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Engaging eLearning: 5 Ways to Make Boring Content More Engaging

engaging-elearningEngaging eLearning. To some people, this idea must sound like an anathema. But we’re here to tell you that the two are perfectly paired. Engagement and eLearning are likes egg and bacon, hipsters and beards, chocolate and coffee… Only, most people don’t realise it yet.

Some things, it must be said, are inherently dull but there’s no reason in the world why your eLearning should be one of them. Even when you’re dealing with a less-than-interesting topic, you still have a wealth of tools at your disposal and guess what – we’re going to tell you what they are! But firstly, why does engagement matter?

What Is Engagement

The CIPD define engagement as a “combination of commitment to the organisation and its values plus a willingness to help out colleagues (organisational citizenship). It goes beyond job satisfaction and is not simply motivation. Engagement is something the employee has to offer: it cannot be ‘required’ as part of the employment contract”.

What they’re saying is that engagement is that extra level of interest or commitment you can’t simply switch on. It requires the learner to actually care.

Why Does Engagement Matter in eLearning

Engagement is no small thing. But why should you worry whether or not your learners engaged?

Close your eyes and picture two learners working through their training. They’re sat next to one another. One of them is slumped, their shoulders sag and their posture oozes defeat. The look in their eyes is one of forlorn hopelessness. Their very essence feels beige. As you watch them, you can feel the tentacles of dull online learning pulling you in, joy begins to fade. You feel cold inside.

But then the other learner catches your eye. You can feel warmth returning and a smile finds its way onto your face.

This learner is leaning forward, avidly completing the training. Not only are they reading, but you can immediately tell they’re taking it in. This learner is licking their knowledge-hungry lips as they feast on the platter of learning you’ve given them. It’s like they’ve just found out they’ve won the lottery or been given a mysterious super-power from an ancient wizard. Their presence radiates engagement.

Whilst this might be a little poetic – you understand the point. Training can either be the highlight of your day, or it can be like a prison made from spreadsheets.

The difference is engagement. 

The Benefits of Engagement

Add engagement to your training and here are the benefits you could reap:

    1. Improve knowledge-retention
    2. Dial up the happiness
    3. Supercharge productivity
    4. Maximise company commitment
    5. Increase likelihood your learner will return for more training

How to Engage Employees in Their eLearning

Now that you’re persuaded engagement really does matter. Here are five seriously useful tips for engaging employees with their eLearning.


If you want to make more engaging eLearning, first thing’s first – get your toolbox open and have a look inside! Which resources are available to you? Are you an independent instructional designer, or do you have a team of developers and designers available?

If you want to get the most out of your eLearning project and really get the learners engaged, you need to use all the tools available to you.


It might seem like a minor point, but the form of your eLearning can make all of the difference between learning that sticks and learning that slides off like the proverbial water off of a duck’s back.

Miller’s Law states that we can only hold between 5 and 9 pieces of information in our minds at one time, which means that if you try to crow-bar anything in above that, the learners will more than likely forget it.

Don’t waste your efforts! Split that content into more manageable chunks. This won’t just help your learners absorb the information better, but from a project management point of view, you could find it easier to deal with several small projects than one enormous one!


blended learning teamworkKnow your audience! You need to know who you’re talking to if your message is ever going to stick. Luckily, most of your learners will be human, and there are a few sure-fire ways to capture a human’s attention:

      • Tell a story. Put the eLearning in a context that your learners can relate to. Try to identify the major pain points and deal with these in a hypothetical scenario.
      • Keep it natural. Try to avoid corporate jargon and other mumbo jumbo. Pretend you’re describing the issue to one of your friends and put it into terms that a relative novice might understand. Einstein said that if you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it well enough. And who are we to question Einstein?
      • Make it funny! Add some personality and let your sense of humour show. You might not be eLearning’s answer to Jerry Seinfeld, but even a groan is better than a yawn when it comes to engagement!


If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing amazingly! It’s not 1996 anymore and most people have developed pretty sophisticated tastes when it comes to design. If you produce something ugly, clunky and difficult to use, you’ll turn your learners off before they even get past the introduction.

Spend some time considering the fonts, images, graphs, etc. that you plan to use and run them through your ugly-filter. If the words “Teletext” or “Clipart” pop into your mind, it might be worth reconsidering.

Now is a good time to dig into your instructional design bag of tricks in search of interesting ways of displaying the information. Perhaps that massive block of text would work better as a voice-over with a few eye-catching images?

You could also consider gamifying the eLearning. Adding some badges, points and leaderboards can significantly boost engagement, even for dry topics! Even something as minor as a progress bar can make all of the difference!


It’s a step that’s often overlooked, but it can boost engagement on your eLearning project before it’s even launched! If you want to have a successful training roll-out, put on your marketing hat and start generating a buzz for your upcoming learning extravaganza!

Does your company have an internal social network? If so, pull out all of the stops, design an awesome flier and start promoting your new eLearning a couple of weeks in advance. You could even offer rewards (anything from a special badge to a lavish gift voucher) to the first learners who engage with the course.

When the launch date finally rolls around, everyone will be itching to see what all of the fuss was about!

This is just a small selection of tips that you can start using today to get a measurable increase in engagement. If you want to get the full scoop on creating truly engaging eLearning, why not read through our infographic: The Science of Learning Engagement.


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