The Anatomy of a Modern eLearning Course

From SHIFT’s eLearning Blog by Karla Gutierrez

If you are a training manager, you have seen it develop for quite some time now. Your learner profile is slowly but surely changing. You now see many more members of Generation Y at the workplace and taking your training programs. These are the Millennials or the modern learners who are vastly different temperamentally, attitudinally, and psychologically than their predecessors, the Baby Boomers..

As someone who has to cater to the needs of the Millennial generation, you have to create courses that appeal to their unique personalities, distinct tastes, and learning preferences. You have to design “modern” courses that will hook the Millennials, keep them glued to the screen and make them wonder what more do you have in store for them.

Become familiar with the anatomy of a modern eLearning course:


1) It is interactive and has social elements

Modern learners are tech-savvy. They have grown up handling technology. One-way lectures are not for them!

Forget PowerPoint slides. Say bye-bye to clunky volumes of training manuals. Instead design eLearning courses that let the learners engage with the content. Modern learners are not passive, so pepper your eLearning courses with interactive activities that make them think, let them act, and steer the course of the learning himself. Scenarios with relatable and believable mentors and settings, quizzes, games, and social environments that facilitate (friendly or feisty) exchanges with peers and competitors are some oft-used interactive tools you can use to make your courses engaging.

So here’s your golden rule: Show, don’t tell.

2) It has “relevance” written all over it

The modern learner is not only short of time but also gets easily distracted. Social media, smartphone, emails, deals on the Internet, his favorite blogs, whatever is beaming on the television—there is no dearth of “attractions” vying for his attention. So you have to make your point right away; beat around the bush and your learner will exit from the course. Present only meaningful content; modern students have no time for fluff.

Here’s what to keep in mind when you create content for the modern learner:

  • Include only the most relevant and critical pieces of information in your course.
  • Think in bite-sized chunks of content that the learner can go over in two, five, or at the most 10 minutes. Forget the hour-long lectures that worked well with the Baby Boomers. Create “learning snacks,” and here’s why.
  • Instruct on one task at a time. Do not crowd the screen with multiple ideas.
  • Go visual to make your content easy to grasp. Consider using infographics; these are all over the Internet, and the modern learner likes this format.

Read: Stop Blah, Blah eLearning! 5 Rules for Creating Relevant and Fluff-free Courses

3) It helps learners shoot up the corporate ladder 

Modern learners are achievement-driven workers. They want to advance up the corporate ladder fast and are not hesitant to work hard for their laurels. And if they feel the opportunities are few and far between in their current organization, they will move on to a new job in another company. As a training manager, you know the cost of replacing a Millennial employee.

Here’s how you should create courses that will give employees an increased sense of purpose in their present jobs:

  • Ensure that your eLearning courses pack in enough relevant content that will let employees build their marketable skills.
  • Build courses that make learners exercise their creative thinking and analytical skills. Help your employees grow, so they know that their organization has their best interests in mind.
  • Build more levels, grades, or other types of rewards and recognitions in your course to give the modern learner the gratification of knowing that he is making progress at the workplace.
  • Customize eLearning content so that it maps with the career path of the employees.

4) It is informal and FUN. And there is PLAY in it!

Modern learners have read more blogs than humongous classics. They express their thoughts in one-liner status updates and tweets in the language of their heart. So no matter what the topic is, you should create entertaining eLearning content to engage them and inspire actions. Make learners comfortable with writing in a language that is informal and conversational. Ditch the formality by talking to them and NOT talking down.

Games are excellent tools to bring a breath of fresh air into a complex or staid subject matter. There is nothing more relaxing than a round of play.

The Millennials were born into video games. They not only like to play games but also thrive in a competitive environment where their efforts are rewarded—access to higher levels, weapons unlocked, “lives” increased, and gold coins added to the kitty. You speak to them when you incorporate games in your courses.

Think “gamification” when you design your next course. Its benefits are well-documented: increased engagement, improved retention, and enhanced employee satisfaction, especially when you publicly recognize and reward them.

5) It is flexible and mobile

Modern learners love to have things go their way. They want to be able to control the pace of their learning and decide when and where they can take your course. So don’t create courses that tether them to the desk or make them reschedule their already-overflowing calendar. Create courses that they can take on the go.

Make the most of available technology to reach out to your learners in the way they prefer. Go Mobile to make learning accessible.

  • Design device-independent courses. As more and more companies go the BYOD way, it is foolhardy to restrict your courses to specific devices. Do not make your learner hunt around for “approved” devices; he will probably choose not to take your course!
  • Choose LMSs that accommodate responsive Web design.
  • Design in bite-sized pieces that the learner can gobble up as he waits at the doctor’s office or during lunch break.

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