Tips for Increasing Engagement in Online Learning

Often times, tips for engaging learners in corporate online learning include external features and novel delivery methods. These range from using animations, “real-life” scenarios, game-design, leaderboards, and badges. But with learners actually spending more time learning and developing themselves outside of the corporate learning infrastructure, knowing what is appealing for them could have us directing our efforts and attention in a more focused approach that leads to greater engagement, activity and—more importantly—results.

Here are some tips based on learner preferences that could give you the results that you are seeking.

Contextually relevant content

In a recent survey of over 4,000 business people, the preferred way of learning in the workplace was overwhelmingly “knowledge sharing amongst the team.” When you also consider that learners are predominantly motivated to learn online so they can do their jobs better and faster, then contextually relevant content is a no-brainer. Linking learning to the work—and the organization—will help learners to make the connections between content and application. However, in the traditional world of eLearning this would be far too expensive and time-consuming, and that is why rapid content-creation tools are becoming more popular, so that the people who “know” and “do” can share what they know and do with those who need it—quickly and easily.

Respect learners as adults

The external features and novel delivery methods I mentioned above are fine, when used intelligently. However, if your online strategy is to design games, leaderboards, and mostly animated content then you had better have one outstanding game-design team. Even Disney initially struggled to crack the games market. This is because it is incredibly difficult and… Wait a minute, why am I talking about games when people just want to be better at their jobs? If your online learning is off the mark, then adding game-design and animations won’t improve your results. And anyway, is that how you prefer to learn? Quite likely not. Instead, just get people who know and do to explain what they know and do and the impact it has for them.

Make it real. Get real people involved—and see real results.

UX (User Experience)

People today have access to almost infinite resources online that can help them to understand and learn what they need for their professional development. The internet has provided quick and intuitive access to information, expertise, and know-how. This “consumerization” of learning means that people have developed preferences for what they want and don’t want to engage with. In an interview in May, 2015 Josh Bersin pointed out that “people today are finding the learning experience inside their company is not nearly as nice as the learning experiences on YouTube or other external providers.” LMSs are often shunned because they are clunky, not at all intuitive, and content within them (regardless of how useful it might be) is buried several clicks within the platform. For greater engagement, learning professionals need to think outside the LMS if it’s not delivering results. And if you’re worried about another system making sense to learners, look at your smartphone and all the applications you have. I bet you ignore the ones that don’t work for you and use the ones that do. We all do.

And on that topic…


We often grab the information we need, when we think of it—or more importantly, when and where we need it. Google goes so far as to say we’ve been “trained to expect immediacy and relevance in our moments of intent.” We often go to our devices during downtime, when we’re travelling, waiting, or filling time in other ways and employees are learning far more from outside of the corporate infrastructure during these periods.

It’s no longer forward-thinking to have a mobile L&D offering—it is the world we’ve been living in for quite some time. So, to not offer mobile learning now could be deemed as backward.

Build trust

If 67 percent of millennials believe they can learn anything from YouTube (as the previous link to “Think with Google” says), the fact that they can or they can’t is irrelevant—they have enough experience and trust to believe they can. You can’t build this level of trust overnight—especially with more than 70 percent of employees going to web-search as their first port-of-call when they want to learn something for their job. The opportunity for our online learning is to help people to grab what they want when they need it to perform.

Make content short, make it contextually relevant, use video, and make it real. Create the place employees know they can go when they want to be better at their jobs.


David James is a seasoned Talent Management, Learning & OD leader with more than 15 years of experience in the field. Until recently, David was Director of Talent, Learning & OD for The Walt Disney Company’s EMEA region and has since joined as Learning Strategist.

Reprinted from LEARNING SOLUTIONS Magazine


How to Beat Creative Fatigue in E-Learning Design

Are you tired of building the same courses over and over again? Sure you may get to build a hundred courses, but they’re essentially the same course built a hundred times. The result is that many of the courses look the same and they don’t provide the opportunity to expand your course design skills.

Today I’d like to offer a few tips on how you can get out of the hundred course rut.

Build Better E-learning by Making Time to Do Something Different

Many organizations allow their employees to have some free time to hack together ideas or work on other types of projects. I spoke to one elearning manager that lets his employees spend a few days each month on personal projects. His rationale is that it gives them “time to unwind and play around with ideas.”

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - build better elearning courses by doing something new

Most organizations probably won’t make time for you to “mess around with ideas” so you need to find ways to get the time. We often used the team meeting time to brainstorm ideas. For example, one challenge was how to navigate a course if all you could do was drag and drop objects and couldn’t click anywhere on the screen. Another was to come up with 100 analogies we could apply to our training programs: climbing stairs, climbing mountains, going down a road, entering a building’s lobby, etc. We then used some of the ideas as models for our course designs.

