How to Engage Learners Before, During and After Training

How many times are you distracted or interrupted during a normal work day?

What about your learners? How often are they pulled away from their planned activities?

Let’s face it: distraction often feels like the norm for many of us. Your learners are likely no different: they have a long list of things to get done each day… and the training you want them to take may not be a top priority.

Access our webinar recording on Reinforcement 101: How to Help Reps Say and Do the Right Thing to identify the best training reinforcement strategy for your organization.

And while training might not be high on the priority list for learners, it certainly is a high priority to you. How do you make sure real behavior change happens when a new product is launched, an important new procedure is rolled out or the organization must comply with a new regulation?

For starters, you must think of training as more than a one-time event. You need a strategy that engages learners before, during and after the primary training event.

Here are some tips for doing just that.

Engage Learners Before Training

1. Implement a promotional campaign

We often challenge trainers to think like marketers. What is the implementation strategy? How will you promote the training to learners? How will you show learners why the training matters and how it connects to them?

For example, if you have an upcoming product launch you could formulate a communication plan that includes at least three to five messages about the launch, using a couple different channels. Spark interest through a series of emails, promotional graphics, videos of key stakeholders talking about the initiative, etc. Get creative and plan on a series of messages across multiple mediums.

2. Incorporate story and theme

Once you have a promotional campaign in place, you want to think about how to tie the entire training experience together. One way to do this is by using a story or overarching theme. In serious games, story is a narrative that either weaves through an entire game or sets up the reason you are playing the game and elaborates on the theme.

The “Hero’s Journey” is one such theme we often use in projects for clients. It almost always leads to a powerful and inspirational story. For example, when you need a way to motivate employees to follow a process or learn about a new product, creating a Hero’s Journey for them to follow is a great place to start.

Engage Learners During Training

1. (Surprise, Surprise) Use game-based learning

Research shows games are effective for learning. One of the reasons for this is the feeling of “fun” they create for players. For foundational knowledge topics like compliance, a game engine such as Knowledge Guru works well. The game’s story, aesthetics, and mechanics are all already created and you can focus on inputting your questions and answers into the game. The immersion and engagement that game-based learning provides can make a powerful impact on how training is received.

2. Gamify your content

Gamification allows you to add simple elements like points, badges, leaderboards, and levels to static eLearning content to create a more motivating experience. Attaching external rewards to a gamification platform (or serious games) can also motivate learners to complete training they would otherwise find uninspiring.

3. Less ‘Tell’; More ‘Do’

We know that you can’t always completely eliminate lectures during your instructor-led training sessions. But that doesn’t mean you can’t cut this content down a bit. eLearning screens with static text-only content should also be kept to a minimum. You want learners to have more hands-on practice and interaction – both with the training content and other people. The key is to plan activities and interactions that link directly to each learning objective.

4. Challenge your learners

Instead of listing out learning objectives, start your next training experience with a challenge or goal. Every Knowledge Guru Legend or Quest game starts with a goal or quest of some kind. In Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, her research revealed that challenge and novelty are key elements to happiness. And happier people tend to have more energy and thus, be more engaged in activities.

“Because novelty requires more work from the brain, dealing with novel situations evokes more intense emotional responses and makes the passage of time seem slower and richer.”

The brain is stimulated by surprise, and successfully dealing with an unexpected situation gives a powerful sense of satisfaction. If you do new things – visit a museum for the first time, learn a new game, travel to a new place, meet new people – you’re more apt to feel happy than people who stick to more familiar activities.

5. Create a social learning environment

Although challenge and novelty increase happiness, the most important element to happiness is social bonds. So if you have the opportunity to get all your learners together in the same room, do it! We’ve seen it hundreds of times in Sharon Boller’s workshops. People literally light up and lean in as soon as the shift goes from a presentation to a game play situation.

Engage Learners After Training

1. Space out the learning and repeat concepts over time

Research shows that learning is seldom a one-time event, and learners begin to forget what they learned soon after training. Use the learning principles of spaced repetition to provide both micro and macro spacings of your content. Make sure concepts are reinforced over time to aid in long-term memory acquisition.

The Hero’s Journey, for example, is rarely complete in a day… let alone a 30 minute eLearning course. You want to extend the theme throughout the entire training experience. One client even broke their Knowledge Guru game into a 5-week program with short gameplay sessions and competition each week. By extending your learners’ journey, you also increase the benefits of spaced repetition: learners retain more knowledge when they have the opportunity to apply it multiple times over several days or weeks.

2. Reinforce training with microlearning and mini-games

We specifically designed the Knowledge Guru Drive app for repeat play over a period of time. Learners are given a “Daily Three” of mini-games to complete in their drive towards mastery. The content changes, and only repeat play over several days or weeks will achieve mastery.

Essentially, you can cut through all the noise and distractions with multiple touch points like those mentioned above to make training fun and engaging so people pay attention. Also remember to include practice opportunities and challenges so people become active participants in their own learning.