on office protocol, or on some other matter that will encourage the learner to dig deeply into the course in order to form an opinion.

eLearning is all the rage these days for good reason. It’s simple, enabling managers and executives to create powerful, in-depth presentations using little more than the software on their desktop and a PowerPoint converter. It’s democratic, meaning you can distribute it to all your workers without having to decide whom to spend training on and whom to put off for now. And it’s effective, training excellent employees and new leaders for your organization. As long as you provide the raison d’être, your employees will be sure to get a lot out of it.

Got any more ideas? Tell us what makes you “need to learn” in the comments below!