The main point in the activity was to think about things in a different way and to prototype ideas. They may not always be used, but they will help develop your skills.

Build Better E-Learning Through Inspiration

As you know, I am a big fan of the weekly elearning challenges because they do exactly what I’m talking about above. They’re a springboard to playing with ideas. We present simple challenges to help nudge you a bit. They’re not intended to be big courses or even all that elaborate.

Some people put together complete ideas and some just build quick prototypes. The main goal is to get you to try something different than what you normally do at work. Through that process you find new ideas and production techniques.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - build better elearning courses by finding inspiration

Even if you don’t participate in the weekly challenges, I still encourage you to look at what’s being done. They’re a great source of inspiration. You may pick up some neat ideas that can be applied in your own elearning courses. All of the participants get the same instructions but the results are always different. It’s nice to see the diverse ideas.

Build Better E-Learning Through Mimicry & Iteration

All of the Articulate community managers do a great job building courses. However, if I were to look at the demos they build without knowing who built them, odds are that I’d be able to match the course author to the course. And the reason is because we all tend to have our own style.

That means our course screens tend to look similar. The layouts, colors, fonts, and object sizes all tend to be the same. That’s not a bad thing. But build the same type of course a hundred times exactly the same way can cause some creative fatigue.

By stepping away from our own style and attempting to mimic the work of others we become better course designers. I recommend collecting elearning courses, multimedia examples, or visual design ideas that you find inspiring and then setting some time to practice recreating them.

  • Step 1: Try to replicate what the content creator did. This helps you figure out what they did and how you’d do the same thing with your authoring tools. Don’t worry about copyright or anything like that. This isn’t for public consumption. Instead it’s for your personal development.
  • Step 2: Once you have decent replication, start to iterate. Pretend that a client told you they wanted this project redone. What would you do? From there you’ll be able to transform the idea that inspired you to something that’s uniquely yours. And most likely it’ll look a lot different than what you would have done on your own. I usually look for color themes, font pairings, and visual design ideas like how shapes and lines are used. I’ll create a few different layouts based on the original design.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - build better elearning courses practicing new techniques

Here are some of the places I go to find inspiration:

  • E-Learning Examples: a good collection of all sorts of elearning and interactive multimedia examples that could inspire course design ideas.
  • Articulate demos: the elearning challenges have produced over 1000 different examples. You can find a complete list here. But we also feature a few of the more popular ones and other demos in our examples section.
  • News multimedia: with every major news event there’s usually some multimedia composed to explain it. USA Today and NY Times (links to examples) usually have some good demos.
  • Museums: many of the large museums have interactive tours and demos. Here’s one from the Smithsonian on how to build a sod house and an interactive tour of the Louvre.
  • Design sites: I’m not a graphic artist but I can glean ideas from those who are. I like to look at some of the portfolios on sites like Dribbble and Loviv. I often get ideas on layouts, colors, and UI.

If you don’t want to get stuck building the same course over and over again, challenge yourself to find inspiration in the work of your peers. Make some time to connect with others and if you have time, join one of the weekly challenges. I’d love to see what you do.

About the Author:

Tom Kuhlman is host of The Rapid E-Learning Blog and has over 20 years experience in the training industry. He’s developed hundreds of hours of elearning and managed elearning and training projects at Capital One, Washington Mutual, and Weyerhaeuser. Tom currently runs the user community for Articulate, with a focus on building a passionate community of rapid elearning developers.

Pave the Way for Mobile Learning with Mobile Support

Almost one-third of the global information workforce can work at any time, in any place they happen to be. The rest of the workforce have moments in their day when they ought to go mobile, and would if they could.

Look at sales, medical care, emergency services, transportation, repair and maintenance services, law,

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or anywhere else, for that matter. More and more, workers are on the move, and mobile provides the means for untethering them from the confines of a specific workspace.

According to Gartner, over the next two years the number of PC (desk-based and notebook) devices will drop (14 percent), while at the same time, the number of mobile phones will grow from 1.9 billion to 2.1 billion, and tablets in the workplace will more than double.

Although this mobile elephant’s been in the room for a while, it’s becoming enormous. No organization can or should ignore it. Nor should we limit mobile’s usefulness with an mobile learning (mLearning)-only mindset. We have understandably been mesmerized by the glimmering promise of mLearning for some time now. But mLearning barely taps mobile’s capacity to deliver business benefit.

