Developing Engaging Content

By Randhir Vieira / March 2014

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eLearning allows one to learn on the fly, on their own schedule, and at their own pace. These are a few reasons why it has shown such traction in the business world, with people working from many locations and constantly on the move while they work. While users can be flexible on when they take and complete a course, trainers have the twin pressures of compliance and rapid marketplace change on their backs.

On the compliance side, industries such as healthcare, financial services, telecommunications, and utilities continue to experience regulatory pressures that require new rules and processes for employees. When it comes to customers, companies must stay up to date on the latest privacy and security standards. They must also understand new ways of interacting with customers on social media or through chat and text. Organizations must also be able to engage with customers wherever they are, this means learning about the latest Web tools, mobile devices, and software. Finally, globalization is forcing managers and employees to adapt products, services, and processes to new markets all the time.

Many trainers need a regularly updated arsenal of courses ready for the taking. Simultaneously, courses need to be engaging and effective so users stay focused and can easily learn the content. Developing great courses quickly is not an easy undertaking, although learning software can help by delivering accessible templates and simple ways to upload existing content. Still, depending upon your goals and needs, you may need to invest some significant hours upfront before your training program pays off.

As an example, one customer of ours, a software firm, spent 200 hours developing video content for a series of eLearning courses for its resellers. Once that initial investment was over, the benefits continued to pour in with very little maintenance. Its resellers are achieving enormous ROI from the trainings, doubling their revenues after just one course—and thereby boosting the software firm's bottom line as well.

Regardless of what content you have to work with and your objectives, there are ways to accelerate the development of eLearning courses without sacrificing engagement.

1. Use existing content. So what if you don't have any applicable fact sheets or white papers on hand to reuse? Consider what's available: A video from a speaking event that one of your executives attended, or an employee's tutorial on YouTube. Internal documents are ripe sources for pulling information. Use your internal social media network to ask around for resource material that might be hiding on somebody's desktop. The beauty of eLearning is you can incorporate many types of media: PDFs, video, audio, graphics, PowerPoint files, and more.

2. Keep it brief. Unlike webinars, which tend to run an hour, eLearning courses are often shorter, relying instead on the power of interactive elements such as demos and video. This will allow you to create more courses faster. Think broadcast style narration, using clear and concise language. Research has shown the most successful courses in terms of content retention and course completion run in the 15-20 minute range. Clearly, some topics will require more meat, but you can easily create multiple courses as a series to be completed over a reasonable period of time.

3. Create variety. Many trainers will use PowerPoint slides as the basis for a course, but they can be more effective by interspersing short video segments, animated demos, funny quotes, music or powerful graphics to keep people interested in learning. Use technology to your advantage and ensure your software of choice can easily support different file and media formats.

4. Consider ease-of-use in your platform. Software that is simple for both trainers and users to navigate should be the most important criteria in your selection of a platform. The system should be painless to upload existing assets from your own network or the Web. Content should be accessible on many devices, including a tablet, and users should be able to pause the course and resume without losing their place.

5. Use tools to measure success and gain feedback. eLearning platforms typically include surveys to measure qualitative feedback and quizzes to measure if the learning objectives were achieved. Use the feedback to improve courses iteratively, instead of spending too much time up front developing the first version.

6. Think beyond the course. Solidify learning by incorporating opportunities in which users can interact with the course, such as through playing a demo or practicing a skill. What takeaways can a user exit the course with and easily apply to their daily work? Provide a link to a printable fact sheet or checklist, as one example.

The above tactics cannot only accelerate course development and learning, but will also accelerate ROI to your business.

About the Author

Randhir Vieira is VP of Product and Marketing at Mindflash.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2594794

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