boost learner engagement in 5 easy ways.


design element
scrolling arrow down

Most L&D teams face the challenge of learner engagement, and there is one key reason for that: the attention economy. The attention economy is the expert’s definition of society today. Where the content and events vying for our attention far exceed our attention spans. And this means L&D have tough competition, from office chitchat to streaming services and much more. So how can we get our audience invested in the learning at hand?

Well first, you need to determine what engagement means to your organisation and how you’re going to measure it. You might consider a learner coming back time and time again as the pinnacle of great learner engagement. Others might consider their learners engaged if they complete an eLearning course or a learning programme. But whichever way you define learner engagement, the goal is the same: to capture the hearts and minds of our learners, to make sure they actually learn.

So, here are our top tips for boosting learner engagement in your organisation, whichever way you measure it:

1. Question the learning need.

Often L&D find themselves becoming order takers. Somebody in the wider organisation comes along and asks you to create a new piece of learning – and you do it, no (or very few) questions asked. But by doing this, we might be putting ourselves in a situation of trying to engage learners in a piece of content they do not need. So, before you embark on the learning design journey, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why am I creating this learning?
  • What impact will it have on our end learners?
  • What exactly does the learner need to know?
  • What do the learners currently know?
  • Which format will best suit this topic?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll be able to determine how – and when – to engage your learners with the subject matter. (Yes, before you’ve even started designing the intervention!)

2. Make sure the content is easy to find.

Netflix is often used as an example when discussing learning platforms. In fact, it was only a few years ago that some learning platforms described themselves as “the Netflix of L&D”. But this phenomenon was for good reason. Netflix’s user experience is second to none. They know their target audience; they use the data to customise the journey and they curate content to continually engage viewers. Sounds like the LMS managers dream, doesn’t it?

We can mimic two of the key features of Netflix in our learning platforms to boost engagement: personalisation and curated lists. If you logged into Netflix today, you’d see a completely different list of shows, films and series to watch than I would. Your viewing habits and shows you’ve watched before will tailor the list you see – amazing, isn’t it? Your learning platform should offer the same level of personalisation to your learners. If your learner is an intern in the company, a leadership course might not interest them right now. So don’t show this to them when they log into the LMS. But you should curate lists of content that would appeal to your learners based on the data and information you have on them. If a specific course might interest your learner based on their job title, length of time in the company or previous learning habits – show it to them as soon as they log in to the platform!

3. Encourage social learning.

Humans are social animals. We like speaking to one another and spending time with our peers. And we learn better when doing so. So, integrating social learning into your strategy is a great approach to boost engagement. Many organisations think of social learning as “people wasting time on social media”. But the truth is it’s an essential aspect to learning. It brings the collaboration and knowledge sharing that humans desire into your learning strategy. So why avoid it?

What’s more, social learning is more important today than it was a just two years ago. The increase in hybrid working in the aftermath of the pandemic can easily form information silos in your organisation. Integrating social learning to your strategy is a great way to overcome this and bridge the gap between internal teams. (And Totara Engage is a great way to do just that!)

4. Use the right technology.

Today’s learners are tech-savvy. In fact, some recent research shows that the average UK citizen spends 6.4 hours on the internet every day (on any of their devices). Your learners know what to expect when it comes to online platforms, and they’re demanding the same quality from your LMS. So, it’s imperative that you use the right tech for each element of your learning strategy.

For example, if you’re taking enrolments on a face-to-face or virtual instructor-led course, make sure that the booking system:

  • Is easy to use and intuitive
  • Feeds information back to administrators
  • Isn’t repetitive or time-consuming for your learners.

Or, if you’re creating a piece of eLearning content, make sure your tech ecosystem works in such a way that your:

  • The authoring tool enables you to make the show-stopping eLearning you want to create.
  • Visual design is appealing to your target audience.
  • Your learning platform accurately tracks completions.

By ensuring you tick these boxes, you are providing learners with a seamless end-to-end experience. But if you overlook this and your learner is facing a clunky, difficult to use interface, you’ll deter your learners from ever coming back (and fuel the learning engagement problem!)

5. Gamify your learning.

Gamification has become a bit of a buzzword in L&D. Many organisations have crammed their programmes full of games without much thought or planning. Which has led to fantastic games, but minimal learning impact. But, when implemented correctly, gamification can boost engagement and increase retention – which is a huge win for all!

And it doesn’t have to be complicated. Gamification can be as simple as displaying a leader board in your learning platform or incentivising learning with prizes or similar. Of course, if your capacity and skills permits, you can create whole learning interventions which themselves are games. But you must wipe the assumption that gamification is games with all the bells and whistles from your mind. Especially as even simple gamified elements hold a learner’s attention for 2.6 times as long as non-gamified learning. So, it’s safe to say that gamification is a great way to combat a lack of learner engagement!

You must think about the entire experience if you want true learner engagement

Planning your learner’s journey from the very first touchpoint, right through to the last, is the key to boosting learner engagement. Often, it’s the little things that matter to learners, such as a seamless login experience or efficient search results. So if you want to learn more about a platform that will help you take control of these little things, why not check out Totara Engage? Or get in touch with us if you’d like a one-to-one chat about your needs.