Requirements or Needs? 5 Questions You Must Answer When Creating Engaging Learning Experiences!

“Most managers know that training is essential for team success. But many don't take the time to understand team members' individual needs, even though it is the only way to ensure that their people have the skills and knowledge they need to perform well and meet their objectives.”

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Bla-bla-bla…rules, rules, rules…I get it already…can someone save me from this training!

Have you been there? Yes…YOU, the Instructional Designer that’s creating training based on requirements instead of developmental needs. I can’t lie, I have and it’s been more often than not. I know…you’re creating “MANDATORY” training for your user and they “MUST” complete it by a certain time (in my deep-vampire-like-manly voice), but shouldn’t we be focused on creating engaging learning experiences that help people be more effective at their job instead? Hey, I’m not saying requirements are not important, neither is this article the answer to solving mandatory training hick-ups, but just because something is required, does not mean people will learn it and then do it. Oftentimes those who develop requirements for learning are not the ones who will be learning, and are simply trying to check off another requirement that’s been given to them. So how do we create training then, that’s required, engaging, and meets the needs of our learners?

Here are a few questions your training should always answer, whether mandatory or not:

Question 1: Why in the world am I doing this?

Let’s admit it, learning has to be relevant, or people won't walk away with anything. We’re all working and live pretty busy lives regardless of how you measure it. Make sure, when creating your training, you answer the question, “How is this training going to help me do my job better,” or “How is this training going to give me the information I need to complete my job.” When drafting those requirements, consider the learner and think about ways in which you can connect the content to the primary learning goals and objectives. People want to learn, but it has to meet a personal need in order for them to see the real value in your training. And if you don’t see the value in them, what makes you think they’ll see the value in you.

Question 2: How do I get out of here?

Pause. Don’t force your learner to stay on a slide and assume they will read or hear everything that’s being covered. This will only cause frustration and probably make them tune out whatever is being covered. Instead, allow the learner to explore. Give them opportunities to fail and then learn from their mistakes. Use real world scenarios, and offer them immediate feedback with dire consequences. This keeps the learner on the edge of their seat, and motivates them to keep going.

Question 3: What are the benefits besides keeping my job?

What is this prison? I understand there are certain things you cannot do or you will lose your job, but do we have to put the fear of God in our learners? Using fear as a technique in training is never a good idea. It just psychologically shuts people down. Instead of focusing on “You will be fired” if you break a rule, creatively pull out the benefits of following the rules. Think of incentives and real world benefits your training will offer. Answer the question, “How will following the rules help the business?” so the learner can clearly see the purpose behind the training and not fear losing their jobs if they don’t.

Question 4: How much longer?

I have a little rule: If the online training is longer than 10 minutes, break it up into modules. Never overwhelm your learner with drawn out content. This just feeds boredom and creates cognition overload. If you have a lot of content to cover, consider designing smaller chunks of training and think of ways in which you can focus on the mandatory “things to do”, and find other ways to share those “nice to know” things. Cathy Moore is one of my favorite instructional designers and she says: “The most important principle for designing lively eLearning is to see eLearning design not as information design but as designing an experience.” We shouldn’t focus on just giving people information, instead, giving them the right information that’s going to help them succeed at their jobs.

Question 5: Is it visually engaging enough?

Ok, your learner may not be thinking this on the surface, but subconsciously they are. Studies show that 83% of learning occurs visually. This means, majority of the learning happens through what the learner is seeing. Be sure to use compelling graphics and be intentional about why you are using them. Aesthetically pleasing training evokes emotion and helps bring dry content to life.

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