Engagement Learn Better Microlearning

There’s No Such Thing as a Dry Topic

Written by Matan Berkowitz

One of my pet peeves when it comes to creating learning content is when people talk about “making dry content engaging.” The subtext is some topics are so inherently boring that the best you can do is add spice on top. But that mindset is a surefire way to get bad results. Instead of developing engaging content, you’ll end up adding superficial bells and whistles that do nothing to enhance the experience.

Our approach to making Microlearning® content is that there are no inherently boring topics. If a topic is worthwhile to teach your employees, then there must be something interesting about it. All of Grovo’s lessons start with an appeal to learners—something that will pique their interest, highlight the value of the topic they’re about to dive into, and inspire them to pay close attention. No matter the topic, we find a relevant, authentic way to show how and why it’s worthwhile.

Of course, some topics are more naturally exciting, and easily finding that engaging hook across all the content you create for employees can be challenging. That’s why we’ve compiled many of the tactics we commonly use to appeal to learners–tactics that have helped us achieve lesson completion rates of nearly 90%–so you can use these methods to create your own great Microlearning content.

Tell the Origin Story

If you like superhero movies as much as I do, then you know everyone loves seeing an origin story—learning the back-story that shapes a character’s motives or intentions. The same logic can apply to topics like compliance training. It may be tough to explain laws and regulations to people in an exciting way, but one way to make it more interesting is to explain how or why the laws came to be.

For example, in our new Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity content, we shared stories of Supreme Court cases that set the precedents behind the laws we follow today. Showing that history helps explain why the laws exist in the first place and the value they bring to the workplace and society overall.

Even if you’re not working with a law-based compliance topic, looking into the history of your topic can help reinforce why it matters and what’s at stake.

Show a Case Study

If history’s not your thing (or if you’ve already used that tactic and are looking to mix it up), try telling a story where your learners can see the topic in action. Show the real world consequences of your topic.

Take IT security as the classic boring-training example. It would be easy to focus on the dull rules and protocols that are necessary parts of that topic, but if instead you highlight some real-life stories, IT can quickly become one of the more interesting trainings you offer. Think about the Target data breach in 2013, the Sony hack in 2014, the Equifax breach in 2017, and so many other examples of security incidents. These examples provide emotional stories that demonstrate how and why following IT security protocols can have a huge impact. Instead of a boring lecture on what not to do, your IT training can successfully shift your learners’ mindsets by engaging them.

Share a Personal Experience

Starting a lesson with a personal anecdote is a great way to make your content more relatable to your learners. Sharing why the content is significant to you can draw people in, help learners find their own personal connection, and ultimately make the lesson feel more human overall. For example, I opened this blog post by sharing one of my learning content pet peeves. You might not feel that way yourself, but at least you know there’s a person behind these words.

Email etiquette is one topic that’s ripe for a personal appeal-driven lesson. Ask the more tenured members of your organization about email snafus they made earlier in their careers, and you’ll quickly gather enough material to make an excellent and appealing email etiquette program.

Ask a Reflection Question

Another tactic you can use is to ask a question that forces employees to think deeply about how they’ve interacted with the topic in the past. What better way to appeal to learners than to get them thinking about themselves? Start your content by challenging your learners to question their assumptions about a topic, or by helping them see that they actually know more about the topic than they might have thought.

Let’s say you’re creating a lesson about balancing a budget for the first time. Ask your learners questions that will make them think of other times they’ve balanced a budget in their life, or that show them the value they can get from learning some budgeting basics. For example, ask them how they might go about planning a vacation? From there, you can show them how, whether they realize it or not, they already do some budgeting in their real world. And, you can show them how improving their financial acumen will help them with things that are important to them.

Of Course There’s More

There are far more than four ways to appeal to learners, and it comes down to more than just starting with something attention-grabbing. You’ve also got to keep your lesson focused on behaviors and skills your learners truly need, and provide meaningful information to help them improve. It’s not always easy, but it doesn’t have to be hard either. Download our white paper, “Grovo’s Microlearning Framework: Four Keys to Creating Great Content,” to learn more about how you can make Microlearning lessons your employees will latch onto.