9 Tips For Creating Engaging Learning Experiences [updated for 2023]

August 18, 2020
June 26, 2023
Learning And Development

Are you worried that you’re delivering bad learning experiences? You’re probably not alone. If you search for ‘good learning experience’ and then swap out ‘good’ for ‘bad’, you’ll soon realise that people are interested in creating something that works but nobody asks or writes about the bad side.

That leads us to two interesting ideas:

  • Are people dodging the question out of fear that they’re currently in the bad camp?
  • Can you really understand a good experience if you don’t consider what a bad one looks like?

Either way, you’re in HowNow’s judgement-free zone, and it’s also somewhere we get to the point! So, here’s what a bad experience might look like, followed by some tips for an engaging learning experience.

What does a bad learning experience look like?

If you’re trying to cram a shed-load of information into a short training window, that’s not good for your learners. Why? Because it’s information overload. If you send employees on an 8-hour, full-day course that covers everything on one topic, they’re more likely to leave the learning environment exhausted than loaded up with new ideas.

A big part of this is The Forgetting Curve, a theory that within an hour people remember less than half of what they’ve been taught. That’s unless it’s reinforced. The issue with bad learning experiences is that they typically end upon course completion and reinforcing materials aren’t readily available.

A bigger challenge might be that people can’t remember what they haven’t learnt, so if an experience isn’t engaging or relevant your learner could already be in ‘starting out the window’ mode when you hit the crux of whatever you’re teaching. At that point, you’ve lost them before you’ve got to the thing that matters.

So, how can you overcome those challenges and deliver engaging learning experiences? You put the individual learner at the heart of what you do.

How to develop an engaging learning experience

Personalise it

The days of a one-size-fits-all approach to learning are over! We’re living in a world where everything is personalised for us, right down to our watching, listening, reading and shopping habits. So why shouldn’t learning be the same? If you want to engage people, you need to create something that’s relevant to them and that they can see the value in doing.

The most powerful way to do this is by connecting people with resources that empower them to reach their goal or satisfy their interest. You might choose to create a course based on what you know about them, but you’ll engage them more by providing a platform to create their own learning pathways and find knowledge they believe is relevant. Applying the tips below with the learner in mind will help you create that personalised experience.

Make learning manageable

If somebody put a 600-page textbook in front of you and said ‘there should be a few relevant parts in there’, you probably wouldn’t be engaged or motivated enough to read through it all and find those gems. And why would you? It’s overwhelming, unproductive and puts the onus on you to find the relevant information.

Now imagine that you log in to a learning platform, and you’re assigned to a course that’s picked out four key parts from that book. You read the titles and realise these manageable sections are all specific to your role and goals. Already you can see the value in those resources and the finish line for that learning experience. It’s this concept of microlearning that creates specific and digestible sections that learners master before moving on.

Ensure it’s easy

Even better, what if you can search for other resources to supplement as you learn!? It’s not just about the way content’s presented, the system or platform you’re using has to provide a quality user experience. For a lot of people that means being able to search for and easily find useful knowledge. In HowNow, we use AI to take that even further and recommend content based on someone’s goals, interests and habits. Like any friendship, the more we get to know you, the more relevant those recommendations become.

Create content in different shapes and sizes

This is where you can really consider your learners and how they best process and retain information. If you’re working with visual learners, video content might be more effective. If you know that somebody drives to the office every day, they might appreciate a podcast as part of their pathway. You might choose to support that with a written summary that’s easily accessed further down the line.

The key considerations are what will work best for your team, and if your learning content is varied enough for it to remain engaging.

Get social

You can take all the courses from all the experts in the world, but sometimes the best resource is sitting just a few desks away. That’s why it’s crucial for your learning experiences to tap into external experts and facilitate discussions among your team. By making it a social experience, you’re also enabling people to bounce ideas off each other, share their take on a topic and increase the frequency that employees encounter a piece of information, which is proven to improve retention.

Relate it to real-life situations

What could be more relevant than learning that relates to your company or somebody’s role within it? Imagine you’re joining the team as a sales rep, how useful would it be if your training was focused around actual product decks, pitches and customer profiles? A good course might include a recorded pitch from a heavy hitter on the team, followed by walkthroughs of the product and customer, before giving you practice scenarios to hone your approach.

Make sure it never stops

Each time you complete a course or learning pathway, it’s not the end of the learning journey but the start of the next. First of all, you need to make sure you retain that knowledge, so it’s important to revisit and reinforce the key information. For us, that means highlighting and annotating content so that you can connect with the important sections at a later date. This repetition helps creates a solid base of knowledge for you to build on.

But how do you expand on that foundation? By choosing a platform that provides employees with a content library, especially if it’s one that recommends relevant resources and learning. When people can search through your internal content and external materials in one place, they’ll find the information that they need in the moments that they need them.

Give learners flexibility

Nobody likes to feel rushed when they’re learning new skills and everybody has their prefered times and places for focusing on new knowledge. So providing a flexible approach to learning is one of the most important aspects of an engaging experience. The beauty of learning platforms is that they provide on-demand content, day or night, which lets people pick when they learn. Whether that’s a quick five minutes here and there, or a full hour session on their commute—if they’re using a product that offers a mobile app, that is.

Add your own stamp

Don’t forget to take some brand me-time during this process! The learning experience shouldn’t just be personal to the employee, it should have the company’s culture and brand embedded into it. Whether that’s by using your logo and branding within the course or applying the tone of voice and values to the content, try to build a better connection with the company in your learning pathways.  

Three bonus tips for 2023

Think about where it’ll be applied

If you’re working somewhere noisy, audio content won’t help! If a dark room’s where we’d find your desk, video content might make life difficult.

We’re often guilty of thinking too much about the content and too little about the context – but that can make or break whether your content drives performance.

It all comes back to thinking about the end user. Who is the person we’re creating this learning content for, what challenges do they face and which environments do they work in?

Repurpose content for different contexts

Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to recreate content from scratch for all the different scenarios it might be applied.

You’re better off thinking about the low-cost, low-friction ways you can make it work in a different context.

If it’s currently a set of written step-by-step instructions, recording an audio version or using software to do it for you is an easy way to make it work for those who can listen but not watch.

Maybe it’s a Loom video talking people through slides that were once left to their own interpretation.

Essentially, it’s about optimising that information for the context where it’s going to be applied.

Build positive feedback loops

If a learning experience has a positive outcome, we’re more likely to want to learn in the future!

And as L&D teams we can stack the odds in our favour but starting with smaller interventions, we believe will solve a problem and drive performance in the short-term.

Let’s say our Customer Success team have a huge barrier when it comes to crisis situations, like when the software or website is down.

A resource designed to guide them through this, provide consistent answers in a timely fashion, and improve their ability to handle these situations will leave a positive taste in their mouths.

And that should increase their appetite to learn next time.

Check out our other learning and development resources