The secret to getting learners to take action

April 15, 2021

Is your elearning effective?

It’s a question that comes up time and time again and often gets answers that are a bit, well... fluffy. Let’s make it simple.

Elearning is a vehicle for change, so it’s what learners do afterwards that determines its success. Much like a social media advert is judged on whether users click through to purchase, it’s what learners do after they’ve closed the elearning tab that’s our best indication of success.

Several factors influence whether someone takes action following an elearning course. Here are a few of them:

  • Motivation. Do they want to?
  • Ability. Are they competent enough?
  • Workplace culture / environment. Do they have what they need?

But the biggest one, and often the most overlooked, is this: do they know exactly what they need to do and exactly how to do it?

Vague takeaways won’t cut it; we’re talking about specific actions. It’s the difference between ‘Report suspicious behaviour to the compliance team’ and ‘If you spot X, Y or Z, call the compliance team on this number, and tell them ABC.’

Why are specific actions so important?

We love evidence at Lima Delta, so our thoughts on action focused elearning are inspired by social psychology studies. In To Sell is Human, Dan Pink references a study from The Person and the Situation that looks at the impact of specific instructions on college students’ likelihood to donate to a food drive. That’s a food bank donation for us Brits.

In the study, students were divided into two groups. Each group included some students who had been nominated by their peers as ‘likely’ to donate to a food drive, and some that had been described as ‘unlikely’ to donate.

Both groups were sent a letter about the food drive but with some subtle differences.

Group 1

Group 1 received a letter addressed to them by name.

It asked them to donate a specific type of food and included a map showing them where to drop it off.

Group 2

Group 2 received a letter addressed ‘Dear student’.

It asked them to donate but didn’t specify a particular type of food and didn’t include a map.

What do you think was the difference between the groups?

More Group 1 students ended up donating food than Group 2 students, across both categories - ‘likely’ and ‘unlikely’ to donate. But not only that: the ‘unlikely to donate’ students who had received clear instructions donated food at three times the rate of the ‘likely to donate’ students who had not been given clear instructions. The personal request and clear instruction made more of a difference than their intrinsic motivation to donate.

The ‘unlikely to donate’ students who had received clear instructions donated food at three times the rate of the ‘likely to donate’ students who had not been given clear instructions.

So what does this mean for you? It means your e-learning needs to be action-focussed.

How to create action-focused elearning

If you’re thinking back over your last few pieces of elearning and thinking they could do with a little less talk and a little more action, we can help. Our process with clients is action-focused from start to finish and we’re sharing a few of our techniques here. We’re nice like that.

Your aim is to move away from a ‘content dump’ and towards a streamlined learning experience where actions, not theory, are front and centre.

Make sure YOU know what the target actions are

If you don’t know, your learners certainly won’t. Resist the temptation to take the powerpoint of content and convert it to elearning. Instead, ask:

  • What do learners need to do with this information?
  • What should learners do differently after completing the elearning?
  • Who doesn’t need this elearning and why? What is it that they’re already doing right?

Ask yourself whether elearning is the best option

With your actions in front of you, ask yourself: What’s the most effective way of making these actions happen? If it’s elearning, great. If it’s a PDF of instructions or a short motivational video, that’s also great.

  • Only include content that supports the actions. Even the most clearly articulated actions can get lost amongst 40 minutes worth of other stuff. Be ruthless with each piece of content:
  • Is this directly supporting the action learners need to take?
  • Is it motivating or inspiring?
  • Is it definitely worth the 5 minutes it will take someone to read it?

Make it personal

A personal request made a big difference in the food drive experiment. Consider how you can appeal directly to each learner.

  • Can you use dynamic text to bring their name into the elearning and speak to them specifically?
  • Can you encourage managers to follow up with their team directly about what they’re going to put into practice?

By keeping clear, specific actions front and centre, you can create effective elearning that changes learners’ behaviour.

What's next?

If you need an agency you can trust to help you create effective elearning, then we have a specific, personal request for you (see what we did there?!) Drop us a line through this contact form, saying you’ve read this blog and you’d like to chat further. We can hop on a call and provide a free consultation and quote for your project.

If you’re just here for the blogs, that’s cool too. See you back here in a couple of weeks for the next instalment.

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