Add mSupport — performance support delivered on mobile devices — to the mix, and you deliver immediate and measurable business impact and actually pave the way for a more sustainable mobile learning strategy.

Delivering measurable business impact

Training has always struggled to directly connect an organization’s learning investment to its profitability. ROI is elusive to training, whether mobile or not. This isn’t the case with performance support. The difference? Performance support (PS) is, by its very nature, embedded within the workflow.

This is especially the case when PS goes mobile. It’s on the scene all the time, everywhere, while people are performing the work of the organization. This allows real-time measurement of business impact (See Show Me the ROI!).

When it comes to mobile, mSupport is a rising star. If an organization is intent on supporting workers whenever and wherever they are—exactly at their moment of need—then mSupport needs to be a key component in its performance-support strategy. It shouldn’t be the only option, though. Learning and performance support need to be able to span the many mobile and not-so-mobile devices. (See From Scattered Information to Transformational Performance Support.)

Pave the way for a sustainable mobile learning strategy

Actually, if you take a hard look at existing mLearning solutions today and check their functionality against the five moments of need, you will most likely find that many do not map to the moments of learn new and learn more. Instead they primarily address the moments of apply, change, and solve—which is mSupport.

The reason? mSupport is the fast track to business impact, and it is a very effective forerunner for mLearning.

If you are thinking about pursuing mobile learning ahead of mobile performance support, you take on some real challenges beyond measuring business impact. For example, we know the following principles govern effective learning:

Gain and maintain attention
Deliver content
Provide meaningful examples
Model skills
Provide guided and unguided practice
Integrate review
Give meaningful feedback
Check for mastery and remediate

Years ago, we developed a tool for assessing the integrity of eLearning courses against these principles. As measured by the tool, most eLearning falls short of fully supporting the principles. The same holds true with mLearning. Engaging these principles to facilitate optimum learning outcomes on any device is no small task. It can be especially so for mobile.

It’s difficult to balance methodology requirements with development and maintenance costs across mobile’s many form factors—cloud and all. Certainly it can and is being done, but no matter how effectively you orchestrate these principles into an mLearning solution it will fail to deliver strategically.

Learning solutions, regardless of their mode of delivery (classroom, desktop, mobile) need to provide three things to an organization:

Measurable financial and strategic benefit
Optimum time to effective on-the-job performance
Sustained competency in an ever-changing work environment

Without performance support, even the most instructionally sound courses fail here. Hence the need to consider mSupport along with mLearning.

Actually, the best-practice path is to let mSupport pave the way for mLearning. Doing this establishes the framework needed to facilitate measurement, the speed of skill transfer, and the ongoing adaptation of learning outcomes. What’s more, mSupport can help secure the institutional will to make, and sustain, the investment required for effective mLearning.

Reprinted from Learning Solutions Magazine

Does Your Mobile Learning Play Nice with the IT Department?

When creating mobile applications, developers can sometimes overlook one critical audience—the IT department. The same is true when planning to launch a mobile learning or performance support initiative. It is critical to consider IT department requirements when doing these things because IT is often the group managing the lifecycle of the mobile devices in an enterprise.

Failing to take the IT department’s policy management needs into consideration can cause the technology department to restrict certain applications. There is an opportunity to work together during planning and development to provide control for IT and the desired learning or performance support experience for the end user. I’d like to offer you some tips on how to make this happen.

The BYOD Factor

You are most likely aware that there is an increasing trend of BYOD (bring your own device) environments in the workplace, so app developers are able to spread a wide footprint on a variety of devices. Android and iOS are consumer-centric devices, so obtaining an app is easy. For employees working in organizations that embrace BYOD, their devices and the applications on them may not be IT approved.

This can lead to an exposed enterprise-data native on the device, in the cloud, and behind the firewall. Developers should consider IT’s need for security, such as utilizing the data protection APIs that prevent decryption from malware and also provide protection if the device becomes unlocked.

Key Questions To Ask

There are some key questions to ask. Can IT encrypt communication to the application? Can the application operate within a secure-device-container environment? Will the application prevent access by other applications seeking its data?

Developers also need to support mobile application management. IT departments focus on creating mobile policies that benefit the employee and protect the company and its data. Many polices restrict apps because they are not easy to manage, control, or secure. Developers should proactively adjust their apps to meet the wants and needs of IT.

Again, one of the most important issues for IT is control, so make apps that are easy for IT to control. Here are some other important tips:

The Bottom Line

IT departments are also interested in the bottom line and are always looking for ways to reduce costs. When developers create apps that are easy to manage, the cost is more manageable as well. Developers should be cognizant of an application infrastructure and have the option to securely store content natively on the mobile device or in an approved repository.

