Regardless of which sector your organisation operates in, you are likely to have some experience with eLearning.

If you are a training provider, this might be a core component of your business. If you are not, then you have been exposed to eLearning through staff development and training programs, or other initiatives in your organisation.

With the changes to the global business environment resulting from COVID-19, the reliance on online and distant learning has grown, and will grow, significantly.

But let’s face it, eLearning has developed a reputation for having a ‘death by scrolling’ approach, and is often used more like a Dropbox than a platform designed to engage and educate. This often results in poor retention.

But what does ‘retention’ mean, and how can you optimise it to benefit your organisation?

It can be broken into 2 parts:

  • Students retaining the subject matter
  • Organisations retaining members, whether those are paying students, clients or employees.

In this article I will address the first issue.

If our goal is to make sure our students retain, understand and apply what we teach them, we must ensure that our eLearning systems and design are optimised to suit this. In the spirit of being a Presilient ® organisation, it is crucial to have a proactive approach to training and education. Designing a robust learning framework with retention in mind will save you a lot of money and headaches further down the track.

How can your organisation optimise its eLearning design to improve retention?

  1. WIIFM: This is an acronym for ‘What’s In It For Me?’. This should be driving much of your engagement. Learners must understand how what they are doing will help them. This is even more important in an online format where learners cannot get reinforcement from other participants, facilitators, etc.
    Tip: Stating something as mandatory can create an immediate dislike resulting in reduced engagement. Clearly state how the learner will benefit by completing the course, and do so at the start and end of the course, as well as sporadically throughout.
  2. Know Your Audience: Your eLearning design has to address the needs and preferences of your target audience as much as realistically possible. Some of the things you should consider:
    1. If you are asking people to do something in their free time, it must be flexible in terms of delivery and completion, and should be, as much as possible, enjoyable (or at least engaging).If they are doing this during work hours, then has there been sufficient time allocated to allow employees to properly sit down and complete this without having to rush to get back to the next Zoom meeting?TIP: Reading through a 40-page policy document is not, generally speaking, enjoyable. More on this later on.
    2. Where will they be doing this: eLearning is inherently flexible, which is a great benefit, but can also pose challenges. For example, if your learners will be attempting to complete this on the train on the way to and from work or university, then noise might be an issue. This means sound quality might be more important, and as is the ability to stop at any point and resume where they left off.
    3. How will they be doing this: More on mobile devices in a minute, but understanding how learners will access the content is important. This includes elements such as the quality of their internet connection, the device they are using, sound and video quality, file sizes, etc. The system and content should be optimised to deliver great user experience.
  3. Mobile-Friendly Content: Your users are likely to try and access the content on mobile devices regularly, or even exclusively.
    If you have ever tried accessing a website that is not optimised for mobile devices, you know how frustrating it can be to try and find what you need. Having content that is not mobile-friendly will hurt retention and completion rates badly.
    Again – user experience has to be at the forefront when contemplating design.TIP: Test your content on multiple mobile devices (both tablets and phones) by different brands (i.e. Apple, Samsung, etc.)
  4. Play and Explore – eLearning systems today are quite powerful and can do some pretty nifty things. Two things that help improve engagement and retention are:
    1. Gamification: Include trophies, badges, etc. for different activities and achievements
    2. Exploration: we learn best by experience. Give your learners a chance to discover and find things for themselves by giving them case studies, opportunities to interact with other learners and give them the chance to solve problems on their own.
  5. Small Chunks – it’s hard to retain information in a long, drawn-out course. I’m sure you can think of a time you sat through a boring lecture or talk and started tuning out. Spacing out the learning into smaller chunks will make it easier for learners to process and absorb the content. You can do this by breaking the course into smaller segments, adding different types of content (i.e. reading, listening, watching, writing, etc.). Smaller chunks with repetition and different ways of interacting with the content will yield much better results than one long drawn-out course

eLearning doesn’t have to be terrible! Know your audience and how they will access the content to make sure user experience is optimised. Consider what your audience’s needs and explain what they’ll gain by learning. Gamify and give them the chance to explore, and provide small bits of information they can engage with in different ways.

And what’s in it for you? Externally – Significantly better retention, strengthening of your brand, more favourable reviews, leading to more sales and bigger profits. Internally – better performance at work, better team cohesion, and much less resistance to training. All of these lead to enhanced decision making, motivation and performance!

Finally, adopting a presilient® mindset in the design, research and implementation phases will enable you to produce a significantly superior delivery system and reduce potential disruptions and issues with retention further down the track. Come speak to us at R2S and we will help you understand how to adopt a presilient® approach and improve your learning systems. For some great examples of excellent course design, check out our courses on the R2S Academy!