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The Tao of eLearning

Tell me, I’ll forget.
Show me, I may remember.
But involve me, and I’ll understand.
—Chinese Proverb

In many sales-centric enterprises, eLearning is playing an increasingly pivotal role when it comes to arming the “feet on the street” (and sometimes strategic partners as well) with the latest and greatest on a company’s products and solutions. But let’s be blunt; most eLearning curriculums out there clearly do not use the proverb above as a source of inspiration. In short: there’s way more telling, a fair amount of showing, and nary a bit of involvement.

In order for eLearning to capture mindshare, some level of involvement is essential. Listening to a robo-voice drone on for 45 minutes to a loosely connected series of slides is clearly not the best formula for engaging an audience—and definitely won’t lead to the ultimate goal of retained knowledge. With today’s ever-shrinking attention spans, injecting eLearning with interactivity is a proven way to make the learning process more experiential and memorable. Statistics bear this out. The National Training Laboratories cites that “we retain 75% of what we do, compared to 5% of what we hear.”

Engagement can take many shapes and forms. Here are just a few, starting with the most easily integrated, through to the more robust.

Mix It Up

One of the most foundational ways to gain and keep engagement is to use a diverse palette of media types within each eLearning module. By breaking modules into digestible segments and varying the visual approach for each (animated graphics and text, whiteboard, and live video), viewers are far more likely to stick with you. This is especially true for longer modules.

Make ‘Em Stop and Think

Presenting information in a way that is relevant and relatable is another sound strategy. This is often easier said than done. It is imperative to find every opportunity to make the content resonate with the realities the viewer faces. Taking this idea one step further, after key segments in the module, stop and weave in an interactive question that polls viewers on how they or their customers relate to the subject matter at hand. This can take the form of a simple multiple choice question or a more engaging drag-and- drop device.

Encourage Exploration

When a story is more complex or multifaceted, consider building in branching scenarios that allow viewers to navigate through the content and discover interrelationships and resulting outcomes on their own terms. Putting viewers in the driver’s seat helps make the lesson more tangible, and allows them to focus what matters most to them.

Don’t Be Afraid to Be Challenging

When you are using assessments in a module, don’t be afraid to ask a tough question or two. Studies have shown that humans learn more from their mistakes than from getting things right all the time. In fact, our brains are programmed to stop us from repeating errors, so a wrong answer may ultimately lead to greater long-term retention of facts.

Harness the Spirit of Competition

At their core, most sales professionals are born competitors. By channeling that trait, eLearning programs can take interactivity to the extreme. The introduction of gamification, avatars, and tiered rewards may require significant investments, both upfront and ongoing, but the payoff can be significant.

So if eLearning is on your radar screen, make sure you make every attempt to maximize engagement by resisting the urge to simply tell, and create a curriculum that taps into the power of involvement.

Patrick Wilken

Patrick Wilken

Partner, Executive Creative Director at Integrated Marketing Partners
Personal Credo: Creativity and results are not mutually exclusive.
Patrick Wilken

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