Applications for training purposes need to consider how much data is transmitted during typical mobile-based training sessions, so that IT departments are aware of the potential cost issues and can recommend lower-cost options.

Reprinted from Learning Solutions Magazine

10 Tips for Designing Mobile Learning and Support Apps

For quite a while now, I’ve been pouring over mobile design books, listening to podcasts and reading online content to learn the best practices for designing mobile phone applications as I design one of my own.

Strangely enough, it seems as though many gurus actually agree on the basics of functionality, usability and aesthetics required for making an effective mobile application. Here I’ve gathered up what I think are the best practices of mobile app design and applied them to mobile learning and mobile performance support when possible.

1. Use a broad definition of mobile

Although mobile applications are often used while someone is busy and on the go, they are also used in a calmer context. For example, people check Twitter updates on their mobile phones while at home, they read articles on the phone while waiting in a doctor’s office, and they may even use mobile phones at their desks, if the convenience factor is greater than using a computer.

2. Design for short bursts of activity

Probably the most realistic model for mobile learning and performance support is similar to how people use phones for other purposes—in short bursts of activity. Users probably won’t sit for an hour going through a full-blown eLearning course on a phone. The more likely scenario is that people will squeeze a mobile learning segment in between other activities. And they will access a performance support app while doing a task. Think micro-learning and micro-instruction, which is ideal for informal learning and learning augmentation. See Clark Quinn’s Designing mLearning for more on this.

3. Minimize functionality for a simple user interface

Many people who design for the web and for eLearning like to pack in the functionality. But when you’re dealing with something like a 320×480 screen, small selection regions and somewhat limited processing capacity, it’s best to minimize your grand ideas to

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a simple set of options that gets the job done. Less functionality should translate into a simple user interface that users can easily perceive and understand. For example, a micro-lesson might provide topic navigation from a list, a way to navigate through the lesson and links to a glossary. Simple and straightforward.

4. Make efficiency a goal

Consider the fact that users expect to get the information they need in just a few taps. This is particularly important if you’re designing a mobile performance support app. Structure information so it can be easily accessed. When designs lack efficiency, people will be less likely to use the app.

5. Think differently when designing for touch

Touch screens have a huge cognitive advantage over using an input device because they more closely resemble interactions with the physical world. Touch screens allow users to directly manipulate content. Designing for the gestural interface takes a different mind set. Although you can be innovative when designing for the mobile phone touch screen, don’t go too far. See the limitations below.

6. Use the simplest features of the gestural interface

According to Josh Clark, author of Tapworthy: Designing Great iPhone Apps, most people don’t know about the more esoteric gestures that work on some mobile phones. There isn’t room to explain the user interface on a small screen. For example, I probably had my iPhone for four months before I discovered that a pinch open gesture will magnify the text. (Someone told me.) Keep in mind that the most well-used gestures are simple taps and swipes.

7. Consider one-handed users

The more dexterous among us use their mobile phones in a one-handed manner, while holding something else in the other hand or while in conversation as it seems (slightly) more polite. One-handed use might be particularly applicable for some performance support scenarios. During design, consider whether your app will be used with only one thumb. If so, design for it.

8. Design for visual clarity

There are certain visual design principles to help ensure users won’t misinterpret the cues on the screen. For example, keep the screen uncluttered as much as possible to promote clarity. This means thinking through which features and content are extraneous and which are essential. In addition, take advantage of the human inclination to see relationships in groupings. When items are close together or bounded by a border, people assume they belong together.

9. Design for a low error rate

Selection errors on mobile phones are higher than on desktops because fingers can be clumsy, people are often distracted during use and some people have large hands. The navigation bar at the bottom of the iPhone is 44 pixels in height in an effort to reduce selection errors. When designing your app, therefore, consider ways to reduce tap errors, such as surrounding selection areas with as much white space as possible. Ideally, when a user taps something on the screen, it should invoke the correct action.

10. Prototype first with a web app

Even if you are considering developing a native app (these reside on the phone), there are many advantages to prototyping your app on the web first. In an interview, digital product designer Luke Wroblewski points out that prototyping apps for the web first gives designers a quick way to learn what works and what doesn’t. You can experience your app by carrying it around, accessing it in different situations, and providing access to target audience group members for feedback.

About the Author:

Connie Malamed is a consultant in the fields of e-learning, visual communication, media design, and information design. She is the author of Visual Language for Designers: Principles for Creating Graphics that People Understand. Contact her at Join her on Twitter for new ideas, resources and inspiration: @elearningcoach.

Reprinted from Learning Circuits

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