Adapted from a recent ebook ‘Making Blended Work: The 5 Key Elements of Effective Blended Learning Design’, this blog post explores how to increase engagement with your blended learning program. We’re looking at focus groups, usability and user experience, launch campaigns, and learning games and gamification.
One of the top goals for any learning program is to maintain a high level of uptake and engagement with the content. The variation available within blended learning programs lends itself really well to this. But where can you start to increase the uptake and engagement levels?
1) Hold Research and Focus Groups
Start at the beginning! Effective learning design ultimately comes from understanding the requirements of the people who will be using it. In the same way software companies will run user testing and creators of consumer products will run focus groups, it’s important you do the same with your learners.
Yes, your objectives (learning and business-specific) are important, but what do your learners want and need from this experience? Have you asked them yet? Doing this research upfront and, if possible, testing beta versions of your learning before a full launch will give you such a rich bank of information to help you move forward in the most effective and engaging way.
One organization we’ve worked with on a combination of learning games, eLearning modules, and a gamified learning platform for product-knowledge training ran a number of focus groups with its target audience ahead of scoping out the project. On top of this, the organization tested a beta version on a selection of its salespeople to iron out usability and knowledge-retention issues before its full launch. Thanks to this research, it saw a staggering uptake in engagement with the learning initiative that resulted in significant sales improvements. Learners were getting both what they asked for and what they knew they needed.
Whatever type of learning you’re designing, it’s important to check in with the people who will be using it before, during, and after launch to ensure you’re hitting the mark.
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2) Prioritize Usability and Organization
While we’re discussing beta testing, we need to talk about usability. If you’re housing some of your blended learning materials in an LMS, LXP, or digital academy, you need to ensure the system is easy to navigate and use. Equally, if you don’t have that level of technology at your disposal, it’s important to make sure that everyone enrolled in your blended learning program knows where to find all the elements they need.
A simple, if time-consuming, admin process to put in place for learning that sits on one of the above systems is using appropriate tagging and taxonomies when each resource is uploaded. This will allow your learners to make use of the search functionality within the system if the learning they’re searching for isn’t immediately available to them. Creating this governance will ensure that any future learning can also be properly tagged, so nothing gets lost in the system.
Additionally, if you’re using AI, machine learning, or recommendation engines within your systems to create personalized learning journeys or to create a smoother learning experience for anyone enrolled in a specific program, this level of tagging and organization is crucial.
Prioritizing the organization of your learning materials will do so much for the uptake and engagement of your blended learning program. Blends are often designed with a number of separate parts but they all need to be connected, both in content and accessibility. Just as many people get frustrated if a web page loads slowly or the navigation on a website or app doesn’t make logical sense, they will abandon their learning if you don’t make it easy to access.
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3) Plan Your Launch Campaigns
If you’re looking to increase uptake of your blended learning program, why wait until it’s already live? Launch campaigns are used widely across a wide range of industries and there’s a lot we can learn from consumer-focused organizations.
When a company launches a new product, for example, it may tease the product on social media, through billboards, TV or online ads, emails, and a wide range of other channels. While the channels you use for internal training won’t be the same, this multi-channel approach is a great way to encourage engagement before launch and get the word out about your new initiative.
The excitement of the teaser materials becomes a part of the overall experience and primes people for the content you’ll deliver.
Launch campaigns are a great opportunity to work with your marketing and/or comms teams to drum up excitement and find ways to get people excited about your new learning program. Over the years, we’ve worked on a number of launch campaigns for a huge range of organizations and technology is a huge part of that.
Whether you’re communicating with your employees remotely or through their working environment, there’s a range of tools you can add to your comms including:
- Animations/messages on screens around the office
- Billboards/advertising in the staff areas of your workplace
- Competitions or games
- Activities centering around user-generated content as it relates to the learning content
- Emails (talk to your marketing team about using lead nurturing techniques)
One of the most effective engagement drivers we’ve seen is running competitions, particularly those that run between departments, branches, or offices. Adding in this element of competition taps into learners’ motivation and gives them a reason beyond the learning to get involved.
You can run these campaigns without the involvement of your marketing department, but as their jobs revolve around driving engagement, they can be an incredibly valuable resource. Ultimately, within your blend, and before it’s launched, you want to get people talking about it.
The main question you need to ask is: ‘What will get people involved?’
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4) Invest in Games, Gamification, and Competition
Research suggests that as many as 83% of employees feel motivated at work when receiving gamified training. This is true of both employee engagement on the whole and learning-specific engagement. Gamification features are becoming more common in workplace learning and can be a fantastic engagement tool in a well-rounded blend.
Gamification features can include:
- Leaderboards/league tables
- Changes in rank/status
These are often elements added into learning content that already exists. A number of learning platforms already have these features available, or they can be designed into custom learning content. These features, while simple, tap into learners’ intrinsic motivation to consistently seek improvement or beat their peers.
Learning games, on the other hand, are more comprehensive. They tend to take inspiration from consumer-grade or commercial games (those played on popular consoles like the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, or Xbox, or on someone’s phone), and therefore pick up on tried-and-tested methods to gain people’s attention/engagement and hold it for long periods of time.
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Learning games can be particularly useful for product knowledge-based training. Creating an immersive learning experience, alongside competitive gamified features is a great way to encourage your employees to learn while engaging in something they enjoy. Going far beyond PDFs, slide decks, or more traditional eLearning, learning games engage your learners in subtle ways that encourage a higher rate of information retention.
Introducing games, gamification, and competitions mean that their motivations move from extrinsic (something they need to go for their job or to help you reach compliance rates) to intrinsic (something they wish to do for themselves due to enjoyment, wishing to prove themselves, or do better than others).