It’s said that learning never ends. But while that may be a lofty ideal, the reality is that life is busy. Few adults seem to have enough hours in the day to accomplish all that they need or want to get done, whether for work, home, or family.
When you’re a course designer, the time crunch that many working adults face today must be a critical factor in your design process. It’s estimated that the average adult learner has only about five minutes per work day to devote to professional development, so when it comes to providing audiences with a successful learning experience, every second counts. Unfortunately, few courses make effective use of those precious few minutes of learning time. The evidence suggests that these brief training sessions often have little lasting impact, with only about 12% of workers reporting that they actually retain and use the information that they have learned.
The good news, though, is that it doesn’t have to be that way. The inefficacy of most traditional forms of professional development derives from poor course design—in particular, the failure to align pedagogy with adult learning principles.
However, by converting training courses from the traditional instructor-led training (ILT) model to an e-learning format, you’ll find that learners have a far more engaging and productive learning experience. This in turn can dramatically increase course completion rates because e-learning offers unprecedented opportunities to effectively leverage learners’ valuable time.
This article describes the best practices that course developers and trainers can use to boost course completion rates, promote learner retention, and increase learner engagement by converting ILT into e-learning courses.
Provide Course Navigation Tools
Since adult learners have precious little time to devote to training, it’s essential to make the process as easy and efficient as possible. Learners shouldn’t be required to spend half an hour just figuring out how to move through the course.
This is why embedding intuitive “what you see is what you get” course navigation tools is crucial. Learners can advance, review, pause, search, and return to content quickly and easily, decreasing the likelihood that they will get frustrated and simply abandon the course.
But course navigation tools don’t just make it easier for learners to move through and within the course. They also help set learner expectations and ensure that learners clearly understand the relevance and utility of the course for their professional development and/or personal use.
For adult learners, such an understanding is critical to course engagement. Adults have little time, energy, or interest in engaging with material that brings no tangible benefit to their life and work.
At a minimum, navigation tools should provide a comprehensive course overview, as well as the ability to bookmark and return to/review modules or lessons as needed. To support content retention and mastery, navigation tools should include summaries of previous modules and descriptions of learning objectives and goals at the beginning of each module.
Always keep in mind that all content should be relevant, utilitarian, and clearly and tangibly beneficial to the learner, their job performance, and/or their career progression. The relevance of the content must be consistently underscored and illuminated in the course navigation menus.
Use Motivational Tools to Support Course Completion
Let’s face it: learning is hard, and every learner can use an extra boost of motivation from time to time. The need for a gold star, both literal and figurative, doesn’t end after grade school.
Adult learners are no different from child learners in that they can always benefit from a bit of encouragement. For adults, though, motivation can come in many forms, so as a trainer or course developer, you must draw on a range of motivational tools for your courses.
For instance, you can embed frequent low-stakes tests of understanding, such as quizzes and activities, to motivate learners to persevere through the course. Their confidence and interest will likely increase with every knowledge check that they successfully complete.
These low-stakes assessments are also an effective strategy for preparing learners for high-stakes ones, such as gatekeeping tests that they must pass before progressing to the next learning module or unit. By combining abundant self-checks with more comprehensive but less frequent no-pass/no-progression module assessments, you can motivate learners to engage with and persevere in the course while also ensuring that they are actually understanding and retaining the content that they need to master.
Knowledge checks and module assessments are far from the only effective motivational tools that you should integrate into your course. Certificates of completion can provide a tangible goal for learners to work for, and depending on the client organization, they can yield career benefits, such as professional development bonuses and promotions.
In addition to motivational elements embedded in the course itself, be sure to offer outside encouragement. For instance, automated email reminders can draw reluctant learners back to the course. Similarly, calendars can help busy learners manage their time more effectively, without course close and other key deadlines sneaking up on them and undermining their chance of successfully completing the course.
Unleash the Power of Microlearning
An adult learner’s time is a rare and valuable commodity. It’s incumbent on trainers and course developers to minimize the demands on their time while maximizing its use value.
Striking such a delicate balance is no easy task, but there’s perhaps no better approach for making it happen than through the use of microlearning. It enables learners to engage with learning content in brief chunks. This means lessons can be completed at any time and anywhere.
For instance, learners might review a lesson while waiting to pick the kids up from school, during their lunch break, or on a commuter train to work. Professional development can be built around learners’ busy lives, rather than requiring learners to build their lives around their learning. This means they’re far more likely to engage with and complete a course that offers such convenience. Microlessons prevent learners from becoming overwhelmed and unmotivated by large tasks or lengthy lessons for which they have no time.
Optimize Courses for Multiple Platforms
When it comes to course completion and learner engagement, one of the greatest benefits of e-learning (as opposed to ILT) is its versatility. Properly designed e-learning courses can provide as rich and rewarding an experience on a mobile device as on an office PC or personal laptop.
The key lies in designing for multiple device types and platforms. Ideally, courses should be built and their functionality tested on as wide an array of devices as possible, from smartphones and tablets to Macs. This will ensure that learners can access their courses whenever, wherever, and however they choose and still enjoy an optimal learning experience, regardless of the means and mode of course delivery.
Enable Learner Customization
If you’ve been in the training industry for a while, you know that no two training clients are alike, nor are any two learners identical. Every client and every learner has a unique set of needs, goals, and requirements.
This is where the extraordinary power of e-learning must be operationalized. You must ensure that your learning content is provided in myriad forms to suit learners’ preferences, learning styles, and learning needs.
For instance, you may provide identical content across a variety of media, including written text, video clips, audio files, and interactive exercises. Not only does this enhance the overall learning experience by ensuring that learners can engage with the content in the ways that suit them best, but it can also promote success for a diverse learning audience.
For example, alternative content forms help ensure accessibility for learners with special needs. This attribute can be especially attractive for client organizations seeking to promote diversity, equity, and inclusivity initiatives.
Provide On-Demand Access to Support
A significant barrier to learner retention and successful course completion is the (real or perceived) lack of support that online learners may encounter. Training developers must remember that learners will come to the course with varying levels of technical and content proficiency.
For this reason, embedding easy, on-demand access to technical support, course instructors, or subject matter experts may be the single most crucial thing that you can do to promote retention and course completion.
In addition, you should provide comprehensive FAQ sheets, learner question-and-answer forums, and other support content. Learners should have ready access to the information that they will need to complete the course successfully, including technical requirements and specifications, course navigation and functions, and content scope, goals, outcomes, and objectives.
Converting traditional ILT courses to e-learning courses can be an ideal way to galvanize learner engagement, support learner retention, and boost successful course completion rates. The key is to ensure that learners’ valuable time is used to the fullest with courses that are relevant, customizable, motivational, and easy to navigate and use.
Here at Firmwater, we don’t just sell an LMS for training providers. We partner with them, giving them the tools and insights that they need to implement the best practices in e-learning course development, business growth, and delivery. When they need help, we don’t let them wade through forums and chatbots.
Ready to use an LMS that’s designed for the way YOU work, with a team dedicated to YOUR needs? Book a no-obligation consultation directly with our team today!