Summer is nearly over. In parts of the United States, students have already returned to school. Some kids can’t wait to get to get back to the classroom. Some students fall in the middle—they’re excited about some classes, not so excited about others. Others would prefer another two months of vacation, thankyouverymuch.
As creators of training content, we’re not immune to the phenomenon of the back-to-school blues. It may not happen at the end of summer, but the feeling of dread does occur—when we have content that may not appeal to our learners, and which they may resist completing. Think of a required safety workshop or the eLearning course that helps your organization meet regulatory requirements. These are usually topics that don’t “wow” participants. While these topics may not seem exciting, they’re still important. And, they’re still required. If you’re creating a course about a “boring” topic, here are a few suggestions about what you can do to engage learners and ensure they walk away from your course with the knowledge they need to be successful.
Include a storyline
Everything is more interesting if there’s a story behind it—and maybe even a little drama! If you’re looking for a way to make content more compelling or interesting, find a way to incorporate real-life examples, or create a fictional story that illustrates the content. Get learners interested in the story and they’re more likely to get interested in the content behind the story, too.
Keep it short and sweet
What must learners know about this not-so-compelling topic? Rather than drawing out the eLearning for 20 minutes—“because all of our courses are 20 minutes”—look for ways you can condense the learning. Maybe learners can get all the information they need by watching a brief how-to video, completing an interaction that tests their comprehension, and downloading a job aide they can use as a reference.
Provide test-out options
If learners can demonstrate (via a quiz or test) that they have the knowledge required—before they even complete the course—you might be able to provide a “test-out” option. In these cases, you’re able to recognize and reward learners’ for their existing knowledge. If there is an annual requirement, determine if it’s acceptable to create a schedule in which participants have the opportunity to complete (and pass!) a test one year, and complete the full course on alternate years.
As designers, sometimes we suffer from the back-to-school blues of boring content as well. You may find that some learning topics don’t inspire you to get out of bed in the morning. Regardless, those topics still have value—and it’s your job to create courses about them. If you’re not engaged or interested in the topics, use these tips not only to engage learners but also to keep yourself inspired so that your final product provides your learners with the best experience possible.
Liz Sheffield is a freelance writer with a background in training and development. She specializes in writing about everything related to the human side of business. You can contact her via LinkedIn or Twitter.