So you’ve chosen your new Learning Management System or Platform. And it’s finally launched. Great news. Now for the not so great news: that was the easy part (ok, that part’s not so easy either). Launching it gets initial attention. Then slowly the numbers start dropping off. Pretty soon you’re only seeing spikes when you crack the compliance deadline whip. People just don’t come and hang out there. That’s a shame, given the investment made in platforms.
Feeling this way? You’re not alone. Fosway recently reported that over 50% of HR/Learning platform clients are planning to make a change in the next three years. It’s fair to assume that’s something to do with learner engagement levels. If they’re not coming back, people look to make a change.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are lots of things you can do to drive more regular engagement with your Learning Platform. We’ve asked a range of experts who know their way around a platform or two to share their insights: From Strategy to UX, to bringing in fresh content every day: Here are their tips for driving more engagement in your LMS.
1. Get your Goals Clear and Design For Them
Outside the workplace we use devices and tools that have been designed to fit around us. Your staff, therefore, expect this from the tools they use in the workplace. Unfortunately, many of us are still stuck with older learning platforms that don’t quite yet deliver this modern user experience (UX). Great UX should start with organisation and user goals. What is the overall purpose of the LMS? What are the common tasks users should do to reach this goal? If there are tasks they have to do often, make these easy to get to – create shortcuts to them. If there are more complex, or less common tasks, think about creating a short walk-through video. Even if you are using an older LMS, most will allow you to create a customised home page with shortcuts. Structure this home page so that the most important information is quickly visible. The big mistake that most designers make is they don’t consider how, when or how often the user will access the LMS. Users will jump in and out of the LMS very quickly and want to quickly get to the place they need to be. If you can catch them early with a well-designed home page and relevant shortcuts, it will make it easy for them to keep coming back.
2. Align Learning To What People Actually Want
If you have to force learners to engage with an LMS or other platform then the success of any engagement effort is likely to be short-lived. Your real problem is that learners are not valuing what is being offered and do not understand how it aligns to getting their job done well. So, the first step is to take a long hard look at the “learning opportunities” being offered on the platform, and remove/redesign them so that they are genuinely useful to the learner (and your business goals) – once word gets out that time can be saved, job can be done better, etc, then you can be confident that the rest will come.
Secondly, once new behaviours, skills, knowledge are acquired, why would a learner return? It may be you have achieved your goal for both the learner and your organisation. So make sure you have metrics in place that can accurately tell you this. Sometimes low engagement is a sign of success, not failure.
3. Engagement is a Journey: Think Beyond “Transmitting Content”
For too long, learning platforms have focused on transmitting content. And that has been the fatal flaw in most e-learning in the past. Success is about creating ongoing, meaningful learner journeys. The Fosway PLASMA Model provides a framework (Plan, Learn, Apply, Sustain, Measure, Analyse). But think about making learning experiences ‘sticky’ with AI-powered recommendations, nudges and jeopardy like you find in fitness apps, progression and praise, or rewards and social support. Consider what keeps you coming back as a consumer. And think beyond content; reflecting, practising and doing are all part of the journey. Move the needle on what you’re doing in this direction, and learners’ engagement will come naturally.
4. If You Build it They Won’t Necessarily Come: Think about what it’s for
To ensure engagement there are few aspects that you need to focus on, depending on the role you desire your LMS to play :
- If it is a Compliance based LMS then you need to provide an incentive for learners to engage – consider badging and certification to recognise those that have achieved.
- If it’s a knowledge management based LMS then consider the intuitive nature of the LMS and the ability for learners to easily navigate to locate and identify necessary learning to support their skills and capability development.
- If it is an academic focused LMS, ensure that you build in tools and platforms to support a collaborative learning environment such as social learning via Yammer, Slack or SharePoint integrations.
5. It’s a Web Experience: Design for That
Digital Learning Consultant
In my experience, users cannot differentiate between what is the learning management system (LMS) and what is learning content. It’s one and the same to them. This means they form their opinion on the course or programme from when they first log in to the LMS. If they are unenthused by their initial experience this will influence their engagement levels.
6. Appearances Aren’t Everything…But They Help
The prospect of using a LMS can be less than exciting for staff. So, when choosing and designing your LMS, make it exciting and inviting so people want to use it.
Let’s consider a restaurant.
Before we step inside, there needs to be something that draws our attention; that is appealing for us to want to go in; easy to access, simple menus, inviting look and feel? Imagine having a restaurant down a dark alley, that is hard to find and even more difficult to navigate once you are there! We are more likely to approach and try out the inviting restaurant.
The same goes for your LMS. The look and feel should invite your people to want to use it.
But it is not all about the appearance. Once you get people inside, the content, needs to be good enough to consume.
If the restaurant looks great and inviting, but the food is not good, people won’t come back…so the first experience is very important. The same goes for your LMS, once you get past the look and feel, the quality of content should be valuable. What you put into to your LMS will make the difference.
Like a good meal, it needs to whet their appetite and create to keep people hungry and wanting more. Many organisations start with adding compliance training to their LMS first, which does not entice or inspire people to look further and see what else the system has to offer. So once you create an easy to use and inviting LMS, consider opening with a great entrée rather than just meat and potatoes.
7. Curate Content – But Don’t Forget to Add Human Context
HR and Learning Consultant
In the increasingly automated world of work, it’s worth reminding yourself where a simple human touch can still add a lot of value. When signposting or commenting on curated content or resources, for example, do whatever it takes to avoid your users thinking “so what?”. In as few words as possible, try to encapsulate why your audience might be interested in the content, what makes it unique, special or different, what’s its value or why you think people might want to invest their precious time in it. This should build your reputation as an influencer and keep your people coming back.
