There is a section of the L&D community (or maybe it is buyers of L&D or stakeholders who don't REALLY understand it) that are very much in the 'Edutainment' business. Start from the assumption that training is boring, no-one wants to be there so give them a fun time, everyone says great things on the happy sheet and you get to go again.
Lots of fun , but how much value?
Yes, we CAN learn from fun things. We can also learn from traumatic things, and that's not something we tend to go about trying to falsely create.
People learn when they are ENGAGED in training. Learning is an ACTIVE not a passive process, but there are very many ways to keep people actively engaged - and it should all be designed in.
So here are 7 things to consider when designing a training programme that engages people.
1. Clear Goals and Objectives:
People are busy. They won't want to give up their precious time if they don't know what benefit they will gain. Clear, specific and RELEVANT goals set the path for success. When learners know what they'll gain and how it'll boost their personal or professional lives, they'll be all in, investing their time and effort with enthusiasm. This means we need to design with the end in mind and NOT some detailed syllabus.
2. Start where they are and tap into interests:
Take care to pitch the training right: make sure you start where they are now, so you don't bore them with things they already know and do, or confuse them with things they don't NEED to know. Use your research time to identify what is relevant to them to right now. Timing is everything: No point running a recruitment skills course if no-one is recruiting. Run it 2 months before a big recruitment programme and the interest will be there!
3. Solving a Puzzle:
A little challenge never hurt anyone. In fact, it's a recipe for growth! Well-designed training programs push learners to think critically, solve problems, and make decisions. It's like a mental workout that builds up their skills and confidence. The IKEA effect shouldn't be under-estimated - discovering our own learning is incredible powerful and engaging.
4. Variety and Novelty:
You don't need to include wacky exercises or use virtual reality. Simply keep things interesting with a dash of variety. Mix it up with interactive exercises, multimedia, and group discussions. There's a whole other blog about what creativity in learning design looks like HERE.
5. Use Stories:
Who doesn't love a good story? Stories have magical powers to captivate attention and make abstract concepts relatable. Integrate real-life examples and case studies into your content, and even better, ask them to tell their own stories. One of the simplest and most sure-fire ways to keep engagement high and make learning stick
6. Progress towards a goal:
We LOVE to see ourselves progress. Breaking training down so people can learn to do something one-step at a time keeps people engaged. Timely feedback helps learners track their progress and identify areas to improve. Give people multiple opportunities to practice and see them make sure yet steady progress towards improvement.
7. Supportive Environment:
This is a lot to do with setting expectations and allowing people to fail. Failures can teach us much more than successes, but ONLY if they are handled supportively. When learners feel supported, they can focus better and thrive. And not just in the training room - the culture of the organisation when someone goes back to try out their new (rough, not fully-formed) skills must help them to build confidence, not crush it. An earlier blog on transferring learning to the workplace is worth taking a look at!
So engaging learning doesn't have to be full of gimmicks. It definitely shouldn't be about the trainer trying to win an Oscar for their performance as an entertainer. Learners should ALWAYS be at the centre of what we do. People are engaged in different ways, and of course, it depends on the nature of the training: You will keep people engaged in systems training by having them use the system. You may keep people engaged in ED&I training through powerful stories.
Empower your learners to stay focused, motivated, and inspired throughout their learning journey. Embrace these principles in your training design, and you'll be on your way to crafting transformative learning experiences that leave a lasting impact.