SHIFT's eLearning Blog

Our blog provides the best practices, tips, and inspiration for corporate training, instructional design, eLearning and mLearning.

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What Do Modern Learners Actually Want From Your eLearning Courses?

Consumers of corporate training and eLearning (aka. Your learners) are changing – fast. Their priorities, training needs, and methods of learning are diverging from the well-beaten paths we've mapped out in the past.

So, as you're probably wondering from the title, what do 2021's learners want? Well, we're glad you asked...


1) They Want Courses That Work

Many learners these days are from 'generation Y or Z'. That means that they've grown up with the Internet, had access to it in school, and are early adopters of new technology. Older learners are also becoming more and more technologically literate (even our 86-year-old grandmother uses Facebook!). That means eLearning that's not been thoroughly developed, tested, and re-tested is going to stick out like a sore thumb. It sounds obvious, but where before tech glitches might have been explained away as 'just a bug,' that won't cut it with the modern learner. If you aren't able to make your courses work, they're not going to respect your programs. It's that simple! 

Improve eLearning Course Design Usability By Adopting The 10 Usability Heuristics

2) They Take the 'M' Word Seriously

There are few love affairs more passionate than that between the human race and the mobile phone. No matter who you are, everyone loves their mobile, and a staggering four out of five people even sleep next to their phone.

The future of work is mobile, so this must be a major consideration when creating eLearning. It's time for us as learning professionals to combat this disjunctive and bring our eLearning into the mobile world. If not, we run the risk of being hurled into the abyss of obsolescence, along with the VHS, Mini-disk, and HD-DVD.

What’s a mobile workforce? The concept goes beyond just working from home. According to this article "A mobile workforce combines two things: 1) People working from remote locations – including their home office, co-working spaces, and in customers’ homes and businesses and 2) People getting their work done and staying connected via mobile devices – including smartphones, tablets, laptops, and even handheld printers, scanners, and payment technology."

Actually a study revealed that companies that implement mobile technology for an untethered workforce realized a:

  • 67 percent increase in productivity
  • 53 percent increase in employee engagement
  • 43 percent revenue growth as a direct result.

Also read: Mobile Workers Will Be 60% of the Total U.S. Workforce by 2024, According to IDC

3) They Want Collaboration, Not Just "Experts"

Who do you learn the most from? Is it leaders with letters after their name, or your friends and colleagues? Most of us feel that colleagues, friends, and family teach us more than experts.

Collaboration then is a great way of fostering learning. But the statistics show that this doesn't translate into corporate training. Bersin-Deloitte reported recently that while 87% of workers say sharing knowledge with co-workers is vital for their jobs, only 34% of the L&D organizations they surveyed were investing in social learning tools. 

So for 2016, it's all about making the collective knowledge more available in learning programs, encouraging social interaction, and including flexible collaborative elements. 

Also read: How To Adapt & Evolve Your eLearning Courses For for Modern Learners

4) They Want to Access Content In a Split-Second

This should go without saying, but Google is go-to for most questions. Sometimes, this is great, but it can also lead to inaccurate information and less-than-ideal employee education. So we need to avoid the 'Google reflex' by making sure our eLearning programs, directories, and extra content is easy to find and access. Like, really easy. In big letters. With arrows. We're serious. 

1% of a typical workweek is all that employees have to focus on training and development, so make sure you make your eLearning courses on-the-go and easy to access so learners can make learning part of their flow of work. 

Also read: Learning in the flow of life

5) They Want an Experience, Not a Presentation

In the modern world, it's getting more and more difficult to really 'switch off' from the screen. Often we transition from one program to another and one Internet window to another without really focusing. Use experiences, multimedia, and content that speak to all of our senses: this could be music, colors, interactivity. It's a shame we can't (yet) do smells – my high school English teacher would give us lavender to put in our books, and it really helped get and keep our attention. 

Music, icebreakers, collaborative games, or video can all be great ways of giving a multi-dimensional eLearning experience. 

Also read: Four Key Elements of Learning Experience Design

6) They Yearn for the Personal Touch

We have to keep in mind that as consumers, we expect an ever-greater aspect of personalization. Things we eat, wear, buy, and use, are increasingly personal. We ask companies to treat us as a market of one. This even shows through annoying Internet ads – they pick up on who we are as consumers and tailor the banner ads as necessary. 

But that doesn't mean we should delve into personal information or try and create a welcome message that says 'Hello Steve, how was your morning vanilla latte with soy milk?” Instead, we can encourage learners to reflect on their learning style, and be even more assiduous with our needs analysis – a tool that's all too often lost in a sea of proposals and storyboards. 

Learning starts at the individual level. When the eLearning designer finds a way to allow a learner to embrace learning set up to maximize their own needs and talents, the learner is taking more responsibility, and the atmosphere becomes more learner-centered. The fault of most trainings are too standardized, too one size fits all rather than allowing a human feeling that can help a learner feel like an individual. When eLearning courses pay attention to the diversity between learners, take into account how learners learn best, their feelings and desires, and there is an atmosphere that respects each learner, the learner self-directs their learning to find their purpose and goals for learning. Failing to do this can make a huge difference in the success of the course.

Read more here: Humanize Your eLearning Courses or Risk Losing Learners

7) More Than Extraneous Rewards, They Want Real Purpose

Millennials will account for 75% of the workforce in 2025, and despite struggling with debt and the crippling economy that's typified their generation, money isn't going to swing it for them.

We're dealing with a generation who've grown up seeing the effects of corruption and financial turmoil, and they're fed up with it. 

This has to feed into our training strategy, and rightly so. We need to recognize that workers have never been motivated by just money, but nowadays they are even less so than before. The millennial generation identifies strongly with working for the greater good and making the world a better place. Great, right? 

This isn't just blabber either – in one study 50% of millennials said they'd prefer to have a lower salary but find a workplace that matches their values, and a staggering 90% said they wanted to use their skills for good. 

HR departments need to invest in training that helps learners see the bigger picture – how it will develop their skills, how it can fit into their core values, and what the overall 'why' is. This is no easy feat, but if you can show learners how their learning fits into the jigsaw of their lives, then your learners will be putty in your hands.

Recommended read: 5 Reasons Why Your eLearning Programs Aren’t Working

Winning eLearning


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The Basics of Motivational eLearning Design

When we think of the word, motivation, instantly two things come to mind. First, when we are young, many outside things motivate us, a desire to do something, the reality of punishment from our parents, positive and negative reinforcement of what we are doing, etc. All of these things help to motivate children, and in some cases, it has a positive effect, and in other cases, it does not. The more proactive the motivation, the more positive the response to that motivation, the more reactionary the motivation, the more negative the response. The second picture that comes to mind is a learned reaction to something. Like Pavlov and his dogs, which would salivate when he rang the bell, motivation can be at times subconscious. However, there are much more things that drive the motivation of human beings, and in the arena of learning, there are some critical pieces to the puzzle that have to be developed so that learners feel the value of what they are learning and how it will benefit them. The rewards of their success must be considered from a variety of sources and satisfy them on a variety of levels, and as instructional designers of e-learning programs, we must not only understand these factors but be skilled in utilizing them in the courses that we design.