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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    Why Aren’t Employees Engaged in Your eLearning Courses?

    The short answer: it depends.

    eLearning courses can be a valuable tool to motivate your workforce. The quality and innovative level of the courses can be the difference between keeping them engaged, coming back for more, and wasting thousands of dollars on programs that employees never complete or even learn. Your organization should be regularly analyzing data and feedback from previous courses and constantly working to optimize them so that you can maximize their effect.

    There are a number of potential roadblocks that might keep employees from engaging and completing your courses. Issues can stem from both human nature and the courses themselves. 

    But first... a quick not on eLearning and Learner Engagement:

    What is learner engagement?

    It’s not just about keeping your students busy. It’s keeping your students motivated, giving them the tools that they need to learn, and fostering a sense of pride in achieving personal goals. It’s about encouraging learning for the pure love of it, not just for the sake of getting grades. When learners are working hard to absorb the material the course offers, and they’re committed to learning that comes without reward other than the learning itself, then they’re engaged. Engagement requires an emotional connection between the content and the learner. And the only way we can do that is by knowing what drives people to spend time, effort, and energy learning your content.


    So, before creating your next eLearning course, be mindful of these common issues that might be affecting your student's ability to engage with the material and complete your courses:

    1) The Course Content Doesn't Match Their Expertise - Too Easy to Too Difficult

    How challenging will the course be for your employees?

    Consider the complexity of your subject matter and the newness of it to employees taking the course. Pay special attention to your audience’s education level, job position, prior knowledge, and familiarity with the topic. These factors will determine the level at which you present your content. If your course is too easy, participants are likely to get bored and unengaged. But making the course too difficult will lead learners to grow frustrated and increase the likelihood they’ll give up.

    Ask yourself:

    • How much does your audience already know about your topic?
    • How can you associate new material with elements or concepts they are already familiar with?

    2) Not Enough Time

    Is the course schedule realistic for your employees?

    Time is recognized by many as our most precious resource. Your team members are balancing busy work and personal life schedules. If your eLearning course is too long, if you’re assigning unrealistic timelines, or if employees are not given enough time during work hours, participants are not likely to complete the course.

    Read more: Maximize Student Learning Time and Efficiency in eLearning Environments

    3) Zero Motivation 

    What incentives do your employees have to complete the course?

    In a perfect world, the opportunity for training would be a substantial reward for individuals taking a new course. However, while this may be the case for some, other individuals need additional motivators. Employees are driven to achieve personal goals, take on challenges, improve skills, and demonstrate their ability to succeed. Individuals who feel that a task, activity, or training program will help them achieve their own personal goals are far more likely to actively participate and complete a course. Without clear goals or rewards, training is seen as a burden rather than a benefit.

    Online courses grant students total control of how, where, and when they study. This is one of the greatest advantages of technology in education, but it comes at a cost – course completion relies on each student’s own attitude. Students must hold themselves accountable; they’re responsible for checking off tasks as complete, for sticking to deadlines, and for remaining disciplined throughout the course.

    Read more: How To Motivate Learners Before, During and After an eLearning Course

    4) No Management Support

    Is your management team engaged with employees throughout the course?

    Without the buy-in of upper management, training programs can be devalued and deprioritized in favor of other projects or daily operations. This puts additional pressure on already rigid time constraints, eliminates what limited motivation trainees may have already had, and learners may ultimately drop out.

    You need to ensure that you have management buy-in and that each manager is able to articulate why the course is important to the individual employee and the organization as a whole. You may wish to invest in some management training, to equip your managers with the information they need to help them encourage their team to sign up and complete the training. Tell them what they need to know in order to support their employees before, during, and after training.

    5) Technology Issues

    Are you providing learners with the resources and tools they’ll need to succeed?

    Without reliable access to the courses and infrastructure to support learners, training ultimately suffers, employees become frustrated, and course completion may not be in reach.

    Newer generations of students are often assumed to be tech-savvy. But familiarity with social media or video games doesn’t always translate to the skills necessary for eLearning. Technology proficiency is necessary for any learners to complete their assignments and optimize all the functions of the online learning system.

    Low computer literacy isn’t the only challenge related to technology. Outdated devices and poor or slow Internet connection make the eLearning process frustrating, if not impossible.

    6) Poor Course Design

    Is your course user-friendly and visually appealing?

    If you think that you can take your 15-year-old PowerPoint presentation, dump it into an eLearning format, and have high completion rates, then you are sadly mistaken. Employees expect A LOT more than an online version of the same old PowerPoint that they have seen before. User experience also can greatly affect completion rates. Consider the way course materials are parsed and presented. eLearning courses become difficult when delivered in a lengthy manner without a variety of engaging content. Courses should be broken down into bite-sized modules, and visuals should be modern and not over-saturated.

    Read more: How to Design an eLearning Course that Resonates with Your Learners

    7) Student Forgetfulness

    What steps are you taking to remind your employees to engage, participate and complete the courses?

    Sometimes employees (and even managers) simply forget to complete the training. When taking into account self-paced learning, time constraints, and lack of accountability by management, it’s no wonder these courses aren’t top of mind for employees. The Compliance and Ethics Program Environment Report reveals that 71 percent of organizations rely solely on email reminders to achieve training completion goals, yet email alone is rarely sufficient.

    8) No Opportunity to Apply the Learning in Real Life

    Is your course content relevant to your employees outside their jobs?

    If learners don’t see the content as applicable in their day-to-day life, they’re more likely to become bored or uninterested, and the chances greatly increase that they won’t engage with the content or finish the course. You want to make sure that they won’t file your course under “Learn It Later.”

    For instance, think about:

    • How relevant is this to their everyday duties?  Your learners should never feel like they are wasting their time.
    •  What is going to come of this? How soon? Your learners have certain expectations from your course. You have to fulfill these expectations. 
    • You created this program with your outcome in mind. But let’s switch this around--what's in it for them? Share that.

    Are You Creating Engaging eLearning?

    When you invest in employee learning, it creates a ripple effect that boosts your company's results and competitive edge. However, it’s key that you continually analyze whether or not the resources you’re investing are being wasted due to outdated and ineffective methods and if people are really engaged with them.

    Read more: How to Ensure Employees Take (and Complete) Your eLearning Course

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