Four Ways Trainers Kill Engagement


June 17, 2019

Read any blog post or article on engagement in eLearning (including our own), and you’ll get all kinds of great suggestions, like:

  • Show learners how the information contained in sessions can specifically boost their job performance or further their careers.
  • Embed video, animation and other visual elements.
  • Incorporate gamification to create both competition and collaboration among learners.

And yet, even when such helpful tips are adhered to, instructors still struggle with getting through. Workers complain or simply don’t show up for scheduled sessions. They multi-task instead of giving instructors their undivided attention. Some even hijack the session with their own instruction, believing they know better.Sometimes, even eLearning sessions that seem to follow all the rules eventually fall flat. Despite the instructor’s best efforts, learners get bored and tune out.

And sometimes, it’s the instructor’s own fault.

Even if an eLearning session is beautifully conceived, it can die at the hand of careless execution.

Here are five common ways instructors kill their own creations:

1. They Ramble

Even the most elegantly prepared and concisely written messages won’t save you from an instructor who continues to talk on and on after the point’s been made. Yes, there are times when you want to couple information with an example or two, but instructors should deliver the information that needs to be delivered and move on as soon as they can. Later, you can review and quiz to make sure the information has been successfully conveyed. Otherwise, if your communication is in any way circumstantial or tangential, learners will start doing what they’ve learned to do with such people in their lives: interrupt or ignore altogether.

2. They’re Redundant

Yes, you want to make sure the information you deliver holds. At times there may be some value in repeatability. But generally, learner minds will wander if they’re being presented with the same information in an effort to make it stick. It’s called the redundancy effect and while redundancy is often used to elaborate on or support a piece of information, it can actually get in the way and hinder full acceptance of the information you want to get across. Remember: the average human attention span is eight seconds. That’s about the same as a goldfish!

3. They’re Too Predictable

When does a movie often start to lose your attention? When it becomes too predictable, right? “Being predictable does two things none of us should want: (1) Makes us easily managed by others who know how we’ll react, and (2) Makes us boring.” So once wrote Kathleen Reardon, Professor Emeritus at the USC Marshall School of Business. The sooner learners are able to predict where you’re headed, the sooner they’ll decide you have nothing to teach them—even if only happens once. This goes for what you say as well as what you’ve prepared. Keep. Them. Guessing.

4. They’re Outside of Their Comfort Zone

Should instructors be engaging? Yes. Should they captivate? Yes. Should they be funny? Yes. But an instructor can only be these things if it comes naturally. Subjecting learners to unfunny people trying to be funny isn’t going to enhance the learning process. But not being funny doesn’t mean not being fun. To be at their most effective, instructors need to know what their strengths and weaknesses are and then use their strengths to their advantage and hopefully, over time, improve upon the weaknesses. My 9th grade science teacher was a 6’5” former professional wrestler. Did he try to use humor he didn’t have to teach? No, all he needed was a steady glare. He was one of the best teachers I ever had.

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