8. Think Like Netflix – Recommend the Most Relevant Content
At Netex, we’ve been talking about the “Consumerisation of Learning” for some time now.
As consumers, we are all used to certain grade of UX when it comes to accessing our favourite apps on our phones, browsing the latest on-demand programmes on Smart TVs or searching for content on our most accessed websites. As digital natives we have high expectations when it comes to accessing online content. If we don’t reproduce this level of UX in our Learning Platforms, then it does not matter how good the content is, your audience (learners) are going to switch off.
As part of this consumer grade UX, we’re also seeing a new breed of learning platform enter the market with AI-driven content recommendation systems. In a very similar manner to Netflix or Amazon. These systems are driving learning on-demand by recommending content based on algorithms which can track previously accessed content, content relevant to your current job role and performance, and content relevant to what your aspire to be in the future. By delivering content to the user at the point of need, then we can really start to address learner engagement!
9. Use Data To Target Your Audience with Relevant Content
On average, people give online content just 7 seconds to decide if it’s for them or not. That’s a tiny window in which to pull your audience in, never mind get them coming back for more. The key to keeping them? Content and experiences that are 100% targeted to your audience and to do this you need data.
Have data in your pocket from the off. Imagine going into your design knowing the best time to launch it, the optimal video length, when and how it’s likely to be used and on which devices. Add in qualitative data about what your audience actually need, and you’ll get a lot closer to the target than just guessing. Once live, use data to read user signals and respond just as a good classroom teacher would. Track audience numbers, locations, session length, popular pages, typical user journeys, drop off points, user feedback and more – and refine your design. We do this with Elucidat’s in-built Analytics dashboards, but you can also look to your LMS and more.
10. The M should stand for Meaningful: Set the Right Context
It’s all in the context! From some recent work we have done, the motivation for learners returning to the LMS is driven by context. In LMS it is the M that predominates. So in a given context is there accountability required? Is there evidence of learning activity required? or is behaviour change the metric?
As the search for meaningful assessment of learning comes into focus the traditional assessment methods are also under scrutiny. But again context is everything, a lot of L&D professionals will bring up the LMS first in terms of technologies they use, but others are searching and experimenting beyond the LMS to see if there are maybe less accountable but more productive means.
11. Make it Relevant: That Means For the Individual
Engagement in your LMS only requires one thing: Relevance. What’s there should be relevant to the worker’s job. How? First, throw out all ‘awareness’ and ‘inspirational’ content. Then, ditch content-focused guidance, such as ‘because you liked this, you might like this’ or ‘your peers recommend this’. Switch to learning and performance guidance and put self-directed learning support in place. For example, guidance on how content aligns with organizational goals, questions such as ‘How do you think this piece of content can help you achieve your (performance) goal?’ Help workers figure out how the content can help them do their job better!
This needs to be within each individual’s control, not at the role level. A lot of people’s needs depend on specific projects they’re working on. The individual also needs control over filters so that the system is more flexible for changing needs.
12. Bring Your A Game
While industry insights and learning technology conferences are identifying a move by industry away from the ‘cumbersome’ and enterprise-type learning solution offered by the traditional LMS, there is also an opportunity to revitalise engagement with it and to maximise its potential as an effective learning tool.
There are a number of ways to achieve this, via personalisation of learning experiences and improvement of the material offered within the LMS; however, my own area of interest lies within game-based learning and the gamification of the LMS may help to encourage learners to both engage with the LMS and to progress with their learning, once it is implemented effectively. Gamification is no panacea when it comes to learning and engagement; however, when used appropriately, gamified learning experiences can be interactive, motivating, and thoroughly engaging. A good place to start is James Paul Gee’s Learning Principles on how gamification can work for learning. Companies like Talent LMS, Axonify and Academy LMS are working these principles into their systems.
13. Constantly Curate Content – Don’t Rely on the Annual Compliance Trip
For me learner engagement with the LMS is driven by a couple of key considerations. First and foremost, it’s got to be easy to navigate so learners can find the content the they need, that means clean, slick UX with clear signposting and personalised learner journeys.
It’s also got to have enough about it to draw people back beyond their annual compliance pilgrimage so that means keeping it populated with useful, regularly updated content, curated and user generated content is an obvious approach here.
Finally, some kind of feedback loop between users and the ‘portal’ seems to work. For example, use the news or notifications to drive learners to a piece of curated content on the LMS which is particularly relevant to the business, and then use the learners to crowdsource ideas on how the article content could be applied to the business, summing up the best of the ideas in a podcast which is, naturally, shared on the LMS.
14. Keep Reminding Them With A Reason to Come back
A learning platform isn’t something that can be launched and forgotten. You need to be regularly reminding your learners that it’s there – and most importantly – why that’s good for them.
Tell your learners about what’s new or updated – and keep the focus on the benefits to them – what they can learn, how they can improve their performance, the opportunities for their development.
Give them reasons to visit regularly – include useful resources, add areas to discuss ideas with peers, colleagues and experts, and bring in curated external content that is up to date and relevant.
Make your LMS A Continuous Learning Platform, And Make That Easier with Integrations
All of these tips tie together in one theme – you want your LMS to be a place people want to visit, not feel forced to. So make it a place where content to support continuous learning is (continuously) available. That means curating the latest and most relevant content on the topics your audience care about.
APIs and integrations make that easier – you don’t need to send people elsewhere if you’re embedding updated content. Just bring it right into your platform. Here’s how to easily embed curated content in your LMS.
What did we miss? Let us what what you’d add to the engagement mix…