5 Tips For Creating Effective Learning Content

Written by Lenny DeFranco

Is there anything effective learning can’t do? We know it empowers and aligns your workforce. We know it helps people do their best work in an environment that’s changing faster than ever. The only thing training can’t do, it seems, is appeal to the people who get all these benefits. Because for all the empowerment and alignment that on-the-job learning creates, employees generally hate training.

They’re not wrong, either. Most of the learning interventions companies foist on their workers are outdated and ineffective. Can you blame anyone whose eyes roll at the thought of another PowerPoint presentation? Or a mandatory lecture miles away from home? The worst part is, people want to learn. They spend their own money seeking out effective learning when their workplaces don’t offer it. All you have to do to change this negative attitude is offer a learning experience people actually like.

The first step in doing that is creating effective content. Good learning material engages learners by meeting them where they are. That means leveraging, not fighting against, their consumption habits; fitting into their busy schedules; and, above all, being effective. If you’re trying to create better content for your 21st century employees, these five tips are a good place to start.

Keep lesson content under 2 minutes.

There’s no rule for how long learning content must be, but a good rule of thumb is “short enough to be engaging, complete enough to be effective.” Microlearning—the process of learning with short, focused chunks of content—engages learners better than long content. Yet, part of what makes it effective is being substantive enough to provide context. That’s what leads to retention. Two minutes is a good middle ground between short and substantive.

Create micro content with a comprehensive chunking framework.

Microlearning’s granularity allows you to cover topics from a variety of angles. When breaking up (or “chunking”) a topic, use a framework that ensures you’ll give it a 360° treatment. For example, don’t just tell how something is done; show how it’s been done through examples. Help your learners understand how to think of the topic. A holistic chunking framework ensures a great depth of subject coverage.

Develop the skill of metacognition.

When you’re chunking a topic, help the learner contextualize and think about the subject. This is a perspective we call metacognition. While other lessons might teach your learners how and when to use a particular skill, metacognition means being able to see how it fits into the learner’s existing body of knowledge. This deeper learning develops not only the specific skill being trained for, but a kind of wisdom that the learner can apply even outside the context for which they learned it.

“Please consider the environment before creating this content.”

Take a page from the text at the bottom of every email: reduce, reuse, and recycle when creating learning content. That piece of onboarding or compliance training that you think has finished its useful life after someone views it once? That content can live inside your learning ecosystem, ready to serve as reference whenever your learners need it. Create all of your course materials with an eye towards using them in more than one use case.

Connect the content to the learner’s experiences.

People retain information that’s relevant to them. When creating training materials, make it resonate more with your learners by relating content to their experiences. Use examples they’ll get, language they’ll understand, and scenarios they live through. This crucial context is like a mental coat hook to hang the new information on. (Even beyond simply creating the content, it’s also important to align the learning experience with its desired performance outcome. If you’re training a function in which accuracy is paramount, for example, don’t test them in a way that incentivizes speed.)

Effective, engaging content is the heart of a 21st century learning ecosystem. It works best when delivered through a seamless, intuitive platform and when part of an aligning learning approach. On its own, though, next-generation content itself can give a much-needed lift to your training program…and to people’s feelings about it.

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